The Widdershins

Catching up on some gay news

Posted on: June 25, 2014

Rainbow flag in breeze

Good afternoon Widdershins.  It has been awhile since I’ve written anything specifically in regard to things going on in the world of our gay brothers and sisters so I though I’d write about a few things that have been happening.

How about some good news:  Obama has decided to extend additional marriage benefits to same sex couples that had not been approved previously.  This will require regulatory changes that will have to be promulgated by the Labor Dept according to the NY Times article and I would think also that OPM will have to make some changes also.  This is of course all due to the two decisions by the Supremes last year in Prop 8 and the U.S. v Windsor.  And isn’t it amazing that the world is still spinning on its axis, and sun and the moon rise and set as they did before.

The Labor Dept has said:

it would clarify that federal employees will be able to take leave from their jobs to care for a same-sex spouse, something that has long been limited to heterosexual married couples. The Social Security Administration and the Veterans Affairs Department said they would also expand benefits for same-sex couples, subject to some legal restrictions.

After decades of blocking gay married couples from receiving the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts, most federal agencies are now treating married couples alike, regardless of gender.

Now I’m a little curious as to what it is the VA and Soc. Security will be doing and what it is that’s “subject to some legal restrictions”.  That one kinda set my gay antennae to twitching just a bit.  The article also goes on to say “most federal agencies are now treating married couples alike, regardless of gender.”.  Mmmmm…what’s up with the “most federal agencies”?    Okay, I just found out what that is about and I”ll get to that.  But here’s some more of the good stuff:

Under the changes, same-sex spouses of Defense Department employees now receive all the benefits of heterosexual husbands and wives. Federal immigration laws apply equally to gay and straight married couples. The Internal Revenue Service recognizes the marriages of all gay couples. The spouses of gay federal employees get health insurance, life insurance and flexible spending accounts.

And here’s VA and SSA thing:

But officials said that a small number of provisions in federal law explicitly prohibit the government from providing benefits to same-sex couples. Those laws apply to the Social Security agency and the Veterans Affairs Department, where officials said that Mr. Obama is unable to provide benefits by simply changing regulations.

The officials said the president would call on Congress to pass legislation to change those provisions.

And that may be the hangup for those two agencies.  I can’t see this Congress getting together to be able to pass any of the necessary legislation.  There will simply be too many Ralph Reeds and Tony Perkins up on the Hill to see who votes yea or nay.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, a group advocating marriage equality, praised Mr. Obama’s efforts and called on state and federal lawmakers to go even further.

“Gay couples who are married, like non-gay married couples, now share in the crucial federal safety-net of protections and responsibilities, even in states that continue to discriminate,” Mr. Wolfson said. “But because of ongoing marriage discrimination in 31 states, hundreds of thousands of couples continue to face the cruel denial of important Social Security and veterans’ benefits. Congress should move swiftly to pass curative legislation for our veterans and seniors.”

Sadly it’s probably going to take another court case or two (or more)challenging those laws affecting those two specific agencies and then the courts striking the current regulations down.  It will be things that are, for instance buried deep in Title (something or other) sec this and that and it will be found unconstitutional in light of the Windsor decision or something.  (Mr. Prolix, help me out here!)

Also, hooray for the Presbyterians!

The Presbyterian Church (USA)  – hey that’s how they describe themselves apparently – voted recently to allow gay and lesbian wedding in their churches.  This vote makes it one of the largest denominations in the country to take a step toward same-sex marriages.

By a 61-39 percent vote, the General Assembly of the 1.8 million-member PCUSA voted to allow pastors to perform gay marriages in states where they are legal. Delegates, meeting in Detroit this week, also approved new language about marriage in the church’s Book of Order, or constitution, altering references to “a man and woman” to “two persons.”

This change will not become church law until a majority of the 172 regional presbyteries vote to ratify the new language. But given the lopsided vote, approval is expected.

Now the vote was not without some dissension, with the The Presbyterian Lay Committee urging congregations to start a financial boycott.  Oh my.

“The Presbyterian Lay Committee mourns these actions and calls on all Presbyterians to resist and protest them,” the group said in a statement. ” … You should refuse to fund the General Assembly, your synod, your presbytery and even your local church if those bodies have not explicitly and publicly repudiated these unbiblical actions.”

“God will not be mocked,” the statement continued, “and those who substitute their own felt desires for God’s unchangeable Truth will not be found guiltless before a holy God.”

Now under the new rules, pastors are not obligated to conduct gay weddings if they don’t wish to and also the weddings can only be conducted in the 19 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex civil marriage is legal.

Some members of the church hope that this will perhaps draw in new members as the numbers in the Presbyterian church have been falling:  the church’s decades-long decline in membership  — it has lost 37 percent of its membership since 1992 —has continued. These losses have been led by conservative-leaning congregations that defected over what they lamented as the church’s embrace of more liberal values.

“I fear that our church brand is in jeopardy,” said church member and public relations professional Margaret Blankers to the General Assembly. “Some question the relevance of a church they see is not living up to its reputation for fairness. Do we really want to be known for not accepting and embracing our LGBT brothers and sisters?”

The General Assembly’s vote reflects change in the nation, where in rapid succession during the past year, judges have struck down laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. And a steady stream of opinion polls shows Americans’ approval of gay marriage has risen dramatically in the past few years, to around 55 percent today.

“The nation’s largest churches — Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Mormon, United Methodist and most evangelical churches — recognize marriage only as between a man and a woman, though many Methodists are pushing for a change. The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ all allow same-sex marriage.”

