Monday, July 11, 2011

Policy Matters - July 11, 2011

Front Page Headlines

Court Orders Government to Stop Enforcing DADT: On July 6th, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an injunction prohibiting the enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) should be reinstated. The injunction was originally ordered in 2010 by a California federal judge who found that DADT was unconstitutional and that the government should not enforce it. However, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay, which allowed the government to continue to enforce the policy, until DADT made it through the court system. The Ninth Circuit Court Judges reversed this decision on July 6th, stating that “circumstances and balance of hardships had changed”. The Department of Justice has not stated whether or not they plan to appeal the ruling. [New York Times]

Cambridge, MA to Pay Employees in Same-Sex Marriages to Offset Costs from Unfair Taxes: The city of Cambridge, Massachusetts recently announced that it will become the first municipality in the United States to give public employees in same-sex marriages a stipend in an attempt to offset the cost of a federal tax. Because the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage, the value of employer-provided health insurance given to a same-sex spouse is viewed as taxable income, resulting in an extra $1,500 to $3,000 in taxes for public employees in same-sex marriage. This stipend will help employees defray the cost of these taxes. [Huffington Post]


Public Policy Watch

U.S. Government Says It Will Not Contest Bankruptcies of Married Same-Sex Couples: In a historic policy shift, the United States Justice Department announced on July 8th that government lawyers have decided to allow married gay and lesbian couples to jointly file for bankruptcy protection. This step will financially protect married same-sex couples. The Justice Department’s new position is in concert with the Obama administrations stated belief that it is unconstitutional for the government not to recognize legal same-sex unions. [Washington Post]

Historic LGBT History Bill Sent to CA Governor: The FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful) Education Act (SB 48) passed through the California State Assembly 49-25 and now heads to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. This legislation is the first state law of its kind that requires public school curriculum to cover the historical contributions of LGBT people in social science classes. Governor Brown has not stated whether or not he will sign the bill. [New York Daily News]

Government Drops Deportation of Immigrant in Same-Sex Marriage: A Venezuelan man married to an American man was slated to be deported, but federal immigration officials stopped the deportation. This announcement follows the implementation of “new, more flexible guidelines governing the deferral and cancellation of deportations, particularly for immigrants with no serious criminal records.” LGBT rights advocates hope that this will open up more deportation cancellations for bi-national same-sex couples living in the United States. [New York Times]

Federal Health Survey to Cover Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: On June 29th, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, announced that, starting in 2013, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) will begin asking about sexual orientation in addition to questions about other health-related topics. The NHIS will ask about gender identity at an unstated later date. The survey will help to provide the federal government with useful data about LGBT people’s experiences with medicine and health. [Washington Post]


A Question from the Field

Dear Policy Matters,

I recently read about the U.S. House “reaffirming” DOMA. What does this mean? Will it impact the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

Sincerely,

Peter

//

Dear Peter,

Thank you for contacting Policy Matters. On Thursday, July 7, the House of Representatives voted 248-175 to approve an amendment, introduced by Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), which unnecessarily reaffirms the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The amendment was attached to the Fiscal Year 2012 Defense Appropriations Bill, and explicitly prohibits the use of Pentagon funds for any activity contrary to DOMA. It is likely that the amendment was fueled by controversy surrounding a (since rescinded) Navy guidance which stated that, in states where it is legal, military facilities could be used for same-sex wedding ceremonies.

This amendment is similar to three harmful amendments introduced when the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. One amendment, introduced by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), restated that DOMA applies to military service members. The second amendment, introduced by Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), stated that weddings on military bases have to be in compliance with DOMA. The final amendment, introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), requires all four military chiefs to sign off on the DADT repeal before it can be finalized. Essentially, all four of these amendments add extra “protections” to DOMA and DADT in an effort to delay the repeal process. As the Senate version of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 has left out these harmful anti-LGBT amendments, we must also depend on the Senate to defeat Rep. Foxx’s harmful amendment in the Defense Appropriations Bill.

I urge you, and other PFLAG members invested in LGBT equality, to urge your Senators to strike down Rep. Foxx’s amendment from the Defense Appropriations Bill. Please contact your Senators today!

Thank you for moving equality forward,

Policy Matters

P.S. Have you downloaded your new edition of Bringing the Message Home yet? Get your 2011 version of the how-to guide to PFLAG advocacy now and share it with your chapter. Visit www.pflag.org/btmh for more information now.

And please don’t forget to register now for the 2011 PFLAG National Convention, and join us for a Lobby Day in Washington, DC!

Please note that Policy Matters will return on July 26, 2011. If you would like to have a policy-related question featured in our next edition, please e-mail rperry@pflag.org with your question no later than July 22, 2011.

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