NASW staff, members join marriage equality rally

William Rinehart, Phillip Pittinger-Dunham, and Allen Pittinger-DunhamFrom left, William Rinehart, