Washington, DC – Today President Obama called on Americans to support the freedom to marry when they vote on ballot measures in Maine, Maryland and Washington. The president has previously spoken out against a Minnesota proposal to exclude gays and lesbians from marriage in the state constitution. Washington residents are already voting by mail, while voters in the other three states will vote at the polls on Nov. 6.

“President Obama continues to be a transformational leader for LGBT equality,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “The president’s historic announcement of his support for marriage equality earlier this year sent a powerful message, particularly to LGBT youth, that no one’s hope of achieving the American dream should be curtailed simply because of who they are. In Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, we enter the final two weeks of this hard-fought campaign knowing that the president of the United States joins our entire community in supporting their efforts to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect.”

"Today President Obama added a strong and personal ‘I do’ to voters still making up their minds on whether to support the freedom to marry in Maine, Maryland, and Washington this election, and Freedom to Marry applauds the president’s moral leadership in standing up for families, fairness, and freedom,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide. “As the president said in May, ‘Same-sex couples should be able to get married … when we think about our faith, it’s also the golden rule.’ The right thing to do on these ballot-measures is to vote to treat others just as you would want to be treated – and let loving and committed couples share in the freedom to marry.”

Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage nationwide. We are pursuing our Roadmap to Victory by working to win the freedom to marry in more states, grow the national majority for marriage, and end federal marriage discrimination. We partner with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

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Human Rights Campaign, 1640 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036 United States
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore is an American for Marriage Equality

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), released a video ad featuring U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin for its Americans for Marriage Equality campaign.  In the video, Congresswoman Moore states, “I’ve always fought for equality and justice in America, which is why I think it’s wrong to tell two people in love they can’t get married, just because they’re gay or lesbian.” 

“Rep. Moore is a great ally, and an incredible voice for LGBT equality in Congress,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.  “We are proud to count her as a friend and advocate in our fight for marriage equality nationwide, and we’re grateful for her steadfast support for our community in the House of Representatives.”

Congresswoman Gwen Moore represents Wisconsin’s 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving since 2005, and is the first African-American to represent the state in Congress.  Rep. Moore scored a 100 percent on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard for the 112th Congress and is a co-sponsor of a number of pro-LGBT equality bills, including the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).   She has also been a vocal supporter of including LGBT-specific provisions in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

This is the twenty-seventh release by HRC for the Americans campaign.  Past videos feature Bryan Cranston, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Melissa Harris-Perry, fun.’s Jack Antonoff, Krysten Ritter, Dreama Walker, Stanley Tucci, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, Cybill Shepherd, Kristen Bell, Jason Mraz, Rossana Rosado, The Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, Michael K. Williams, Aisha Tyler, Scott Fujita, Josh Charles, John Leguizamo, Julian Bond, Mo’Nique, and Mayor Cory Booker.

About 53 percent of the American public supports marriage for same-sex couples, according to a number of nonpartisan polls, including Gallup, CNN, and Washington Post/ABC News.

Americans for Marriage Equality is a public engagement campaign featuring prominent Americans who support committed gay and lesbian couples getting married.  The campaign draws from a cadre of supportive professional athletes, film and music celebrities, and political and civic leaders.

Press Release by HRC: For more information on the campaign or to see the videos, visit www.hrc.org/marriageequality.
by Heather Cronk at GetEQUAL

Just Hours After His Hearing for July Marriage Counter Sit-In, Major Jiminez Again Arrested for Demanding Equality
Minutes ago, Major Jiminez was arrested in Dallas, Texas, after being refused a marriage license with his partner, Beau Chandler. Major and Beau rose to national prominence a month ago when they first went to the marriage counter on July 5 and were refused a marriage license. Both men sat down in the line and refused to move, resulting in both being arrested. Today was their initial hearing in that case and, after the hearing, they returned to the marriage counter again.