So to close, I’m going to put up this youtube clip.  When The Broadway Album came out (no puns) and if you happened to be in a gay bar enjoying an adult beverage and this came on, heads would turn toward the video, looking up in adoration as lips formed the word “Barbra” when the music first started and then…the lip synching would start along with Barbra.  Yep, this was the unofficial anthem back then.

This is an open thread.




17 Responses to "Catching up on some gay news"

Fredster, I’m betting, not for sure, but betting the prohibitions in the SSA and VA are from the DOMA era where preclusions were attached to just about everything as fundraising vehicles for the right. Ralph and Tony never let an opportunity slip by to raise cash off an issue.

Another piece of enlightened news, the Methodist church “refrocked” the minister who officiated at his son’s gay wedding. He was punished — a 30-day suspension, but got credit for time served in Methodist purgatory.

Prolix: That’s what I kind of assumed it was. I remember when I was working at the VA regional office in nola, we had an instance where a widow applied for VA widow’s pension. That was fine except that she wasn’t truly married. She had lived with the vet as a common-law wife. We denied her claim because common law marriage isn’t (still?) recognized in La. Supposedly she asked why a friend in the same situation in Tx was able to get a widow’s pension and she couldn’t and was told the thing about La law. She asked what she could do and was (again supposedly) told she could move to Tx. So yeah I believe there’s probably something buried way down in one of those titles that they’ll need to fix.

I had not heard about the Methodist minister getting “refrocked”. We should all get frocked on a regular basis. 😉

I did have some of the idiotic news from Ralph and Tony bookmarked but decided to keep things on a high note. For instance, Tony Perkins doing the no-no of doing a Godwin’s law thing about the baker in Colorado who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple and then wondering when the “boxcars” were going to be coming for Christians. (sigh)

Also, I came across a link to some info dug up by “The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies” (who knew?) which shows the largest Christian denominations in each state. You will not be surprised to see the Southern Baptists heavily representing the Deep South.

Then they showed what they referred to as the “runner up religions” across the country. I was surprised at Islam in the South. I’m surprised Tony and Ralph haven’t said anything about that one. 😉

Prolix, just got an email which basically confirms what you wrote:

In 2013, the United States Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, deciding that the federal government may not, through its statutes, create two forms of marriage. The Department of Justice and Social Security Administration have recently announced that they have done all they can to make benefits equal, leaving congressional action as the only resort.

This change should be a no-brainer, but many members of Congress continue to oppose equal protection under the law for all married couples. That’s why this conference, featuring Sen. Murray, Rep. Ron Kind, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, and Rep. Allyson Schwartz is so important.

You were correct sir!


Fredster, thanks for all this info. I didn’t know that about all those churches.

I was brought up in a Presbyterian church. Its not an old family thing, though. My Dad wanted us to go to Greek Orthodox church, but my mom didn’t want us to only be exposed to that religion, so they decided to pick a protestant church to join. My Dad chose this beautiful old Presbyterian church because it was the one Clark Gable went to! I also had the same pediatrician as Gable’s son. (Odd little tidbit) Anyway, we went to both churches, but not with any regularity and celebrated both Easters.

I hope the SSA & VA gives equal benefits very soon, but doubt it with the squirrelly congress we have now.

Fredster, that was interesting about the common-law veterans widow and benefits. I guess people don’t think about this stuff when they decide to live together without the marriage formalities. I remember my older sis arguing with my Dad about this…she said the usual “we don’t need the piece of paper” thing, and my Dad told her she would be missing out on a lot of benefits. Interestingly, sis is on her 4th marriage! Her first 3 lasted 6 1/2 years each! When her and her current husband hit that mark, we all teased him mercilessly.

annie@7: Presbyterian is one of the churches I haven’t ever been to. When I was in college I went to a number of different ones just to check them out. Now I’m going to have to try to check out Clark Gable’s church. 😉

annie: I was surprised at the time about the common law thing. At the time I just didn’t think that would be a bar to benefits for a widow. Now I knew common law wasn’t recognized in La but i figured if it was allowed in some states then that would be the prevailing guideline.

That’s funny about your sister. Tee-hee!

Another gay marriage ban bites the dust. This time in Indiana. And the judge did not issue a stay on his decision either!

Fantastic news! And Indiana! Will we live to see equality for all?

Who knows Annie? But in addition, the 10th circuit court of appeals upheld the Idaho decision on same sex marriage (for), and
in La, a federal judge said “he will rule not only on whether same-sex marriages performed in other states should be recognized in Louisiana, but also on whether gay and lesbian couples should be able to wed in the state.”.

Of course it’s probably all going to go before the Supreme Court and I would not be at all surprised if they throw out all state decisions, amendments, etc. against same-sex marriages. It’s going to be interesting to watch. Of course if Judge Feldman in La rules that the state has to recognize out of state gay marriages AND says gay people can marry in the state, poor lil bobby jindal will have a fit! 😆

Haha! I hope we get to lil bobby have his hissy fit. He sooo deserves it!

annie, he just signed one of those bills that’s like the one last year in Tx where if a woman is pregnant and brain dead, they have to keep her alive for the baby and until it can be born. I think the only difference in La is they did include a section that if the mother had signed an advanced directive to not keep her on life support, that it would be honored.

RIP, Eli Wallach/

i saw that about Eli Wallach but forgot to make a comment.

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