As I See It…PODCAST: On the Record with Constance McMillan

As I See It… Talks ON THE RECORD with Constance McMillan who, with the help of her local ACLU affiliate, sued her Fulton, Mississippi school district for barring her from taking her girlfriend to the senior prom. Constance visited Idaho last week as the keynote speaker for the ACLU of Idaho Bill of Rights fundraiser, Prom is for Everyone.

ACLU of Idaho Executive Director Monica Hopkins and Constance McMillan

ACLU of Idaho Executive Director Monica Hopkins (left) and Constance McMillan


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Senate Votes to Repeal DADT

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com Dec. 18, 2010

In a historic move, the U.S. Senate passed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell by a 65 to 31 vote this afternoon. Once signed into law by President Barack Obama, the 17-year ban on gay and lesbian members of the military to serve openly will be over.

Republicans who voted in favor of repeal were Senators Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snow of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and George Voinovich of Ohio. Republicans who were not present for the vote were Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

“This is incredible news for equality and justice. We commend the senate for repealing this discriminatory and unconstitutional policy known as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” said ACLU of Idaho Executive Director Monica Hopkins. “This is a huge win for civil rights here in Idaho. We have to remember there are many Idahoans serving in the armed forces, and now they can be judged on the content of their character and their skills as soldiers. It opens up their work environment to live openly and honestly, which is one of the core values of our armed services.” Continue reading

Local Reaction to Prop 8 Ruling

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com Aug. 6, 2010

“We’re so filled with hope for same-sex couples in Boise and across the country who want to get married,” an Idaho couple told Citydesk.

Jade and Ria—who prefer to go by their first names—were among 18,000 couples legally married when they lived in California before Proposition 8 banned same-sex marriage. U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Prop. 8, Aug. 4 saying, “it disadvantages gays and lesbians without any rational justification” and it “violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.”

“The ruling declared that my wife and I are as human as straight people,” said Jade.

“Using the word ‘wife,’ with all the legal weight of the institution of marriage, is very important to me,” said Ria. “There’s no mistaking my wife for my business partner.”

“Judge Walker made detailed factual findings on three central questions,” said Monica Hopkins, executive director of ACLU of Idaho. “Whether gay people are bad for kids; Whether our relationships are the same or different from those of straight people; and how exactly allowing us to marry would harm heterosexual marriages. Those three questions are key touchstones of the marriage debate all across the country. To have them not only answered, but demolished on the facts after a full trial, is a turning point in the national discussion.”

The court found lesbian and gay couples are monetarily harmed by being banned from marriage, something Ria and Jade know well. “We would have gotten $3,000 more back in federal taxes last year if the federal government recognized our marriage.”

Walker ordered a temporary stay until Friday in order to give both sides a chance to file legal papers on an appeal process that is widely expected to make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We need to continue the fight for equal rights in Idaho and across the country. Everyone has a part to play in making that happen,” said Hopkins.

Will Prop. 8 Decision Affect Idaho LGBT Community?

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com June 30, 2010

Both civil rights advocates and religious conservatives are waiting in anticipation of Federal Chief District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision in California’s Proposition 8 landmark Perry v. Schwarzenegger case.

Filed over a year ago, the January trial challenged the constitutionality of the voter-initiative that banned same-sex marriage by just 52 percent of the popular vote in the November 2008 election.

Either way Walker decides, it’s likely to spark outrage. Should the decision go the way of the plaintiffs and Prop. 8 is overturned, many wonder how that will affect states like Idaho with constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. The consensus is there is likely to be a long court battle before we have a final answer.

Idaho Attorney General’s office spokesperson, Bob Cooper said,”It’s anticipated that it will be appealed both to the Ninth Circuit and to the Supreme Court regardless of which way it goes, so it’s really impossible to speculate on what impact, if any, it would have on Idaho. It’s going to depend on where it becomes a question of settled law and what the decision is.

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ACLU of Idaho executive director, Monica Hopkins concurred. “It is difficult to speculate on these legal issues. However if Prop 8 is struck down we may see the issue before the Supreme Court. Until the legal question is solved by the courts we have no way of knowing how this may affect the Idaho constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.”

