Friday, June 19, 2009

Unite the Fight Is Taking a Short Break

Hello UTF Readers,

I will be taking a short break this weekend - spending it with my loved one. Y'know, the one I want to marry.

I will be back posting as usual, full steam ahead, on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

CBS News & New York Times Poll Shows Support for Marriage Equality Declines

CBS News reports that support for marriage equality has dipped in the last few months since April.
Most Americans support some legal recognition of a same-sex couple’s relationship. The poll found 33 percent favor marriage for same-sex couples, down somewhat from a high of 42 percent in April, and another 30 percent support civil unions. A third of Americans think there should be no legal recognition of a same-sex couple’s relationship. Views in this poll are similar to those found back in March of this year.
See Unite the Fight's post on CBS News April numbers.

Here is April's graph for comparison:

The full poll is embedded below. Marriage equality information is on pg. 4.

CBS News & New York Times June 2009 Marriage Equality Poll

Marriage Equality Action Needed in New York State - Senators Need to Hear From YOU!

Andy Towle of Towleroad reports that unless the power dispute in New York State's Senate isn't resolved soon, the power-brokering could last a third week, thus threatening whatever chances a vote on the marriage bill might have.

"That said, I've been hearing from some key sources up in Albany that the work for a vote on marriage equality is still very much underway," says Andy. Yet several Democrats need pushing. Hearing from the constituency how important this marriage equality bill is could help in getting a vote to the floor.

ACTION: If you live in their districts, CALL NOW!

SD 23 - Sen. Diane Savino (Staten Island, Brooklyn – Southwest): 518-455-2437
SD 25 - Sen. Daniel Squadron (Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn – Northwest): 518-455-2625
SD 26 - Sen. Liz Krueger (Manhattan – Midtown East, Upper East): 518-455-2297
SD 31 - Sen. Eric Schneiderman (Manhattan – Northwest): 518-455-2041
SD 34 - Sen. Jeff Klein (Northern Bronx, Lower Westchester): 518-455-3595

And if you live anywhere else in New York, keep calling your senators and urge them to get a vote through on this bill!

Another good source of information about New York State's unfolding drama and the marriage equality bill is NG Blog.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

UPDATE: More Donors Cancel on the LGBT Democratic Fundraiser

UPDATE: The list of cancellations keeps growing, this time with the Stonewall Democrats and Former co-chair of the Obama LGBT Leadership Council.

Despite Obama's memorandum signing Wednesday, extending very limited benefits to gay federal employees who may already have access to them, many would-be donors to the Democratic Party are still upset over the offensive DOMA brief filed by the DOJ. As a result, they're pulling out of the LGBT fundraiser.

First, Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin has canceled. "This memo from the Justice Department is more Bush than Bush. It takes the only minority group left in America that national politicians can publicly discriminate against and still see their numbers go up in the polls and it reinforces the horrible stereotypes about our friends and neighbors."

He wrote in an email to one of the organizers,"As an early and strong supporter of Barack Obama I am shocked and disappointed at the level of insensitivity that the Department of Justice has shown towards gay and lesbian couples and their families."

Another cancellation comes from Bruce Bastian, a gay Utah businessman who has been a large donor to the DNC. He claims he will no longer donate to the Democratic party. In an email to the DNC, he stated he would not attend the event due to the DOMA brief which he found "very offensive."

"I will continue to support certain congressmen, congresswomen and senators whom I believe will continue to fight for our rights, but I don't think blanket donations to the Democratic Party right now are justified, at least not in my book," he said.

"The LGBT community raised a lot of money in support for Obama, and, I think he has to have the courage — well, not just him — but, I think the Democratic Party now has to have the courage to fight back, and when they do, they'll have my support," he said.

Bastian will change his mind once he sees more action on federal legislation for LGBT rights.


VIDEO: Pat Robertson States USA Headed to "Garbage Heap of History" Cause of LGBT Rights

Gee, Pat, can you list those nations that have gone into ruin because of homosexuality for me? I'll give you one - Sodom & Gmorrah. (Well, if you can prove it ever existed and that it burned because of the gays - some say it was because they were simply too rude to the visiting angels, but take your pick.) What else you got?

I'll be waiting.

Maine Faces Marriage Equality Voter Referendum, Brought to You By the Makers of Yes on 8

It's deja vu all over again.

Maine, who recently legalized marriage equality, is now facing a voter referendum to ban it, and it's brought to you by the makers of Prop 8! It hasn't even been a year since they squashed the rights of LGBT in California, but they're now trekking to the opposite end of the country to do the same there.

The public relations firm Schubert Flint Public Affairs, headed by Frank Schubert who was a primary drive behind Yes on 8, will manage the campaign as it did in California and are organizing volunteers to collect 55,087 signatures of registered Maine voters to put the question on the November ballot.

But this time, things are different. Maine has the advantage of learning from California's mistakes and they are NOT taking any chances. They're organizing themselves quickly and efficiently. On top of that, they have the rebirth of the LGBT rights movement, of which Prop 8 was the catalyst, and its momentum.

Basically, it's a rematch between the creators of Prop 8 and the LGBT they pissed off. And let's not forget the National Organization for Marriage and the Catholic Church, the state's equivalent to California's Mormons, are rank and file as well.

Maine Freedom to Marry is the state's new LGBT political action committee preparing for the showdown. In their press release, they state, "Numerous resources that have been vital to the marriage effort to date will now be coordinated under the auspices of Maine Freedom to Marry. These resources include the field organization and volunteer base developed by EqualityMaine, the legal expertise of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and the legal and public outreach capacity of the Maine Civil Liberties Union."

They announced Wednesday it hired Jesse Connolly of South Portland, who is taking a leave of absence as chief of staff to House Speaker Hannah Pingree to manage the campaign. Connolly led the successful 2005 campaign to retain the state's gay rights law.

ACTION: As we all know, campaigns need money, and they really need our help. Go here to donate funds to the campaign through America Blog.

To get involved locally, go to Maine Freedom to Marry Coalition and EqualityMaine.