Major and Beau, with the support of GetEQUAL Texas -- the Texas-based chapter of GetEQUAL, a national civil rights organization that uses direct action and civil disobedience to push for full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans -- went to court this morning for an initial hearing on charges stemming from their arrests on July 5. The men faced fines of up to $2,000 each and up to 180 days in jail. Their hearings this morning were pushed back to later dates, and the men returned to the marriage counter -- again requesting a license.

The men were again denied a marriage license, as the state of Texas maintains a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex couples from marrying. They were told to go to the lobby, outside of the service area, and that they would not be issued a license. While Beau elected to comply in order to ensure the he would keep his job, Major elected to sit down and refuse to move -- resulting in a second arrest. At this time, the charges against Major are not known.

"Yesterday, people came out in force to eat chicken and support hatred," said Major Jiminez. "Today, I am being thrown in jail because of who I love. How can our lawmakers and courts sit by and do nothing?"

Major's reference is to yesterday's anti-equality "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day," started by Fox media pundit and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in support of a statement from Chick-Fil-A COO Dan Cathy that denigrated same-sex marriage.

Inspired by Major and Beau's action a month ago, activists in other communities across the country also went to marriage counters today to request marriage licenses. Actions took place in Tampa, FL; Albuquerque, NM; Columbus, OH; Akron, OH; and Bowling Green, OH. More marriage counter actions and protests are expected over the next few days in solidarity with Major and Beau. 

"Today when I went to defy the constitution ban on my right to marry in Florida, I did so in solidarity with Major and Beau," said Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, Tampa resident and GetEQUAL national field director. "Hearing someone, to my face, deny my right to marry the man I love was a definitely a blow, but we are not going anywhere. We will keep fighting and keep organizing until we get equal."

All of the actions today were organized as part of GetEQUAL's newly-launched campaign, "Fight for the 14th," designed to draw attention to the immense discrimination that LGBT Americans face daily, despite the promise of equal protection under the law in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. You can see more about the "Fight for the 14th" campaign at www.getequal.org/pledge.

Party platform drafting committee unanimously approves language endorsing marriage equality

Washington – Today the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), applauded the Democratic Party platform drafting committee for approving language that adds support for marriage equality to the Party’s platform.  The language must now be ratified by the full platform committee and then by the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this September.

“Like Americans from all walks of life, the Democratic Party has recognized that committed and loving gay and lesbian couples deserve the right to have their relationships respected as equal under the law,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.  “I believe that one day very soon the platforms of both major parties will include similar language on this issue. There is no more American value than honoring and protecting one’s family.”

Support for marriage equality has risen quickly and consistently over the last decade, with 53 percent of Americans now supporting marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.  According to a recent Gallup poll, 70 percent of young voters aged 18-34 support marriage equality and a Public Religion Research Institute poll puts support at 49 percent among younger Republicans (Millenials).  58 percent of all Independent voters support marriage for gays and lesbians, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll.

On Friday, HRC’s Legislative Director Allison Herwitt testified before the committee, advocating for the inclusion of language in the platform that supported marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples, as well as other pro-LGBT equality issues.  Sources within the Party, including Rep. Barney Frank, who sits on the Party platform drafting committee, have stated that the language was adopted after a unanimous vote.

Source: The Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
From Michael Cole-Schwartz at HRC

Another Federal Court Rules Federal Ban on Marriage Recognition for Gay Couples Unconstitutional

WASHINGTON – In yet another blow to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), today, June 6, 2012, a federal court in New York ruled the law to be unconstitutional, and found that laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians should be subject to heightened scrutiny.  The ruling comes in the case of Windsor v. United States, where DOMA forced the federal government to tax Edie Windsor’s wife’s estate as if they had never been married.  The House Republican leadership hired private attorney Paul Clement to defend the statute in court and this is now the fourth out of four courts where Clement has defended DOMA and lost.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese released the following statement in response to the decision: “The dominoes continue to fall on DOMA with yet another federal court rightly calling it unconstitutional.  All loving and committed married couples should be recognized by the federal government yet we continue to see the terrible pain DOMA inflicts on real families.  The real question is when Speaker Boehner will see the writing on the wall and stop wasting taxpayer dollars defending this outrageous law and instead work to repeal it.  Paul Clement’s record of zero for four speaks for itself.

