Having written several articles analyzing the criteria of the MEI and how Pennsylvania municipalities were scored, I have become an “accidental expert” on this topic. Recently, I was asked by Dan Miller, a gay mayoral candidate in Harrisburg, and the New Hope Borough Council to help assess their scores and provide recommendations for improvement.
By way of background, the MEI is an index designed to measure how supportive 137 U.S. cities’ policies are towards the LGBT community. Evaluations are based on 47 criteria within six major categories: nondiscrimination laws, relationship recognition, municipality as employer, municipal services and programs, municipality as law enforcement and municipality’s relationship with LGBT individuals. The index is designed to assess the tangible rights and services offered to gay citizens, as well as the city’s overall relationship with the LGBT community.
New Hope and Harrisburg lost points in many of the same categories. Neither has a mayoral LGBT liaison or office of LGBT affairs, nor do they have enumerated antibullying policies in their schools. The MEI also grants points to cities that have a similar liaison within the local police department, in order to ensure that hate crimes are regularly reported to the police, and that those reports are then relayed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation annually. Neither city had established a section of their police departments to meet these needs prior to the 2012 MEI.
As a result, I drafted a memorandum clarifying where they lost points and how they can avoid doing so in the future.
Since the Borough Council of New Hope reviewed the memorandum, it has already taken steps to create a more equal community. New Hope has implemented domestic-partner benefits for LGBT employees and created a protocol for reporting hate crimes to the FBI. And, in the last month, the borough began developing antibullying policies for its school system.
In addition to Harrisburg’s Miller, New Hope will also have Donna Deely as an out mayoral candidate. This will not earn either municipality points on the next MEI, but having out politicians will help each city develop an overall environment that is more accepting of and attentive to the needs of its LGBT citizens. Pennsylvania has yet to have an openly gay mayor and 2013 could see the election of two.
It may seem as though smaller municipalities may be subject to a scoring bias that does not weigh in their favor, which would make it inherently easier for Harrisburg and Philadelphia to outperform boroughs like New Hope. New Hope, with a population of approximately 2,500, is held to the same standards of cities like Philadelphia and New York. At first glance, it appears that New Hope would be expected to offer the same accommodations to the LGBT community as its larger counterparts, but without the same available resources. However, Cathryn Oakley, an HRC employee and one of the writers of the MEI, says HRC took specific measures to avoid this bias, ensuring there were several avenues for smaller municipalities to earn the same amount of points. The MEI allows for points to be granted for the actions taken by smaller entities, as long as the actions are proportional to their resources.
In 2012, 11 cities earned scores of 100 or higher. This, however, does not mean that these cities don’t have to room to improve. In order to keep cities nationwide striving for higher ratings and to promote the ceaseless drive for equality, the HRC will raise its requirements for a perfect score.
The willingness of Harrisburg and New Hope to make the necessary changes to improve their MEI is promising, especially in Pennsylvania. Their attention and consideration for not only promoting LGBT equality, but doing so as quickly as possible, is indicative that their intentions are authentic. Though cities should continue to look for ways to improve their MEI scores, the most important element necessary for developing a fair and just society is an ongoing emphasis on human rights and equality.
and she maintains two blogs,www.phillygaylawyer.com
and www.lifeinhouse.com. Send Angela your legal questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more: PGN-The Philadelphia Gay News. Phila gay news. philly news – PA cities make effort to improve HRC ranking
Education: La Salle University, Temple University Law School, Tsinghua University Law School, certificate of law in Chinese law (2008).
Career history: Governor’s Office of General Counsel, Department of State, United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (2007).
Family: Partner is Dileimys Franco and children … I’m enough for Dileimys to deal with!
Motto to live by: Go hard or go home.
Your proudest moment: Playing basketball internationally in Finland and Estonia.
Your biggest break: Randomly moving to and falling in love with Philadelphia!
What makes you tick?: Connecting with people. There is no greater joy for me than when I can be of service to someone.
Best career advice you ever got: Every decision you make in your business is a “vision decision” — the work is staying clear on your vision. If you do that, the rest falls into place.
Your biggest challenge: Working at the War Crimes Tribunal for the Rwandan Genocide.
Your biggest disappointment: Disappointment is the nurse of wisdom so with each disappointment, I try my best to learn from it.
Where you see yourself in five years: Running a mobile and global boutique law firm while owning a B&B in the Caribbean.
How you give back: I serve as chair of GALLOP (Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia), I’m an active board member for Equality Forum, Liberty City Democrats, the Victory Fund and the International Visitors’ Center. Lastly, I’m active in the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and serve on the Philadelphia committee for Lambda Legal.
Your first job: Selling soda cans to golfers on the 18th hole.
Terry Whitaker talks with Angela Giampolo, also known as Philly Gay Lawyer, about how she manages practicing law while also practicing being authentic.
This week Angela Giampolo is in the hot seat! My partner Jon and I got to know Angela while she helped us with LGBT financial and estate planning. She is an attorney, author, avid entrepreneur, and advocate for the LGBT community.
Tell us about a cool project you are currently working on.
I am actually very excited about a new radio show that I will be hosting. The show will discuss contemporary issues with regard to LGBT equality and follow recent legal developments that may affect this community. My goal supersedes simply making the general population aware of LGBT law; I would like to help individuals understand it, as well. I get to sit down with some of the community’s most influential members – such as Rep. Brian Sims, Mark Segal, Executive Directors of local LGBT non-profits and more – on air so that the public can get a better idea of these individuals’ perspectives. This affords me the opportunity to discuss generally the same material I evaluate in my blogs and columns, but on a larger scale and for a new audience. The new show will be available on Loraine Ballard Morrill’s“Insight”, airing on WDAS FM on Sundays from 6:00-7:00 AM and on Power 99 FM from 7:00-7:30 AM. To read more, visit: http://www.wdasfm.com/pages/loraine.html#ixzz2MiQaVxFG.
How would you describe yourself? What words would you use? What is your brand?
My firm’s motto is “Driven. Focused. Passionate.”, and those are three words and an overall ideal that I try to apply to all facets of my life – not just business. But frankly, I think the most important one and the one that describes me the best is passionate. I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning if I weren’t passionate about what I do.
Similarly, what has really helped me to excel, both personally and professionally, is my sense of empathy. The legal system can be particularly cold and dehumanizing, and being empathetic helps me keep in perspective that my clients are human beings, many of which have been wronged in some way, who take their legal problems with them to work, to lunch and home at night. Their legal problems can be all encompassing and I have the honor and the privilege to help them assuage some of their fears. My clients deserve the same measure of patience, attention and devotion that I would expect to be paid to me, my friends, or my family.
What are you passionate about? What type of work makes you jump out of bed in the morning and/or stay up late at night?
Well, I am fortunate enough to have a job that combines all of the elements that I am most passionate about: law, advocacy and writing. I get to work every day to help clients navigate our complex legal system, and by doing so, I am sometimes able to spur positive change, particularly for the LGBT community and small business owners. Then, at the end of the day, I have the opportunity to reflect on that, and write about the law and my experience in simple terms so that everyone can learn from and build upon those goals and challenges.
What is your source of inspiration? What drives you forward?
There have been incredible individuals and advocates within the LGBT community that have made considerable progress for everyone and they are my main source of inspiration. I’m driven by the desire to help individual business owners achieve their dreams and in one day living in a country where there isn’t Gay law and Straight law – just the law.
How do you see yourself evolving, or “becoming”, in the next year? In the next 3 years?
The beauty of my job is that I am able to evolve and improve each time that I work with someone new. Ideally the next year, or three, or five, yields equal rights for everyone, including the LGBT community. That would entail millions of couples dealing with formerly unchartered legal territory; it will be a learning process for everyone involved, myself included.
In the next year, my book on rooftop bars from around the world will hopefully be in bookstores! www.rooftopbarbook.com.
And last but not least, my three-year goal is to own a B&B or small guesthouse internationally (somewhere hot!) and while the guests would come from all over the world, I specifically want to create a travel and wedding destination for the LGBT community.
The Supreme Court of the United States held hearings March 26 and 27 on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The proceedings yielded few surprises and few definitive outcomes.
The repeal of Section 3 of DOMA would be a landmark SCOTUS decision and would afford gay couples in states with marriage equality many of the federal rights they have previously been denied. It would help narrow the discrepancies between LGBT rights at the state and federal levels and, over time, simplify the grueling processes we endure when completing banal tasks straight couples take for granted, such as filing taxes and attaining employee benefits.
Though striking down Section 3 of DOMA would be an extraordinarily positive reflection of the growing support for LGBT rights in the United States, its repeal would ultimately have little effect on Pennsylvania law; repeal would not automatically mean that we will see marriage equality in all 50 states. The court will likely repeal the act but still permit states to ban gay marriage on an individual level, which leaves Pennsylvania free to continue to legally discriminate against LGBT couples and individuals.
The court also heard arguments on whether Prop. 8, a California ballot proposition passed in November 2008 that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, is constitutional. In August 2010, Hollingsworth v. Perry went before a federal court that ultimately found Prop. 8 to be unconstitutional, a ruling upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The arguments for Prop. 8, spearheaded by attorney Charles Cooper, rested primarily on an antiquated and naïve notion of “responsible procreation.” Cooper questioned same-sex couples’ ability to and method of conceiving and raising children, which may differ from opposite-sex couples. Justice Alito further added to this enlightened reasoning by asserting that gay marriage is simply a social experiment from the Netherlands that came about in 2000 and that it requires more research before determining whether or not it is beneficial. (Because we in today’s world know that all straight couples keep sex, marriage and family clean and sacred.) And when Justice Kagan asked Cooper, “If you are over the age of 55, you don’t help us serve the government’s interest in regulating procreation through marriage … So why is that different?” he had no response.
Based on the Prop. 8 hearing, SCOTUS will likely decide that it cannot yet make a determination. While each justice’s stance on LGBT equality — whether favorable or unfavorable — is generally known, the panel is likely to rule that it is too soon for the court to tend to this matter. The court can declare that the case has no standing because the Prop. 8 ballot petitioners are not the proper parties to defend the measure. Moreover, it could rule that marriage is a state issue, and California has spoken. Either outcome likely leaves California with marriage equality come June.
Seven different courts have now found DOMA to be unconstitutional, and SCOTUS is now considering that question with U.S. v. Windsor. In 2009, Thea Spyer, the wife and 40-year-long partner of LGBT activist Edith Windsor, died. Though couples in “traditional” marriages can obtain their spouses’ inheritance tax-free, Windsor was forced to pay estate taxes totaling more than $363,000.
Harvard Law professor Vicki Jackson was appointed to argue that the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction over the case at all. Under President Obama’s administration, the government will no longer defend DOMA. In a case of first impression involving the federal government, both the plaintiff and the government were in agreement that DOMA is unconstitutional, leaving the justices perplexed as to why the case was even before it. And, similar to the Prop. 8 case, it is clear that several justices are concerned if they have the authority to render a decision on a matter that has traditionally been a state issue. Taking the case could, as swing vote Justice Kennedy said, question “whether the federal government has the authority to regulate marriages.”
If the court decides not to dismiss the case on “standing” grounds, as with Prop. 8, then it may also assert that the federal government overstepped its bounds by meddling in an issue that states have historically decided.
It is likely that the LGBT community will get two “wins” from these cases: By June, California will likely have marriage equality, and Section 3 of DOMA will be struck down. But, both of these victories may come without the Supreme Court definitively stating that marriage is a fundamental right to all Americans, gay or straight. It would be a large win on the national level, but without considerable long-term advocacy, there will be little change in Pennsylvania.
This article was written by Colby Itkowitz of the Call Washington Bureau and features Angela D. Giampolo, Philly Gay Lawyer.
If anything were to happen to Scott Nichols, his 11-year-old adopted son would receive benefits, like his Social Security, but Nichols’ partner of 15 years would not.
That’s unlikely to change for the Philadelphia couple, both 51, unless the U.S. Supreme Court concludes broadly that marriage is a right and that all bans against same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.
Because Pennsylvania has a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, other potential, more narrow rulings probably won’t have any immediate impact on Pennsylvania gay and lesbian couples.
The Supreme Court justices appeared split on gay marriage Tuesday during legal arguments. They take up a second case Wednesday and are expected to announce their opinions in June.
Nichols, his partner, Steve Berg, and their son, Henry, whom they adopted from Cambodia in 2002, stood outside the steps of the high court Tuesday amid cheers for “equality” and handmade posters with messages like, “Marriage is a Human Right NOT a Heterosexual Privilege,” and “Dear Scalia, YOLO” — a popular Internet meme that means “you only live once.”
They were there, they said, to show their son there’s support for marriage equality, with the hope that one day he’d tell his children about being there with their two grandfathers.
“When we ‘came out,’ people were trying to take away rights all the time, very basic rights like the right to get a job,” Nichols said. “And to think that we’re now talking about marriage … I didn’t think we’d get so far so fast.”
Over two days the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in separate cases dealing with the constitutionality of banning same-sex marriage.
The first case, dealing with the California voters’ 2008 ballot initiative that banned gay marriage, was argued Tuesday and is the one that could affect Pennsylvania — though many legal experts say that’s unlikely.
Pennsylvania is among 38 states that ban same-sex marriage. That would be nullified if the justices find such bans to be unconstitutional. But speculation among court-watchers Tuesday was that such a broad ruling won’t happen — based on questions raised during more than an hour of arguments.
Mason Lane is the chief of staff for state Rep. Brian Sims and a third-year Temple University law student. Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat, is a longtime gay activist and the first openly gay person to be elected to the Pennsylvania state House. Lane said it’s most likely the Supreme Court will rule that California gay couples can marry, but not extend that to other states. If state bans are deemed unconstitutional, that would trigger an “intense, legal quagmire” as states attempt to appeal, he said.
“No matter what, we’re still a couple of years, probably more than five years, away from full marriage equality in Pennsylvania,” Lane said. Most states with marriage equality first had other laws protecting gay rights, such as nondiscrimination in employment or housing. Pennsylvania has none, Lane said.