The American Foundation for Equal Rights is the non-profit organization funding the plaintiffs and assembled the legal team lead by Theodore Olson and David Boies.

Spokesperson Robb Yusef told BW, “We are eagerly waiting to see how the court will rule and trust the court will make the right decision. Either way the court rules the other side will appeal this to the circuit court and then we expect this to be appealed to the Supreme Court. We have committed to take this case all the way because we believe that peoples fundamental rights need to be guaranteed once and for all.”

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The California Supreme Court ruled May 15, 2008, in a 4-3 decision that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Marriage license for gays and lesbians began being issued June 1, 2008. Until the passage of Prop 8, 18,000 same-sex couples have been legally married. Thus far, efforts to invalidate those marriages have been unsuccessful and the outcome of this case will not affect them.

Boise Weekly’s requests for comment from Protect Marriage, the organization leading the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign, have not been returned.

Protect Marriage received $40 million in donations from all over the county. Of that sum, $22 million was from members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. At least $419,000 came from Idahoans, with the largest donation of $100,000 coming from Belinda VanderSloot, the wife of Idaho Falls conservative millionaire and Melaleuca CEO Frank L. VanderSloot.

Boise LGBT Pride Grows Bigger Every Year

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com June 23, 2010

Gay Pride Rainbow FlagNearly 1,500 people gathered on the steps of the Statehouse on June 19 to celebrate the 17th annual Pride, the one day a year when LGBT friends and allies are free to openly express pride in themselves, their families and their community.

A short rally opened the day’s events. Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of ACLU Idaho was the keynote speaker (video below). Hopkins addressed a diverse crowd that included everyone from young families to senior citizens and who came from as far as Idaho Falls and Portland. She emphasized the need for people to “come out” and “work diligently on public policy issues.” With the recent closing of the Idaho Women’s Network and Idaho Equality, that leaves the ACLU as the only statewide organization working directly on LGBT public policy issues.

After the rally, the mile-long parade—led by the hallmark rainbow balloon arch, followed by an 80-foot tall rainbow flag—marched to the festivities at Ann Morrison Park. Boise Pride’s executive director, Tom Thompson, estimated overall attendance at 7,500. At a cost of $30,000 to put on, early estimates indicate a small profit from the festival as a result of the first ever $1 gate fee. Some festival goers complained about the fence that encircled the crowd but Thompson says it was required for liability and security issues and provides accurate attendance figures to prospective sponsors and vendors.

Over the years, protesters have always been present, carrying signs and chanting, but for the first time in Boise Pride history no anti-gay protesters showed. Many view that as a positive sign of progress. BW talked to a number of people for the video below, asking what people think are the most pressing issues facing Idaho’s LGBT community and how Boise compares to other communities in terms of being LGBT friendly.

Idaho AG’s Office, says “Family” not specifically defined by law – Marriage law is not a “Family” law

Jody May-Chang©
February 22, 2009 PrideDEPOT.com

When the Nampa Recreation Center (NRC) used Idaho’s marriage law for the basis of denying a same-sex couple and their 4-year-old son a “family” membership, they may find themselves at legal odds* with the State Attorney General’s Office.

*Editor clarification: 02/24/09: The phrase “at legal odds” above is meant simply to illustrate a significant discrepancy. It is not intended to suggest legal action is, or will, be taken by the Idaho State Attorney General’s office against the Nampa Recreation Center or Mayor Tom Dale.

This drama unfolded in early February when Amber Howard and Rachel Dovel where shown the door at the NRC and told that they did not constitute a family and would not be entitled to such membership privileges.

The couple told PrideDEPOT.com that since they could not produce a marriage certificate, they could not be considered a family along with the rest of those who have obtained such privileges. They could, however, produce evidence of a domestic relationship since Howard is listed on Dovel’s workplace health insurance plan as a domestic partner.

Nampa Mayor Tom Dale told several media outlets, including PrideDEPOT.com that family passes are issued “only to families as defined under Idaho law.” Dale also added that the city-managed center would “suffer financially” if couples like Howard and Dovel were awarded such memberships. Continue reading