VIDEO: Reactions to Obama Memo Signing; Rep. Frank Changes Mind and Supports DOMA Brief; ACTIONS You Can Take

Rep. Tammy Baldwin talks to Rachel Maddow while HRC's Joe Solmonese talk to Keith Olbermann about Obama's memorandum extending limited federal benefits to gay employees.

Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Milk" Dustin Lance Black and attorney and former Clinton adviser Richard Socarides talk to Anderson Cooper. Both believe the Obama Administration is behind the curve. Iowa has marriage, and Obama can barely give any benefits to his own employees.

But the drama continues. The highest ranking gay U.S. representative, Barney Frank, has now down a 180 and actually comes out and supports the insulting DOMA brief issued by Obama and the DOJ. He claims his initial statement was made before he had actually read the brief. Oye.
“Now that I have read the brief, I believe that the administration made a conscientious and largely successful effort to avoid inappropriate rhetoric. There are some cases where I wish they had been more explicit in disavowing their view that certain arguments were correct, and to make it clear that they were talking not about their own views of these issues, but rather what was appropriate in a constitutional case with a rational basis standard – which is the one that now prevails in the federal courts, although I think it should be upgraded.”

“It was my position in that conversation with the reporter that the administration had no choice but to defend the constitutionality of the law. I think it is unwise for liberals like myself, who were consistently critical of President Bush’s refusal to abide by the law in cases where he disagreed with it to now object when President Obama refuses to follow the Bush example. It is the President’s job to try to change the law, but it is also his obligation to uphold and defend it when it has been enacted by appropriate processes. It would not be wise, in my judgment, for those of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, or who sympathize with the fight for our rights, to argue for a precedent that says that executives who disagreed politically with the purpose of the law should have the option of refusing to defend it in a constitutional case.”
Read the full statement. With the Washington Blade promising to show up to Frank's LGBT DNC fundraiser, taping all who attend the boycotted event with their cameras, donors are dropping like flies. Tsk tsk, Frank. This statement isn't going to help.

John Avarois, an attorney who writes at America Blog, had a few choice words of reaction, saying, "Our senior most gay member of Congress actually said that had Obama argued in court that DOMA is unconstitutional, that would be akin to George Bush not going to court to, for example, get a warrant to spy on Americans. Get it? Defending gay people is like spying illegally. But comparing us to incest and pedophilia, using what I'm told was pretty much the original brief the Bush administration used against us years ago, is somehow a sign that we're better than the Republicans - by repeating their arguments in court."

John also wrote an amazing summary at about what lead up to the LGBT population feeling betrayed by the Obama Administration, titled "President Obama betrays the gay community: We supported you. Time to live up to your promises."

In it, he writes:
The president would like us to believe that he's awfully busy being president, and if we only wait a little while longer, we'll get our rights. Of course, the president isn't too busy to stab the community in the back by continuing the military discharges, defending DOMA, and comparing us to pedophiles. (On Wednesday, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs was given a chance to repudiate the DOMA brief's language about incest and pedophilia and would not.)

When, Mr. President, will be a good time to set my people free? When will the leader of the free world get a breather, a presidential timeout as it were? (And I thought this was the administration that could walk and chew gum at the same time.) Are we really to believe that 2010, a congressional election year, will be any more timely than today? Or 2011, the beginning of the presidential primaries? Or 2012, with a congressional and presidential election? There is quite literally no time like the present.
Many others have chimed in, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.

ACTION: So what can we do to keep the pressure up on Congress and the Administration to give us our federal rights (other than sitting around and griping, which I admit, I'm good at)?
  1. Tell the President and Congress to DUMP DOMA! Our allies at the People for the American Way have had this form up for awhile, but let's flood it now with messages to our leaders to take action against this discriminatory law. And a big thanks to our allies!
  2. Hate Crimes against LGBT has skyrocketed. URGE Congress to pass the Hate Crimes Bill by signing's petition.
  3. Contact Congress and demand ENDA be passed so the whole LGBT population can work without the fear of being fired from their jobs just because they're LGBT. Also, check out to learn more.
  4. Sign the Courage Campaign's Don't Ask Don't Tell petition to the president urging him to end this law that is far from supporting our national interest.
  5. If you are interested in organizing federally, a big opportunity is coming in October with the National March for Equality, where grassroots representatives from all 436 congressional districts (who are chosen locally) will come together to network and strategize on how to organize not only to gain federal rights, but to pool resources for major local battles ahead, such as in Maine and California who have referendums on marriage equality coming up. Find out more at
We have proven this past week that when we speak in unison, we are heard. When we close our wallets, politicians scramble. When we organize, we win.

Let's not stop now. We have a lot more to accomplish.

D.C.'s Marriage Equality Battle Heads to Court

D.C.'s Board of Rules and Elections recently ruled that the city council's decision to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere would not face a voter referendum.

Maryland's Bishop Jackson, who picked up resident and moved to the district just to oppose marriage equality, has now filed a lawsuit in court to force a referendum.

"We are not going to sit by and allow an unelected board of bureaucrats to deny voters their rightful say on this issue and, by their action, allow the institution of marriage and the entire structure of our society to be radically redefined," said Bishop Harry Jackson to the Washington Post.

"We will continue to fight for the people of the District of Columbia who want their voice to be heard in this important issue."

If neither the court nor Congress intervene, recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere will become law in early July, and experts say congressional intervention is unlikely.

D.C. Council is expected to take up a separate proposal this year allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in the District.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

UPDATE: VIDEO: Obama Signs the Memorandum Extending Fed. Benefits to Gay Employees; Reiterates Support for DOMA Repeal

UPDATE: Full transcript below.

Obama signed the presidential memorandum extending some federal benefits to gay employees and their partners. He called for all heads of federal departments to hold reviews to determine how many benefits they can extend under the law.

He reminded us that under current law, he cannot provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples. So he proudly announceed his support for the Domestic Partnerships Benefits and Obligations Act, legislation that will guarantee all rights for all federal employees.

He reiterated his support to repeal DOMA.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, today I'm proud to issue a presidential memorandum that paves the way for long-overdue progress in our nation's pursuit of equality.

Many of our government's hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic public servants have long been denied basic rights that their colleagues enjoy for one simple reason -- the people that they love are of the same sex.