Angela Giampolo, a Philadelphia attorney who specializes in gay rights, agreed. Concerns voiced by some justices about allowing more time to determine the impact of gay marriage on society underscored her prediction that the ruling would benefit California gay couples only, and not extend to all 50 states.
“I think from a social mores standpoint, it will have an impact because you will have a ton more married gay people,” she said. “[Gay marriage] will become more normalized more quickly,” and lawyers whose clients want to marry will be able to build cases based on the financial and family impact.
The second case regarding federal benefits for same-sex couples has virtually no impact on Pennsylvania couples. Even if the Supreme Court strikes down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act — the federal law limiting marriage — then only couples living in the nine states that allow gay marriage would be eligible for federal benefits. The court hears that case today.
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as a federal law that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman; its existence prevents same-sex couples from being legally recognized as married by the federal government and enjoying more than 1,138 federal rights. The Supreme Court now has the opportunity to rectify this injustice by repealing the law responsible for it.
“I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” said President Barack Obama in May 2012. He was among the first major political figures to oppose DOMA; he told the Department of Justice to stop defending it in February of 2011.
And after falling under increasing scrutiny, it has been deemed discriminatory by former President Bill Clinton, who recently told the Human Rights Campaign that, “LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones. They are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage.”
It is extremely rare for former Presidents to admit mistakes made in office, and rarer still to disavow a major piece of legislation days before its constitutionality is going before the Supreme Court. Though this assertion was not technically a full apology to the LGBT community, it has served to provide it with further support in its endeavor to have DOMA repealed. In the last week, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has joined her husband and President Obama in their effort to have the legislation repealed.
Clinton, an opponent of same-sex marriage but a proponent of other gay rights throughout his administration, ultimately had to choose between the two. On September 21, 1996 he signed DOMA into law; a discriminatory bill that at the time, it appeared to be a compromise between two conflicting ideologies.
Had gay equality been an unwavering element of his platform, he might have compromised his chances at reelection. Though such a concept is no longer considered radical, the notion was too progressive at the time, when less than 30 percent of Americans supported gay marriage, and would have been too risky for his campaign. More than 17 years later, the repercussions of this decision are still resonating nationwide.
Many expect that DOMA will be repealed once the Supreme Court finally makes a decision. If the Supreme Court asserts that the law is unconstitutional, then it will be up to individual states to determine how they will define marriage in their jurisdiction. Though this generates an opportunity for states to grant gay couples equal rights as they pertain to marriage under the law, it also means that some states will still be able to perpetuate this codified discrimination, if they choose to do so.
Currently, the Supreme Court Justices are split on the matter: the four more liberal justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — aim to strike down the law, and Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John G. Roberts and Samuel Alito will vote to uphold the legislation.
Justice Anthony Kennedy will likely be the swing vote. He generally values two things in particular: gay rights and states’ rights. He wrote the Supreme Court decision in Romer v. Evansthat invalidated a Colorado constitutional provision prohibiting LGBT individuals from filing discrimination claims, as well as wrote the Court’s opinion in the landmark case Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned laws criminalizing homosexual sodomy.
“The case does involve two adults who, with full and mutual consent from each other, engaged in sexual practices common to a homosexual lifestyle, Kennedy wrote in his opinion. “The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”
So although Kennedy will likely support the repeal of DOMA, he will still be reluctant to state that it is unconstitutional for states to ban gay marriage altogether. At this point, this extra measure would be too progressive for Kennedy to support; he may feel that prohibiting statewide gay marriage bans is overstepping the court’s judicial reach, and impeding on states’ rights.
Two particular cases in Arizona and Hawaii will hopefully reach the Supreme Court in the next two or three years, which would question the constitutionality of Prop 8 specifically. This would pave the way for the Supreme Court Justices to finally state that it is illegal to ban gay marriage in any state.
The cases to keep an eye on include Jackson v. Abercrombie in Hawaii, where a U.S. District Court judge did not rule in favor of two lesbians who felt that Hawaii’s 1998 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, and Diaz v. Brewer in Arizona, that has questioned the legality of the state denying employee healthcare benefits to their same-sex domestic partners. Kennedy will again write the court opinion on these cases, and will use the pending decision on DOMA’s constitutionality as a guideline.
“I want to make clear to all that the enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination, violence or intimidation against any person on the basis of sexual orientation,” President Clinton originally said about DOMA. Recently, after reflecting upon those words, he added, “I know now that, even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory. It should be overturned.”
The repeal of DOMA would strengthen the American family by expanding the federal protections of marriage to all married loving, committed couples and their families, allowing them to take better care of each other and their children both fiscally, legally and otherwise. Stronger families lead to stronger communities. Recognizing gay and straight couples’ relationships and marriages equally in the eyes of the law will help to foster an environment that puts equality over bigotry, and love over political agendas.