Looking Back on 2012: A Banner Year for LGBT Rights

As 2012 comes to a close and I write my final post of the year. I can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude for all of the accomplishments realized by the LGBT community.  It has truly been a banner year.

Same-sex couples in Maine, Maryland and Washington won the right to marry at the ballot box this November while voters defeated a ban against gay marriage in Minnesota.   Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealedPresident Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage.

Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate, will be sworn in this January and an unprecedented number of LGB legislators won or kept seats in Congress.

More celebrities have joined the cause in support of gay rights, including Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman.

Court battles were won and more than one court held DOMA to be unconstitutional.  Best of all, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the DOMA cases this term.

Professionally, I had a wonderful year as well.  As a result of this blog, I was invited to be a panelist at the Secrets of the Legal Bloggers event hosted by the Young Lawyers Section of the Connecticut Bar Association.   There, I met two aspiring bloggers with an interest in LGBT issues.  I was interviewed by the Connecticut Post in May about President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage.  This blog turned 3 in July (my Attorney O’s Midnight Musings blog turned 3 in June).  In September, I had the opportunity to be a guest lecturer at a family law paralegal class at Manchester Community College on the topic of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.  For fun (and to hopefully engage the students), I wrote and performed a tongue-in-cheek rap song about DOMA that I hope to post on this blog sometime in 2013.

I was elected vice-president of the Collaborative Divorce Professionals, in September, which was quite exciting as I am such a firm believer in the collaborative divorce process.  I was contacted by the BBC in London to give an interview on the Boy Scouts’ discriminatory policy banning gays from the organization.  Although that interview never materialized due to a major world crisis that preempted the story, it was gratifying that my opinion had been sought by a reporter.  In October, I was privileged to attend the Diversity Award dinner for my mentor and colleague, Judge Maureen M. Murphy, a tireless advocate for LGBT rights who worked for marriage equality in Connecticut and was part of the groundbreaking Kerrigen case that ultimately won same-sex couples the right to marry in this state.   Finally, I ended 2012 with an interview for a piece on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) that is supposed to run in the Hartford Courant.

All in all, it was an exciting year for me and for LGBT citizens in general.

To the wonderful clients who entrusted me with their legal matters this year, thank you for the opportunity to work with you and to learn from you.  Whether working with clients wishing to draft Wills and documents of protection, wanting to protect their families by going through the step-parent adoption process, seeking divorce or working with the Probate process for a loved one’s estate, it was a gratifying year to have met so many wonderful people.  I thank you for the many conversations, for your displays of courage and humor and tenacity in the face of adversity.  You are all to be admired.

As 2013 approaches, I am optimistic that we will continue to see advances in LGBT rights and protections.  There will be opposition, to be sure — but I choose to believe that the LGBT community will ultimately prevail.

Have a fabulous night as you celebrate the end of 2012 and the start of 2013.  Be safe in whatever you choose to do.

I wish you joy, love and prosperity in the coming year.  I also wish each of you great peace.

Happy New Year and thanks for reading.

Happy New Year 2013

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Defense Budget Bill Includes ‘Conscience’ Provision

Gay MilitaryAccording to a top House Democrat on defense issues, the final version of major Pentagon budget legislation includes watered-down “conscience” language similar to the anti-gay provision found in the House version of the bill.

Language similar to — but more limited than — Section 536 of the House bill was included in the conference report for the fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill, according to Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

Language prohibiting same-sex marriages from taking place on military bases was removed from the final version of the bill, according to Smith.

According to the Washington Blade, Smith said:

“We struck the second provision.  There is modified conscience clause language still in the bill … Basically, you can believe what you believe and not be punished for it, but if your actions based on those beliefs are counter to the Uniform Code of Military Justice or counter to what’s necessary, that can be held against you. But you can’t be punished solely for your beliefs. We modified that first language, struck the second language.”