Currently, for example, LGBT federal employees can't always use sick leave to care for their domestic partners or their partners' children. Their partners aren't covered under long-term care insurance. Partners of American Foreign Service officers abroad aren't treated the same way when it comes to the use of medical facilities or visitation rights in case of an emergency.

These are just some of the wrongs that we intend to right today.

In consultation with Secretary of State Clinton, as well as OPM Director John Berry, my administration has completed a long and thorough review to identify a number of areas where we can extend federal benefits to the same-sex partners of Foreign Service and executive branch government employees.

I'm requesting that Secretary Clinton and Director Berry do so where possible under existing law -- and that the heads of all executive departments and agencies conduct reviews to determine where they may do the same.

Hundreds of Fortune 500 companies already offer such benefits not only because it's the right thing to do, but because they recognize that it helps them compete for and retain the best possible talent -- and we need top talent serving their country right now more than ever.

Now, under current law, we cannot provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

"That's why I'm proud to announce my support for the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, crucial legislation that will guarantee these rights for all federal employees.

I want to thank Representative Tammy Baldwin, who is behind me somewhere -- there she is, right there -- for her tireless leadership on this bill and in the broader struggle for equality. I want to thank Senator Joe Lieberman -- Joe is here -- as well as Susan Collins for championing this bill in the Senate; and Representative Barney Frank for his leadership on this and so many other issues -- in fact, this is his second trip to the White House today. (Laughter.)

It's a day that marks a historic step towards the changes we seek, but I think we all have to acknowledge this is only one step. Among the steps we have not yet taken is to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. I believe it's discriminatory, I think it interferes with states' rights, and we will work with Congress to overturn it.

We've got more work to do to ensure that government treats all its citizens equally; to fight injustice and intolerance in all its forms; and to bring about that more perfect union. I'm committed to these efforts, and I pledge to work tirelessly on behalf of these issues in the months and years to come.

Thank you very much everybody, and with that I am going to sign this executive order.

(The memorandum is signed.) (Applause.)

END 6:08 P.M. EDT

Also present were OPM Director John Berry, Fred Hochberg, the president of the Export-Import Bank of United States, Rea Carey, executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of Family Equality, Leonard Hirsch, the president of the Federal GLOBE, Lorilyn "Candy" Holmes, a career federal employee, and Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign.

What are your thoughts?

WH Press Secretary Gibbs Gives Rote Answers to Obama's Views on DOMA Brief

Thanks to, the following transcript of today's White House press conference was made available.

Reporter Jake Tapper asked the following questions to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on the DOJ's DOMA brief.

TAPPER: Does the president stand by the legal brief that the Justice Department filed last week that argued in favor the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act?

GIBBS: Well, as you know, that the Justice Department is charged with upholding the law of the land, even though the president believes that that law should be repealed.

TAPPER: I understand that, but a lot of legal experts say that the brief didn't have to be as comprehensive and make all the arguments that it made, such as comparing same-sex unions to incestuous ones, in one controversial paragraph...

GIBBS: Well...

TAPPER: ...that's upset a lot of the president's supporters. Does the president stand by the content, the arguments made in that brief?

GIBBS: Well, again, it's the president's Justice Department. And, again, we have the role of upholding the law of the land while the president has stated and will work with Congress to change that law.
Thanks for clarifying, Gibbs.

Limbaugh Tells LGBT in Regards to Obama and DOMA Brief, "Bend Over and Grab Your Ankles."

Rush Limbaugh had a few choice words for the LGBT population when it came to how they figured into Obama's priorities.

How sweet. He included himself in his metaphorical rape of the country.

What a disgusting pig.

Keith Olbermann responding by calling him, "The Worst Person in the World"

Gay Rep. Barney Frank Says Boycotting DNC Fundraiser Big Mistake; Plans to Introduce ENDA Legislation

Openly gay and vociferous U.S. Rep. Barney Frank is with us in his anger about Obama and the DOJ's Boston Herald. "I’ve been in touch with the White House and I’m hoping the president will make clear these were not his views."

But if the brief didn't represent his views, then how did such an important federal brief touching on one of the biggest social issues facing our country get passed him? I don't know what's worse - that the brief expresses Obama's views or that it's an indication of reprehensible mismanagement. But that's a whole other topic.

Frank went on to say that he thinks it's a big mistake to boycott the LGBT DNC fundraiser that he's co-hosting. Already many big LGBT organizations have canceled on the event in response to the DOMA brief and the Administration's inaction for LGBT rights.

“There are a lot of people who aren’t boycotting,” he said. “I think it’s a mistake to deny money to the DNC.”

But it appears that Frank is more part of the damage control than part of the solution. Not only is he telling people to keep giving money, he's now introducing today his plans to introduce ENDA legislation next week.

The Washington Blade reports, "Diego Sanchez, who is transgender and a senior policy adviser to Frank, said the bill will be inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity."

Don't get me wrong. I think this is great and wholly support and applaud Frank's efforts. But it's the timing that smells. It almost feels like a bribe. "Keep giving the money, and we'll introduce the legislation."

It feels like election night last November. Thrilled that Obama won, devastated that Prop 8 passed.

Can't good news arrive without it being tainted? What a mixture of feelings.

White House Releases More Information on Today's Federal Benefits Memo

Office of the Press Secretary

June 17, 2009

Fact Sheet: Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination

In an Oval Office event later today, President Barack Obama will sign a Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination. The Memorandum follows a review by the Director of the Office of Personnel Management ant the Secretary of State regarding what benefits may be extended to the same-sex partners of federal employees in the civil service and the foreign service within the confines of existing federal laws and statutes.

Over the past several months, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and the Secretary of State have conducted internal reviews to determine whether the benefits they administer may be extended to the same-sex partners of federal employees within the confines of existing laws and statutes. Both identified a number of such benefits.

For civil service employees, domestic partners of federal employees can be added to the long-term care insurance program; supervisors can also be required to allow employees to use their sick leave to take care of domestic partners and non-biological, non-adopted children. For foreign service employees, a number of benefits were identified, including the use of medical facilities at posts abroad, medical evacuation from posts abroad, and inclusion in family size for housing allocations.

