Idaho Soldier Serving from the Closet. DADT Repeal Doesn’t Lift All Burdens

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

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

Despite the recent repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the policy remains in effect for several more months at least, leaving an estimated 65,000 active duty military service members still vulnerable for discharge for being gay, lesbian or bisexual.

One Idaho soldier now serving in Afghanistan as a combat medic is risking more than her life for her country. She is risking discharge because she is also a lesbian.

To protect her identity Citydesk will refer to her only as “Savanna,” which is not her real name.

“My time in service has been rough,” said Savanna. “I was aware of the DADT policy, but I don’t believe now that any soldier who DADT directly affects really understands how difficult, mentally and emotionally, hiding their true identity will be until it’s too late to turn back.”

“During basic training,” Savanna recounted, “a small group of lesbians were unfairly blamed for being ‘too close’ to who was obviously a lesbian drill sergeant. I am thankful to have had a First Sergeant who stood for what he believed was right. He pulled each of the trainees facing the indiscretion aside and helped us to send home anything that could be perceived to be against the DADT policy (letters, pictures etc.) before the investigation began.”

“I am willing to die for my country. Who I go home to at night and who I love should hold no substance,” she said. Continue reading

Same-Sex Wedding Bells Ring Again in California

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com Aug. 12, 2010

Federal Judge Vaughn Walker denied the defendants motion stay his Aug 6 decision that overturned Proposition 8, deeming it unconstitutional.

The court ordered, “That judgment shall be DENIED until August. 18, 2010 at 5 PM PDT at which time defendants and all personals under their control or supervision shall cease to apply or enforce Proposition 8.”

It is expected that same-sex marriages will re-commence Thursday Aug. 19

ABA Calls for Eliminating Legal Barriers to Same-Sex Civil Marriage

Idaho State Bar Association Executive Director, Diane Minnich, admitted to having wished she could have heard the debate over the American Bar Association resolution which urges, “state, territorial, and tribal governments to eliminated all of their Legal barriers to civil marriage between two person of the same sex who are otherwise eligible to marry.”

The ABA is the nation’s leading legal organization. “The ABA is a voluntary organization, said Minnich, we as a mandatory organization are regulatory entity for the most part and don’t take a stand on any of those issues.”

The Idaho Attorney General’s office said they have “no reaction to or position on” this morning’s resolution.

The ABA said they will now use its lobbying staff and its overall position as the voice of the American legal profession to advance this policy.

Minnich explained Idaho has two delegates, one appointed by the ISB who Minnich says is likely to vote the way they think Idaho Lawyers would vote. The other delegate is elected by the ABA votes as they feel appropriate.

An ABA staffer confirmed with the House of Delegates Chair that the resolution was clearly passed on a voice vote so there is no official count. Idaho delegates Idaho Larry Hunter and Michelle Points were not available for comment on how they voted.

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.

PROP 8 RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

CNN just reported U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in today historic decision regarding the out come of the Proposition 8 trial Perry v. Schwarzenegger in favor of same-sex marriage. Proposition has been ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL and has been overturned.

SEE ALL THE VIDEO EVIDENCE IN CASE:

Prop 8 – Judge Walker’s Full Decision

Idaho AG’s Office Reacts to DOMA Ruling from Federal Judge

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com July 9, 2010

U.S District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro ruled Thursday that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.

Enacted in 1996 DOMA defines “marriage” and “spouse,” for purposes of federal law, to include only the union of one man and one woman.

The Massachusetts plaintiffs, seven same-sex couples and three widowers, claimed that because of DOMA, their families were denied critically important rights and protections that interfered with the state’s authority to regulate marriage.

Massachusetts Attorney General Spokeswoman, Amie Breton, told Boise Weekly the decision applies only to Massachusetts and any appeals would be up to the Obama administration.

“Because there was no stay in the law suit,” said Breton, “starting today immediately effective same-sex wedded couples in Massachusetts are eligible for federal benefits. That means this decision is binding for the federal agencies.”

For states like Idaho with constitutional bans, the Massachusetts decision appears to have no bearing.

Idaho Attorney General spokesperson, Bob Cooper said his office has not yet seen the decision but based on news accounts said:
“On its face it would appear this is not going to have any impact on the state of the law in Idaho. The decision is not inconsistent with the Idaho constitutional provision in which the state has defined marriage. From that perspective, it wouldn’t matter what a particular state’s definition of marriage is this ruling would uphold the authority of the states to define marriage.”

Tauro stated: “There are at least, a total of 1,138 federal statutory provisions classified to the United States Code in which marital status is a factor.”

Same-sex couples legally married or not, except in Massachusetts, are denied the right to file joint tax returns, claim Social Security survivor benefits, take family medical leave, as well as take gift and estate tax exemptions, have joint workplace health care and collect a spouse’s retirement.

“The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state, and, in doing so, offends the Tenth Amendment. For that reason, the statute is invalid,” wrote Judge Tauro.

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.



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.”



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.

We CAN have it all, same-gender marriage & religious freedom

Marriage Equality CoexistNo matter what side you are on in the debate over same-gender marriage, there is a simple path for everyone to get what they want, full civil rights for same gender couples AND protection of the institution of marriage. How? The conversation should never include religion period!

As citizens of this country, we are Americans first. As a democracy, we are governed first and foremost by our Constitution. In that document is the protection for religious freedom AND equal protection under the law.

Although many Americans are Christian, not everyone is! We are Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Agnostics, Spiritualists, Atheists, Humanists and everything in-between. Within each of these belief systems are conservative, moderate and liberal factions.

How then as a free democracy can we possibly think we can solve any social or political issue when religion is part of the discussion? It’s worse than trying to herd cats.

Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, president of the national Interfaith Alliance, put it very simply, “In a democracy, the Constitution trumps all.”

If you want a theocracy, get an island and start one. If you value REAL freedom and Democracy, let’s separate the legal contract, rights and responsibilities of what we now universally call marriage from religion entirely for EVERYONE.

The solution is civil unions for all and marriage only for religious groups. ALL religious organizations will have an exemption and don’t have to ‘marry’ anyone they don’t want to. However, anyone can become Civilly United.

That’s the easy part.

Each side must to give something up. ALL Americans have to give up the term “marriage” and ALL Religions have to give up preventing LGBT people from obtaining full rights and responsibilities that now come with heterosexual marriage in all states and federally.

That’s the hard part.