Smith added that he does not personally support the ‘conscience’ language of the bill and feels it does not belong in the bill.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Brad Pitt to Match HRC Contributions

Human Rights Campaign

“This is our last chance to make a difference. If you’re like me, you don’t want to have to ask yourself on the day after the election, what else could I have done?” – Brad Pitt

Make an urgent gift to HRC’s national marriage fund in the next 24 hours, and Brad Pitt will double it – all the way up to $100,000.

Donate Now

It’s unbelievable to me that people’s lives and relationships are literally being voted on in a matter of days.

In Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, voters will go to the polls to decide if gay and lesbian couples – our friends and neighbors – are worthy of the same protections as everyone else.

But that’s the system we have and I’m not going to back down from the fight for loving and committed couples to have the ability to marry. Especially when groups like the Human Rights Campaign are fighting these battles day-in and day-out.

So, here’s what I’m going to do. If you make a contribution to these ballot measure campaigns in the next 24 hours, I’ll double it – every dollar of the way, up to $100,000.

This is our last chance to make a difference. If you’re like me, you don’t want to have to ask yourself on the day after the election, what else could I have done?

Every person’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is enshrined in our country’s Declaration of Independence, but powerful, well-funded groups are flooding the airwaves with lies trying to take away those rights from certain people… and we can’t stand for it.

Let’s make history together.

Contribute to HRC’s National Marriage Fund right now, just as I’ve done, and together we’ll put our country on the path to the day when there are no second-class citizens.

Thanks,
Brad Pitt

Donate Now

 

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

LGBT Fast Friday News 10/19/12

Fast Friday is a weekly feature in which I provide links to news items and other resources of interest to the LGBT community.

Today is annual Spirit Day, the day when millions of Americans wear purple to speak out against bullying and to show their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.  Are you wearing purple today?  For more, visit GLAAD’s Spirit Day page.    To obtain Spirit Day apps for Android and iPhone, read Wednesday’s post on Spirit Day apps from Totota Financial Services.

Boehner maxes out $1.5 mil cost cap for DOMA defense

A Call to Action to Bring LGBT Health Disparities out of the Closet

Obama’s campaign publishes emotional appeal from gay celebrities

TWO Condemns Twin Cities Archbishop for Anti-Gay Letter to Catholic Parent of a Gay Son

Here are a few items I posted on the blog’s Facebook page (for those who don’t have a Facebook account):

‘Mix It Up At Lunch Day’ Prompts American Family Association To Urge Boycott, Protest ‘Promotion Of Homosexual Lifestyle’

Scouts track gays in ‘perversion files’

The Republican case for same-sex marriage:  A party that believes in individual liberties should support marriage equality

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

LGBT Issues Not Discussed at 2nd Presidential Debate

In an election year in which LGBT issues have figured prominently, the LGBT community is rather miffed that issues such as same-sex marriage and the repeal of DOMA were never explicitly discussed at the 2nd presidential debate.  According to the Washington Blade,

“Romney never explicitly said he was excluding opposite-sex couples when touting the importance of a “two-parent family” as the correct way to raise children, but didn’t take the opportunity to say that marriage should be between one man, one woman.”

The Blade also observed that,

“President Obama made a reference to opposing discrimination during the presidential debate in response to a question on pay equity for women, though he said nothing explicit on LGBT issues.”

Obama has expressed his support of LGBT issues throughout the campaign.  Romney has expressed that he does not support gay marriage and would, in fact, support a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country.

For more, read:   LGBT issues again absent from prez debate

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Myth: Same-Sex marriage Threatens Religious Freedoms

Those who oppose same-sex marriage are fond of using the scare tactic that allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry will threaten religious freedoms.  That is simply a  myth.  The problem is that some people out there in voter land believe it to be true.  Yikes!

Statutes enacted by states that allow same-sex marriage are careful to exempt clergy from having to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples if doing so is against their religious beliefs.  That said, how can one argue that same-sex marriage threatens religious freedoms?  If a religion’s doctrine does not approve of same-sex marriage, that religion is not forced to perform marriages for same-sex couples.  Simple.

With same-sex marriage on the ballot in 4 states, it is more important than ever to spread the word that there is a serious difference between fact and myth where this issue is concerned.