The Presidential Memorandum to be signed today will request that the Director of OPM and the Secretary of State act to extend to same-sex partners of federal employees the benefits they have identified. The Memorandum will also request the heads of all other executive branch departments and agencies to conduct internal reviews to determine whether other benefits they administer might be similarly extended, and to report the results of those reviews to the Director of OPM.

The Memorandum will also direct OPM to issue guidance within 90 days to all executive departments and agencies regarding compliance with, and implementation of, the civil service laws, which make it unlawful to discriminate against federal employees or applicants for federal employment on the basis of factors not related to job performance.

WH Admits Extension of Fed. Benefits Timed to Appease; How Stupid Do They Think We Are?

The true story behind Obama's decision to extend benefits to gay federal employees is taking shape

The New York Times this morning is packing a wallop of an article. First, it's reporting that "President Obama will sign a presidential memorandum on Wednesday to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, administration officials said Tuesday evening, but he will stop short of pledging full health insurance coverage."

Meaning, that when Obama leaves office, the benefits go with him. A memorandum only lasts the length of his presidency, unlike an executive order.

I among others last night questioned the timing of the announcement, considering the mounting anger against the Administration over their many faux pas with the LGBT population, including lack of action on the DADT and DOMA, but most especially, since it affects them, the pulling out of donors from the DNC fundraiser, the 10th Annual LGBT Leadership Council Dinner.

On top of that, the decision was hasty. The article mentions that as of last night, the memorandum was still being put together in an effort to stem the tide of fleeing greenbacks.

So it does appear that Democrats respond to money, instead of the integrity of their promises.

I feared that I was beginning to sound whiny and ungrateful about the announcement from Obama that he will be taking his first step in engaging the call for LGBT rights. I was questioning my judgment. Even my good friends @SafeFresno on Twitter said to me, "I think extending federal benefits has been in the works for awhile, part of "the plan"!

But my worst fears have been confirmed! There was no real plan to act.

The White House has been hinting for sometime that they were going to reveal some big announcement about LGBT rights, but now we know that they, until yesterday, had not planned anything! So it makes one wonder about this whole "strategy" for equal rights that they keep mentioning to quiet the criticisms from the LGBT population. The "strategy" that will come to fruition at some undetermined time, but "before the sun sets on this administration."

The Los Angeles Times said today, "Obama . . .has shown a dishearteningly pragmatic willingness to allow the issue of gay rights to languish. The many Americans who support these rights expect better of him."

What is surprising me is that I'm not that upset. I'm not relishing that I, among most of us, have been proven right. I wish that weren't the case. I wish I could celebrate this moment instead of feeling placated or condescended to. As if I were stupid for not seeing the slight-of-hand maneuver the White House is using.

On the bright side, what this announcement shows us is that the Administration is finally listening! They're finally acting. And why? Because we spoke up.

And we're not stupid. We know a ploy when we see one. We've become experts at spotting them.

Keep speaking up, folks! We have a lot more to accomplish.

From last night with Rachel Maddow:

Equality California and Jordan Rustin Coalition Announce Partnership, Debut PSA

Equality California and the Jordan Rustin Coalition are teaming up to work for marriage equality, and together are opeingn a fully staffed office in the heart of the Black community in South Los Angeles. The staff there will work to expand their coalition with local community groups and recruit volunteers to talk face-to-face with Californians who do not yet support our equality.

Together, they debuted this new PSA featuring Xavier and Michael Boykin-Haggood and their children who live in Los Angeles' Leimert Park neighborhood.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Obama To Extend Federal Benefits to Gay Employees

Sounds like PR damage control 101 in the White House. President Obama is to announce tomorrow at 5:45PM EST that he will be extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

Though under different circumstances, we would feel grateful, but this hurried announcement after the DOJ's dehumanizing defense of DOMA and the Administration's refusal to act on Don't Ask Don't Tell, it feels like we're being thrown a bone, despite the fact that the Administration may have had this planned for Pride Month.

This isn't even one of the eight Obama campaign promises to the LGBT population.

But even more to the point, the timing sounds like a ploy to keep major donors from canceling on the 10th Annual LGBT Leadership Council Dinner, an LGBT DNC fundraiser coming up. Already, the HRC, Empire Pride Agenda and other big donors announced today they have pulled out. It appears I'm not alone on this thought.

The administration has tried to make small, quiet moves to extend benefits to gays and lesbians. The State Department has promised to give partners of gay and lesbian diplomats many benefits, such as diplomatic passports and language training, but without a specific change in the Federal Employees' Health Benefits Program, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's promises left out financial benefits such as pensions. Obama's move could make that shift.

Former top aide to President Clinton and attorney Richard Socarides said, "If it doesn't include health insurance, if he doesn't talk about the military and about the (Justice Department) brief, I think it will fall short," Socarides said in an e-mail to the AP late Tuesday. "Right now, people are looking for real action."

The Advocate reports that the White House press office didn't give details on the benefits.

Leonard Hirsch, president of Federal Globe: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Employees of the Federal Government told them, "Our analysis has been that it will take an act of Congress for the full suite of benefits such as health benefits and retirement benefits to be provided for same-sex couples and families."

According to Hirsch, the executive branch has the authority to extend certain other benefits through departments and agencies, such as providing relocation costs for partners of federal employees.

Again, under different circumstances, I would be thrilled to receive this news, but now it just feels like a placating pat on the head and backhanded attempt to keep LGBT money flowing.

I'm sorry. Not to sound ungrateful, but after such grave offenses from the Administration, it's going to take much more than this to get me to open my wallet. Oh wait, or was this an attempt to curry favor? I'm confused.

But no matter what the reason or what may have been planned, it appears the Administration is feeling the pressure. History shows that pressure is the key to winning equal rights. Let's keep it up.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Calls for Swift Court Action on Prop 8

Governor Arnold today filed the Administration's response to the federal challenge against Prop. 8 filed by the American Foundation for Equal Rights and attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies.

The Governor did not dispute the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 and called for swift action by the courts.

