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Feb 6, 2012: Prop 8 Trial Tapes Can't Stay Secret Forever
Another crazy week, with news in the Prop 8 case and major advances in Washington, Maryland, and New Jersey. And yet another court has slapped down NOM's attempts to hide their donors.
The big news this week: the tapes of the Prop 8 trial will remain under seal -- for now. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the District Court recordings of the trial that resulted in Prop 8 being declared unconstitutional should be withheld from the public. That's a big shame, because there were some fascinating moments during that trial. But don't worry: even with the tapes being kept under lock and key, you can still see what happened in courtroom. Dustin Lance Black's new play, "8," is based on transcripts of that trial, and had a star-studded premier in New York and LA. Now productions of the show are coming to theaters all around the country. Visit 8theplay.com to find a production near you.
And mark your calendars for August 4, 2020. It appears as though there's a 10-year time limit on the stay, so unless the Proponents file for an extension in about a decade, the tapes will finally become public ten years after the case is closed.
Washington State made history this week with the Senate passing a marriage equality bill with 28 votes. That includes seven Republicans who voted for the bill. Now the bill moves to the House, where it's expected to pass, and then on to the Governor, who introduced the bill. So, could anything stop marriage equality at this point? Yes: anti-gay groups could gather signatures for a referendum or an initiative -- or both. Polling shows that 55% of voters would support the marriage equality bill, with 38% opposed, but anti-gay groups have already raised a million dollars and there's no telling how public opinion might change.
As Washington moves ahead, New Jersey is following close behind. This week the Assembly Judiciary Committee voted to advance the marriage equality bill. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill on Friday of this week, with a full Assembly vote next Monday. Governor Chris Christie has promised to veto the bill.
The National Organization for Marriage has attempted for years to evade campaign disclosure laws that would require them to reveal their funding sources. Unfortunately for them, courts have taken a dim view of those shenanigans. After being shot down in California, Washington, and Rhode Island, anti-gay groups lost yet another round in Maine this week.
NOM doesn't want the public to know where their money comes from, but this week's ruling forces them to open their formerly secret donor files -- just in time for a marriage equality rematch on the Maine ballot this November.
But NOM's suspect accounting doesn't stop in Maine. They're also facing fresh questions in Minnesota, where the group's given a quarter million dollars to the campaign to put a marriage ban in the state constitution. That campaign has received only seven donations -- but those seven donations total $1.2 million. It looks like NOM may be pooling donations from private individuals rather than having those individuals publicly donating to the campaign.
The Human Rights Campaign is keeping a close eye on the money trail and this week urged the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board to investigate.
And in national news, the Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a lesbian servicemember. Despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the Army has refused to give Tracey Cooper-Harris the same health benefits that straight veterans receive. There are at least six other cases against DOMA working their way through the courts right now. That includes McLaughlin v. Panetta, filed in October of 2011.
One of the plaintiffs in the McLaughlin case will meet this Thursday with House Speaker John Boehner's office. Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan has been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and needs to secure survivor benefits for her wife now. Boehner is one of the chief defenders of the anti-gay law that prevents the Army from recognizing Morgan's marriage.
And finally, marriage equality appears unstoppable in Scotland, with public and political support at an all-time high. It's estimated that the government will complete its study of the issue later this spring, with a draft bill ready for vote within a year.
Those are the headlines, visit 8theplay.com to find a performance of "8" near you. And visit MarriageNewsWatch.com for all these stories and more, and to sign up for breaking news alerts. I'm Matt Baume at the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and we'll see you next week.
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