I came across an insightful post on the topic published by Kathy Baldock of Canyonwalker Connections that you really should read.  It says it all.

Read:   Same-Sex Marriage Does Not Impact Religious Liberty

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Polls Show Support for Same-Sex Marriage Increasing in Washington, Maine and Maryland

If all goes well in this next election, it may come to pass that voters in 3 states will become the first in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage at the ballot box.  In Washington, a SurveyUSA poll for King-TV showed that more than half of the respondents support the marriage equality law passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire on February 13, 2012.

Voters in Maine have shown overwhelming support to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.  Some 57 percent of voters are in favor while only 36 percent are against, according to a poll by Critical Insights.

In Maryland, where the legislature voted earlier this year to legalize same-sex marriage (a  law that was signed by the governor), is under attack at the polls this November.  A poll by WTOP/Beltway shows that 6 in 10 Maryland voters support same-sex marriage.

If you reside in any of those states, be sure to vote!  More than that, do your part to educate your colleagues, neighbors and friends on the issue of marriage equality.

If you reside in Minnesota, you had better work hard to educate everyone around you … there is a measure on the ballot to add a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage!  Yikes!  Don’t let that happen, folks.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

California Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund Wants Donations to Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples

According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the anti-gay Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund is seeking some $2 million in donations to continue its fight in the U.S. Supreme Court against the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.  The organization has disclosed that the cost of its battle so far is an estimated $10 million!

Imagine what serious good works could have been funded with $10 million, folks.  Youth centers, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, support for battered women … but I digress.

Tax documents obtained by HRC revealed that the bulk of the organization’s funding came from a handful of donors.   Six contributors donated $3.3 million (of a total $4.3 million) in 2010 and five contributors donated  $1.7 million plus in 2009, totaling over 50% of the group’s annual revenue.

Millions of dollars were donated to force discrimination on loving, committed same-sex couples.  Again, I must ask why all of that cash wasn’t earmarked for something that might actually have benefited humanity?

Interestingly, HRC reports that Andy Pugno, the general counsel for Prop 8 who is currently running for state office in California, is involved with the fundraising efforts — which (surprise, surprise) have also netted him a significant benefit. The The Law Offices of Andrew Pugno received more than a half million dollars from the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund in the two-year period 2009 and 2010.  Interesting.

View Prop 8 Defense Fund’s 2009 990 here.  For still more shake-your-head fun, view the organization’s 2010 990 here. 

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Gay Marriage: Constitutional Right or An Issue for the States to Decide?

I came across a well reasoned piece published by Washington D.C. attorney, Lanny Davis, that ponders whether or not same-sex marriage is a constitutional right or an issue to be determined by the individual states.  He rightly concludes, I believe, that it is a constitutional right based upon the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia.

Davis opines:

[M]y visceral reaction on this issue is: Either a ban on same-sex marriage is a violation of the Constitution or it is not. It can’t be a violation of the 14th Amendment in one state but not in another.

I certainly respect those whose religious faith causes them to oppose same-sex marriage. But our Constitution should not allow religious principles to trump constitutional ones.

My feelings, exactly.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

 

Attorney Olszewski Interviewed on Obabma’s Support of Gay Marriage Announcement

I had a delightful conversation with Stacy Davis of the Connecticut Post on Wednesday in which she asked me for my professional reaction to president Obama’s announcement that he supports gay marriage.  Davis and her colleague, Tom Cleary interviewed local residents and other professionals for the piece.

Here’s my two cents:

Irene C. Olszewski, an East Hartford lawyer specializing in gay and lesbian rights, also thought Obama’s timing was right and gave him credit for taking the stance during an election year.

“I think it was very brave of him,” Olszewski said.

She said his endorsement could both help and hurt him at the polls. While his lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and transsexual supporters may be happy, his seriously religious conservative supporters might have a problem with it.

Olszewski said people have their rights to religion until their views trample on the civil rights of others.

Read Residents respond to Obama announcement  [Connecticut Post]

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.