“Today's filing by Gov. Schwarzenegger bolsters our call for a swift end to the constitutionally intolerable situation created by Proposition 8. We are extremely pleased Gov. Schwarzenegger does not dispute the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 and agrees that swift action is needed to ensure that every person is treated equally under the law,” said American Foundation for Equal Rights Board President Chad Griffin. "Exactly one year ago today, thanks to the state Supreme Court, equal marriage rights were granted to every Californian for the first time. We look forward to the federal courts granting those equal rights once and for all by quickly acting on this case."

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s filing states: “Plaintiffs’ complaint presents important constitutional questions that require and warrant judicial determination. In a constitutional democracy, it is the role of the courts to determine and resolve such questions. … The Administration encourages the Court to resolve the merits of this action expeditiously.”

Just last week, California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a brief, calling Prop 8 unconstitutional.

EVENT: Roll Bounce Party! A Jordan Rustin Coalition Fundraiser

Purchase tickets here!

Find out more about the Jordan Rustin Coalition, a Los Angeles based group committed to engaging the African-American community to work on marriage equality while building a movement of LGBT African Americans and allies who are committed to grassroots organizing.

UPDATE: DNC LGBT Fundraiser Attendees Cancel in Response to DOJ DOMA Brief, Calls For Protests

UPDATE: HRC, former top Clinton aide Richard Socaride and Empire State Agenda head Alan Van Cappelle have all pulled out of the fundraiser.
A Democratic National Committee fundraiser organized to bring in donations from the LGBT population, is facing calls of boycott in response to the Obama Administration's lack of support for LGBT rights, and specifically its hurtful and discriminatory brief filed by the Department of Justice in defense of DOMA.

Already activist David Mixner and well-known blogger Andy Towle of Towleroad have canceled their attendance.

"I will not attend a fundraiser for the National Democratic Party in Washington next week when the current administration is responsible for these kind of actions, " Mixner wrote. "How will they ever take us seriously if we keep forking out money while they harm us. For now on, my money is going to battles within the community such as the fight in Maine or the March on Washington! I am so tired of being told by Democratic operatives to 'suck it up' because so many other profound issues are at stake."

Andy Towle told Politico, "I've had concerns about the lack of movement from the administration on LGBT issues for some time now but I wasn't comfortable attending after that DOMA brief came out."

Dan Savage on the SLOG has eloquently titled his rant, "Democrats To Gay Americans: Fuck You. Now Write Us a Check."

This wouldn't be the first DNC fundraiser to face protests and calls for boycott. In May, protesters gathered outside a Beverly Hills fundraiser where President Obama spoke. The demonstration at the time was in reaction to Obama's refusal to use his presidential power of stop-loss to keep LGBT service men and women from being discharged from the armed forces under Don't Ask Don't Tell.

But this is the 10th Annual LGBT Leadership Council Dinner, a fundraiser extending a grasping hand for LGBT dollars.

According to Ben Smith at Politico, "Organizers, I'm told, are scrambling to get visible White House action on gay issues in advance of the June 25 dinner to prevent it from becoming a protest stage."

With the recent DOJ brief defending DOMA using discriminatory, Bush-era arguments, such as comparing same-sex marriage to incestuous relationships, the LGBT population is growing even more and more impatient and angry, and many are offended at the thought of donating shortly after being slapped in the face by the Democrats. Yet it does have its defenders.

Pam's House Blend has given a call to action to contact Reps. Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis and ask them why they're still attending.

Rep. Barney Frank:
2252 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515
tel: (202) 225-5931
fax: (202) 225-0182

Rep. Tammy Baldwin
2446 Rayburn Building
Washington DC 20515
(202) 225-6942 Fax
(202) 225-2906
Email Form

Rep. Jared Polis
Washington, DC Office
501 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
p. 202.225.2161
f. 202.226.7840

What's annoying to me are comments such as this being made on Politico:

"I'm all for gay rights but come on, with health care, two wars and an economy that is fubar don't we have more important things to worry about right now?"

So health care has nothing to do with marriage? Aren't there insurance benefits bestowed on married couples and their children when one of them has a employer provided health insurance? And if they're unemployed, wouldn't a public policy be helpful? As for the wars, don't they even know what DADT is even about? And the economy - do LGBT families not matter in this economy? The tax breaks afforded married heterosexual couples could be very useful for LGBT families during this time of need.

All these issues are related! But we're again being sidelined as if our issues are separate and unto themselves. Are we not citizens of this country, facing the same crisis issues as everyone else? Are we not entitled to receive the benefits that our fellow citizens receive? Don't we have the right to defend our country in wars, fighting alongside our fellow soldiers?

So don't we have the right to close our wallets and NOT donate our hard earned cash to a political party that keeps dangling the carrot in front of our noses only to tear it away and run for cover when they must actual stand behind their promises to us?

This isn't the first time this has happened. But I'll be damned if I can't do anything to make it the last time. My wallet is closed.

A Facebook Group, "Democratic Party Boycott Until DOMA or DADT Are Repealed" has formed.

CALL TO ACTION: Call Your CA Legislator to Stop Fatal HIV/AIDS Budget Cuts

Guest Blogger: Morgan Early has two gay dads and one lesbian mom. She has been a part of COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) for more than a decade, and is a proud board member of the Equal Roots Coalition in Los Angeles, CA. She is completely committed to the fight for equality for all LGBTQI people, and thrilled to be a guestblogger for Unite the Fight.

The phone only rang once before a kind gentleman answered: "Senator Pavley's Office."

For an instant I froze, thinking, "Wait, am I really qualified to do this?" Apparently it can be intimidating to call your legislator for the first time. So I just started talking.

"Hi, um, my name is Morgan and I'm just calling to voice my opposition to the HIV budget cuts that are...uh...that are being proposed...."

"Okay. And where are you calling from?"

"Uh, Los Angeles, area code 90048."

"Alright. We'll be sure to put you on record as opposed and pass it on to the Senator. Thank you so much for calling." His gratitude even sounded sincere.

That's it. I didn't have to be eloquent. I didn't need a good reason. In less than one minute I had taken a stand for an issue that needs a loud voice right now.