“We applaud the ACLU and Edie Windsor, as well as the attorneys at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, for their incredible efforts on behalf of gay and lesbian couples across the nation and are confident that one day soon families will no longer have to live under the burden of this onerous law.”

Currently, six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry.  This year, legislatures in Maryland and Washington State approved marriage equality laws, but they are not yet in effect and are likely to be subject to popular referenda.  Under a 1996 law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), even lawfully-married couples cannot be recognized by the federal government, and as a result are denied access to more than 1,100 rights, benefits and responsibilities under federal law.  These include Social Security survivor benefits, federal employee health benefits for spouses, protections against spouses losing their homes in cases of severe medical emergencies, the right to sponsor a foreign born partner for immigration, the guarantee of family and medical leave and the ability to file joint tax returns, among many others.

Opponents of Equality May Now Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON – In an announcement that could either lead to a return to marriage equality in California or a historic case before the U.S. Supreme Court, today the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declined to review a February decision of that court ruling that California’s constitutional amendment stripping loving, committed gay and lesbian couples of marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.  With today’s announcement, the proponents of Prop 8 are now likely to seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit is likely to continue the stay of its decision until that process is complete.  In the event that the Supreme Court decides not to hear the case, the lower court ruling would stand and gay and lesbian couples would again be able to marry in California.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:

“Once again, a federal court has affirmed that the cherished guarantees of our Constitution are there to protect all Americans – including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  For over three years, the plaintiffs, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies have shown tremendous fortitude and perseverance in their fight for marriage equality.  With today’s announcement, we are one step closer to ensuring that gay and lesbian Californians – and, one day, our entire community nationwide – are able to join the institution of marriage and have their love and commitment respected equally.

“Today’s announcement is another significant step on a path that we all know leads to equality.  While the U.S. Supreme Court may ultimately decide the outcome of this case, we must all continue to walk that path – in this case and other courtrooms, in legislatures, at ballot boxes and at kitchen table – until all LGBT people are fully and equally part of the American community.”

In response to a 2008 decision by the California Supreme Court ending marriage discrimination in the state, anti-equality forces succeeded in placing a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. Despite over 18,000 same-sex couples having married, California voters adopted the amendment, known as Proposition 8. After the California Supreme Court determined in 2009 that the adoption of Prop 8 did not itself violate the California Constitution, two plaintiff couples -- Kris Perry and Sandy Stier and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo – filed suit against the State of California in federal court, represented by attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies and supported by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, an organization co-founded by incoming HRC President Chad Griffin  The proponents of Prop 8 intervened in the case to defend the constitutionality of the amendment.

Judge Vaughn Walker, then-chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, held a historic trial in January 2010, in which the plaintiffs presented substantial testimony and evidence to show that Prop 8’s only purpose is to discriminate against same-sex couples.  In August 2010, in a historic decision, he concluded Prop 8 is unconstitutional.  That ruling was appealed to a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed Walker’s conclusion that Prop 8 in unconstitutional in February 2012, but stayed its decision as the proponents sought a rehearing.

TORONTO / NEW YORK (May 29, 2012) - Tourism Toronto announced today a NEW YORK CITY CONTEST, marrying one lucky LGBTQ couple during Toronto’s 2012 Pride Festival.

Toronto’s Pride Festival is among the largest in the world, attracting visitors from all over the globe. This year’s festival starts on June 22 and concludes with the marquee event, the Toronto Pride Parade, on July 1. 

The winning couple will receive an exclusive wedding gift from Tourism Toronto, including two round trip Executive Class airline tickets from New York City to Toronto, wedding attire, hotel accommodations, ground transfers, marriage ceremony during the Pride Parade, and more, valued at more than $10,000.