California is in a budget crisis, and HIV/AIDS programs are at risk of losing millions of dollars in funding. These cuts are truly scary, with proposals of up to $160 million in past weeks. Not only would this devastate state funding to healthcare programs, but it would also endanger the matching federal funds which would evaporate without the state contribution. People with AIDS/HIV, for whom health insurance is not a possibility, will literally lose their medication. And if they lose their medication, their risk of infection can increase 80% in the first month alone.

In the past week, there have been great efforts to significantly reduce the amount of budget cuts, and there is reason to believe that the amount in the new budget will be much lower than the February proposals. (A special thanks is due to Senators Darrell Steinberg and Mark Leno for their hard work on this issue).

But the fight isn't over. We must pressure our legislature and our governor to make HIV/AIDS funding a state priority, and ensure that the final budget decisions do not dismantle any aspect of HIV/AIDS healthcare.

ACTION: Using the link where you can find your legislator's phone number. Every call made to a legislative office is put on record and presented to said legislator, and this is our opportunity to push this issue to the top of our government's agenda. As of 2007, AIDS is officially a global pandemic. We must pressure our leaders to pay more attention to this urgent global issue, and we can start by making it an urgent local issue.

Please call today, encourage your friends to do the same, and spread the word to flood these phone lines! You can find your legislator's information and a script for what to say at the website below. Happy calling!

VIDEO: Howard Dean Discusses "Offensive" DOMA Brief With Maddow

Former governor and former DNC Chair Howard Dean discusses with Rachel Maddow what he calls the "offensive" DOMA brief submitted by Obama and the Department of Justice. "You cannot talk about gay Americans the way gay Americans are talked about in this brief." Dean added, "It wasn't a little too far. It was a lot too far."

D.C.'s Elections Board Ruling Paves the Way for Same-Sex Marriage Recognition in District

On Monday DC's Board of Elections & Ethics ruled that only Congress or the courts can intervene on the District's city council's vote to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in the states, effectively killing the call for a voter referendum on the matter.

Citing the District's 1977 Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination against lesbian and gays and other minorities, the board confirmed same-sex couples who marry in other states or countries will be considered legally married in the District in less than a month, unless a court intervenes or Congress during the review period.

The Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress is not expected to interfere.

"The Referendum's proposers would, in contravention of the HRA, strip same-sex couples of the rights and responsibilities of marriage that they were afforded by virtue of entering into valid marriages elsewhere," the ruling states. "Because the Referendum would authorize discrimination prohibited by the HRA, it is not a proper subject for referendum, and may not be accepted by the Board."

Maryland's Bishop Jackson, who literally found a place in D.C. to live for the sole purpose of overturning the marriage equality advancement through referendum, found the ruling to be an "insult."

"The real human rights issue at stake in this decision is whether the people of D.C. will be given their right to vote," Jackson told the Washington Post. "We are not going to sit still for allowing an unelected board of bureaucrats to deny voters their rightful say on this issue and, by their action, allow the institution of marriage to be radically redefined."

The marriage equality law, if undisputed, will become law in July. Same-sex marriage remains illegal under federal law, and same-sex couples are prohibited from marrying in the District.

U.S. Conference of Mayors Passes Resolution in Support for Marriage Equality

The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed Monday a resolution in support of ending the exclusion of gay couples from marriage. The resolution, titled "Equality and Civil Rights for Gay and Lesbian Americans," included support for the freedom to marry along with endorsement of federal bills such as Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, the Uniting American Families Act, and the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

“The nation’s mayors are proud to take the lead in recognizing the importance of protecting all our citizens equally. It is now time for state legislatures and our federal government to enact the same protections for all our nation’s citizens,” said U.S. Conference of Mayors President Greg Nickels, Mayor of Seattle.

Mayors Resolution Supporting Marrige Equality

Monday, June 15, 2009

VIDEO: Jerry Brown Speaks to CNN on His Support for Marriage Equality

California Attorney General Jerry Brown speaks to CNN about his support for the federal case against Proposition 8 and his belief that extending full rights to same-sex couples is the way of the future.

HRC's Joe Solmonese Blasts President in Letter Over DOMA Brief

HRC's president Joe Solmonese sent President Obama a direct and to-the-point letter this morning in response to his and the Department of Justice's brief defending DOMA.

Solmonese Letter to Obama Re Doma Brief June 15 2009

Though I appreciate the tone of the letter and support Solmonese in his direct approach, I wonder if the president and his administration will give this letter the time of day.

Solmonese asks for legislation to be sent to Congress, but we have asked repeatedly for repeal legislation for DOMA and DADT, among others, so that we the LGBT population can start working to convince our representatives to support it. But so far, Obama hasn't done anything but defend the discriminatory laws.

So now we must ask for real ACTION, not just sending legislation. Real support from Obama and the administration. ENDA seems to be going nowhere. Where are the calls from the White House to Congress to get it passed?

I understand that the Hate Crimes Bill is moving along, but they use that now to appease us and excuse their inaction, or in the case of the brief, their attacks on our rights.

What more can the HRC do than send a polite but angry letter? Send the president a call to action. A call for a face-to-face meeting with him, not just his staff, and to keep calling every day. A call for him to tighten the screws on Congress to act. A call to cut through the niceties and get down to business.

It's time to flex our muscle. Otherwise, we're just shouting into a void, wasting time, energy and resources.

Here's some thoughts on next steps.

John Berry, Obama's Highest Ranking Gay Official, Responds to DOMA Outrage

John Berry, Director of the Office of Personnel Management, the highest ranking gay official in Obama's administration, talked exclusively to Kerry Eleveld of the Advocate at Washington DC's pride Sunday. He addressed the many concerns of the LGBT population in regards to Obama, and in particular, the president and the Department of Justice's decision to defend DOMA.
We [Obama's administration] have four broad legislative goals that we want to accomplish and legislation is one of these things where you’ve got to move when the opportunity strikes, so I’m going to list them in an order but it’s not necessarily going to go one, two, three, four. Obviously, I think the first opportunity is hate crimes and we’re hopeful that we can get that passed this week. We’re going to try, but if not, we’re going to keep at it until we get it passed. The second one ENDA, we want to secure that passage of ENDA, and third is we want to repeal legislatively “don’t ask don’t tell,” and fourth, we want to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Now, I’m not going to pledge -- and nor is the president -- that this is going to be done by some certain date. The pledge and the promise is that, this will be done before the sun sets on this administration – our goal is to have this entire agenda accomplished and enacted into law so that it is secure.
When pressured to answer whether or not items would be pushed to a supposed second term, Berry was adamant by sticking to the point that the goal of the administration was to fulfill this agenda by the end of Obama's presidency, whenever that may be.

So in other words, they're hoping to have time but not really planning on when. Y'know, like putting off paying your bills until the last minute and hoping you don't get a late fee.

In regards to DOMA and the DOJ's brief:
...I want to talk to you about the DOMA brief. Our strongest argument against “don’t ask, don’t tell” is that we stand with the truth. And that we, more than anyone, know the cost of lying and the terrible pain it invokes.

This president took a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and he does not get to decide and choose which laws he enforces. He has to enforce the laws that have been enacted appropriately and that he has inherited. It would be wrong for me or any of our community to advise him to lie or to shirk his responsibility. He’s doing his job. He has made clear that he stands for the repeal of DOMA. It will be part of this administration’s agenda to accomplish that act.
However, attorney and former White House advisor to Bill Clinton, Richard Socarides, disputes this point, saying, "The president makes a policy decision first and then the very talented DOJ lawyers figure out how to apply it to actual cases. If the lawyers cannot figure out how to defend a statute and stay consistent with the president’s policy decision, the policy decision should always win out."

Berry gets bleaker when asked by the Advocate, "And what about 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' is that being pushed back?"

Berry's answer, "We don’t have the votes to do Hate Crimes right now, we don’t have the votes to do ENDA, how are we going [to get “don’t ask, don’t tell]?"

Since Berry is basically human resources for the White House, we could hope and pray he's speaking in areas beyond his job description. But unfortunately, it's consistent with what we've been seeing from Obama's administration.

I'll reiterate what I've said before - change is not going to come from Obama. Change is going to come from us. Living in California, I know the importance of fighting on the local level, and I throw my full support behind repealing Proposition 8, whether at the ballot or through the federal case against it.

But we also must discuss how we, the LGBT population nationwide, the grassroots, are going to take the momentum behing the equality movement and fight for our rights on all fronts, local and federal. We've been waiting for our "fierce advocate" in the White House to act for us federally, but he has disappeared. So it's up to us to bring the change.

Are you ready?

LGBT Population Still Furious at Obama and DOJ - We Must Make Our Own Change

The weekend nor pride celebrations have helped ease the anger against Obama and his Department of Justice for their insensitive defense of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), which used far right-wing arguments and discriminatory legalese to kick out a federal case challenging the 1996 act.

David Badash blogging at The New Civil Rights Movement says, "’s time for us to stop questioning Obama and start accusing him."

Famous activist David Mixner wrote, "The brief in defense of DOMA filed by President Obama's Department of Justice could have been written by the Rev. Pat Robertson. Using the worst of stereotypes, it intimates that we don't have constitutional guarantees, invokes scenarios of incest, of children and advocates that we don't have the same rights as others who have struggled for civil rights."

Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend asks about our fair-weather progressive friends, "Lots of progressives run screaming from the issue of race, for instance, running for cover out of fear of appearing racist; why should we be shocked that the LGBT community is getting a taste of the "just wait and be patient" dismissiveness as we watch progressives put the "lalalalala" fingers in the ears because they don't want to discuss the filthy, degrading arguments in the brief. They aren't about to go there, because there is no defense, and of course THEY AREN'T HOMOPHOBES, right?"

The Washington Blade observed the responses to the DOMA defense on Twitter, finding tweets such as:

@hildeborg: "What upsets me is not that you lied to me, but that from now on I can no longer believe you." Nietzsche. Prfct quote 4 Obama defending DOMA

@lesbiandad: My 5 stages of grief over Obama's DOMA backstabbing: denial > anger > bargaining > anger > ANGER

But at least we do have more than fair-weather friends coming to our side and agreeing with our outrage. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, both potential candidates for California governor, spoke out against the Justice Department's brief at Los Angeles Pride over the weekend.

"I think it's a big mistake," Newsom said, while Villaraigosa stated, "I'm concerned about some of the arguments being made by the Justice Department."

But even more striking, an attorney and former White House advisor to Bill Clinton, Richard Socarides, writes on America Blog:
[The DOJ's brief] had such a buckshot approach to it, a veritable kitchen sink of anti-gay legal theories, that it seemed expressly designed to inflict maximal damage to our rights. Instead of making nuanced arguments which took into account the president’s oft-stated support for repealing DOMA – a law he has called “abhorrent” – the brief seemed to embrace DOMA and all its horrific consequences.

I was equally troubled by the administration’s explanation that they had no choice but to defend the law. As an attorney and as someone who was directly involved in giving advice on such matters to another president (as a Special Assistant for civil rights to President Bill Clinton), I know that this is untrue.
...The president makes a policy decision first and then the very talented DOJ lawyers figure out how to apply it to actual cases. If the lawyers cannot figure out how to defend a statute and stay consistent with the president’s policy decision, the policy decision should always win out.
Our outrage against the president and the Department of Justice is not simply based on betrayal and a reactionary emotional hysteria, it's also based on a long history of our population being used by politicians to gain office only to be thrown under the bus later (Hello Clinton! Hello lack of LGBT history in schools!).

But even more specific to the situation, our scathing anger stems from Obama and the DOJ ignoring legal precedent which allowed our "fierce advocate" of a president, who believed DOMA to be "abhorrent", to argue for us and set the path for our victory. But instead, he disregarded precedent and simply did not care to act upon it.

Many keep stating that Obama was always against same-sex marriage, so our anger is not justified and we should've known that he would behave this way (as if that were an excuse). My response: you don't have to be for marriage equality to be against DOMA. DOMA violates the Constitution by throwing out the Full Faith and Credit Clause, "which addresses the duties that states within the United States have to respect the 'public acts, records, and judicial proceedings' of other states." DOMA allows states to ignore same-sex marriages, or any marriage for that matter, legally conducted in others. That's a violation. Among many others. Good enough reason to be against DOMA.