“Toronto is the first jurisdiction in North America to conduct same sex marriages and continues to be one of the hottest destinations for gay couples,” said David Whitaker, President & CEO of Tourism Toronto. “We are proud of the decade long legacy of gay marriage in Toronto.”

The New York City Contest will include a cake installation where LGBTQ couples can enter for their chance to win by having their photo taken posing with the cake.  Photos with the cake can be taken anytime from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, June 1st through Sunday, June 3rd, at 166 8th Avenue (8th Ave. & W. 18th St), New York, NY, 10011 near Room Service restaurant. The couples’ photos will then be posted on Tourism Toronto’s Facebook page, where participants can tag themselves and share their entry. 

Tourism Toronto will select the winning couple based on charisma, enthusiasm, and a statement explaining why they’d like to get married during Toronto’s Pride Festival.

Pride Toronto is one of Canada’s premier arts and cultural festivals. The festival attracts more than one million people, many of whom march through the heart of Toronto, making it one of the largest Pride celebrations and street festivals in the world.  Toronto will host World Pride in the summer of 2014 simultaneously with Toronto Pride Week.

More information about the  location, rules & regulations is available at www.OurGayTorontoWedding.com.

About Tourism Toronto
Tourism Toronto, is an industry association of more than 1,200 members established to sell and market the greater Toronto region as a remarkable destination for tourists, convention delegates and business travellers around the globe. Tourism Toronto operates in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture as Regional Tourism Organization 5, representing the cities of Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton. www.SeeTorontoNow.com

CHICAGO – Seeking recognition for their shared love and commitment and protection for their families and loved ones, nine couples filed a lawsuit today to challenge the constitutionality of an Illinois law that denies gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry.

Illinois' current law excludes these couples from the recognition and protections that come with the universally recognized relationship status of marriage, and limits them instead to civil union status. Six states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex couples to marry.  

Today’s lawsuit comes one year after Illinois implemented civil unions for same-sex couples and just two weeks after President Barack Obama from Illinois endorsed the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. The couples are represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Illinois. In a separate case filed today, Lambda Legal is representing 16 same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry. The coordinated cases signal the organizations' shared commitment to ensure that the government treats all families fairly.  

The lead plaintiffs in the ACLU case are Tanya Lazaro and Elizabeth “Liz” Matos of Chicago’s Northwest Side. Lazaro is a Chicago Police Department detective and Matos works as a system analyst for a trading firm in Chicago. Tanya and Liz have a two-year-old girl Jaiden and, just recently, had a second girl Sophia. The parents of two girls, they rejected getting a civil union.  

“Our relationship is not about some legal benefits and protections, but about love for one another,” said Lazaro.  “We love each other; we are committed to one another. Anything short of marriage does not recognize that love and commitment.”

“It is remarkable that Tanya risks her life each day to go out into the City of Chicago and keep people safe, but the law does not recognize fully the family that we have built together,” said Matos.  

A number of the plaintiffs sought a civil union after they became available in 2011 although some chose to wait for marriage. In the complaint, these couples describe how it feels to be relegated to a legal status that sends the message that the state regards their relationships as inferior. Couples also report multiple ways in which they are reminded that many people do not understand civil unions, nor do they afford civil unions the same respect as marriage. 

The other plaintiffs in the case include:
• Lynn Sprout and Katherine “Kathie” Spegal, of Champaign, have grandchildren ages to 22-years-old to 6-years-old, with another on the way;
• Ross “Randy” Walden and Robert “Bob” Carey, from Springfield, have been together for seven years, meeting after Randy lost his previous partner to cancer and was denied access to his partner’s hospital room and almost missed the chance to be with him at his death;
• Michelle Mascaro and Corynne Romine, of suburban Oak Park, who have been together more than 20 years and adopted three children;
• Tim Kee and Rick Wade, a couple from downstate Marion, who have spent their entire lives in the Marion area and been together as a committed couple for more than 15 years, live in the home passed on to Rick by his grandmother and attend the church where Tim was baptized;
• Carlos Briones and Richard Rykhus, of Evanston, are the fathers of seven-year-old Ty and share a passion for education, with Richard serving on the board of education for the local elementary school board;
• Suzanna “Suzie” Hutton and Danielle Cook, of Bloomington, are both educators who, when they told their colleagues about their civil unions, had to make a joke about their relationship being “civilized” to address their colleagues’ discomfort with an announcement that highlighted the inadequacy of their civil union;
• Kirsten and Tanya Lyonsford of Aurora met at work 13 years ago when they played a game of “Diversity Bingo” and found that they both identified as gay/lesbian. They are parenting two young children; and
• Edwin “Ed” Hamilton and Gary Magruder, of Plainfield, who have been together as a couple for more than 48 years and are both retired educators. 

“What defines a marriage is love and commitment, our hopes and dreams for a life with the person we most love in all the world,” said John Knight, director of the ACLU of Illinois’ LGBT Project.  “Creating civil unions – a separate, novel and poorly understood status for gay and lesbian couples – does not honor the devotion of our families, nor fully protect them, but instead sends a powerful message that our families are inadequate and undeserving. It is time for Illinois to join the growing list of states that provide same-sex couples with the dignity and respect that can only come through marriage.” 

The ACLU and the ACLU of Illinois are assisted in the lawsuit by the Chicago office of Mayer Brown.

A copy of the complaint filed today is available here:

New Polling Data Shows Romney Continues to Stand against Views of Mainstream Americans
Washington – Mitt Romney reiterated his opposition marriage equality for same-sex couples again this morning while delivering commencement remarks at Liberty University, an anti-gay school that bans openly LGBT students from attending. Romney made his remarks just days after President Obama announced his historic support for marriage equality.  A USA Today/Gallup poll released yesterday shows that a majority of Americans – and en even stronger majority of independent voters – approve of the President’s position on marriage equality.

HRC President Joe Solmonese released the following statement after Romney’s remarks:
“This morning, Mitt Romney spoke out against marriage equality at a school that does not even allow openly LGBT students to enroll. It is unbelievable that in this day in age – when a majority of Americans support marriage equality and a majority of Americans explicitly approve of President Obama’s leadership on marriage equality – Mitt Romney instead is taking up the mantle of far-right anti-gay organizations who seek to demonize LGBT families. Mitt Romney continues to insist he’s against discrimination, but his remarks on marriage equality and the company he keeps paints a very clear and a very disturbing picture of the anti-LGBT forces that are driving Romney’s campaign.”

Among those honored at Liberty’s commencement this morning was S. Truett Cathy, founder of the fast-food chain Chick-fil- A, which has made significant financial contributions to anti-LGBT organizations. Romney made his remarks hours after Rick Santorum called on the GOP nominee to use marriage equality as a “potent weapon” in his campaign.
Posted on June 1, 2011
by David Cohen
Today, Wednesday, June 1, 2011 is a new day in the state of Illinois. Gay and lesbian couples will be eligible to apply for civil union. The ceremonies may be held a day later after the application for union is approved and the license is good for 60 days only.

On January 31, 2011, Gov. Pat Quinn signed the civil unions bill and made Illinois the 16th U.S. state to give spousal rights to same-sex couples by signing the bill into law and allowing civil unions.

This law gives same-sex couples state-level rights and recognitions that married opposite-sex couples took for granted for years. The rights include hospital visitation, a decision making of ending life care and property inheritance rights. The bill will provide protection for Illinois couples and families. Illinois will be one of six states that allow civil unions, and today is an historic day and a tribute to our legislature, our governor and the people of Illinois.

Unfortunately, these rights, protections and benefits are not portable because the federal law states that civil union in Illinois means nothing and it does not convey the over 1,000 federal benefits and rights of regular marriage between a man and a woman.

But the fight is far away from being over, we still need to keep fighting for our rights and equality that we all deserve as human being who living on this planet. So to all of you out there, keep the momentum and effort going until the day we can just sit down, relax and enjoy the freedom, equality and all on our planet earth, the way God gave us all­—and enjoy!