However, Obama was for full equality for the LGBT population. The Daily Kos put together to following montage of Obama's stated support.

In the end, we are justified in our outrage. We are hurt that such discriminatory language was unnecessarily used against us by a president of "change." We weren't stupid in believing Obama when he said he would be our "fierce advocate" because no presidential candidate had been so outspoken for our rights, and Obama had the track record to prove he was for change.

However, we will be stupid if we believe him again. Our anger won't be justified if we allow "patience" to guide our next decisions only to be betrayed again. As Cleve Jones recently told Joe.My.God, "If you think you're going to get anything out of Obama in the second half of his term, you don't know anything about political history. In a year, he'll be in full re-election mode."

And I agree. It's time to be active. It's time we create the change that was promised us but obviously now denied us. It's time we focus not only on the state by state battle, but also the federal level. We have an opportunity. But it's not going to last much longer.

Image: From Los Angeles Times.

Attorney Andrew Pugno, Who Drafted Prop 8, Is Running For California Assembly

Andrew Pugno, the attorney who drafted Proposition 8 and was one of the campaign leaders that won its passage, has just filed with the California secretary of state to run in 2010 for a Sacramento-area seat in the state assembly.

Republican Assemblyman Roger Niello's seat is available after having been termed out of office. Republican Craig De Luz and Democrats Jared Gaynor and Lawrence Miles Jr. have also filed preliminary papers seeking the seat.

Pugno, who is 36-year-old Republican wants said Friday he is running on a platform of revitalizing businesses that he says are overtaxed.

Overtaxed, huh? Similar to same-sex couples?

If he runs in 2010, do you think this will help or hurt an initiative campaign to repeal Prop 8 if it happens that same year? It could distract the right-wing to support Pugno, but it could also give Pugno a bigger platform to speak out against any repeal.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cleve Jones Has Permits - National March for Equality Is on For October 10-11

Cleve Jones confirmed Friday that he has obtained the permits necessary for the National March for Equality on Washington DC, a march also being titled, "Meet on the Mall for Equality."

Cleve told Joe.My.God. "This will not be a three day mulit-media spectacular" he said. "Most of the hundreds of protests I've organized cost nothing. We will have a minimal stage, a sound system, and enough port-a-potties for the crowd. That's it. We won't be flying in celebrities and putting them up in fancy hotels. This will be a two hour march, then a two hour rally, and then sending everybody home to their congressional districts to organize for 2010."

Cleve went on to say that many of the naysayers against the march were those who support repealing Prop 8 in 2010 because they wanted to keep the focus on the local struggles, including an impending Main referendum.

"It's just an endless state by state, city by city, county by county battle could go on for decades at enormous cost," Cleve told Joe.My.God. "But if we could shift our focus and seize this historic moment and get federal legislation, get SCOTUS [on our side], we could end it all at the federal level. People in leadership seem so invested in an incredibly long, local level, deeply impermanent struggle."

"We should be saying, 'Enough of this, we demand full equality under civil law.' We should be marching, engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience every day. We have a window, but it's already starting to close. If you think you're going to get anything out of Obama in the second half of his term, you don't know anything about political history. In a year, he'll be in full re-election mode."

Do you believe Cleve is right? After Obama and the Defense of Justice's brief defending DOMA, do you feel this is the time now to speak up for federal rights? Should it be done with a march? Is the state by state strategy too costly, too timely and shifting our focus in the wrong direction?

PROTEST President Obama's Broken Promises To the Queer Community

Many in the LGBT community are growing increasingly frustrated with Barack Obama's inaction on LGBT issues, and what is being seen as his administrations anti-gay decisions and actions.

The Gay Liberation Network will be protesting President Obama on Monday June 15th at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago. Protesters are mad that Obama continues to enforce the Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy barring gays from serving openly in the military. They are also outraged that the administration defended the Defense of Marriage Act in courts using some ridiculous claims and marriage equality opposition tactics. Some are also still mad about his giving a platform to anti-gay people like Rick Warren and Donnie McClurkin.

The GLN demands that President Obama:
  • Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and come out for marriage equality
  • Repeal Don't Ask / Don't Tell
  • Legalize readily accessible needle exchanges to reduce HIV / AIDS transmission
  • End faith-based initiative funding which allows for religious groups to discriminate against LGBT people
PROTEST President Obama's visit to Chicago
10:30 AM – 12 noon
Monday, June 15
Hyatt Regency Hotel
151 E. Wacker Drive
(one block east of Michigan Avenue)


Crossposted with Queers United.

Michigan Representative Proposing Marriage Equality Resolution

Michigan lawmaker, Rep. Pam Byrnes announced a joint resolution Saturday to change the current state law defining marriage between one man and one woman, thus overturning the 2004 constitutional amendment passed by voters that banned same-sex marriage.

The resolution faces many challenges, such as gaining two-thirds approval of the Michigan Legislature before it would be put to voters in the 2010 election. (A route that Prop 8 should've gone through here in California, but the CA Supreme Court apparently disagrees.)

Byrnes felt prompted to launch the initiative after seeing the results of a recent poll that showed Michigan voters have become more favorable to the idea of same sex unions since 2004.

The poll showed considerable support for some gay-friendly policies, but less than a majority (46.5%) in favor of gay marriage. The ballot proposal endorsing traditional marriage was approved 58%-42%

The proposal would be opposed at every step by many of the same groups that successfully supported the 2004 campaign, such as the Catholic Church.

Another opponent, Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, said he doubts even a simple majority of the Democrat-led House would overturn the 2004 statewide vote.

"But it does make for high drama, as political theater goes, to announce such radical legislation during a homosexual 'rights' rally, even though it'll never see the light of day thereafter," Glenn said.

Byrnes said same-sex couples deserve the same rights as opposite-sex couples in state law.

"No doubt, it will be a fight," Byrnes said. "But we're seeing some attitudes change."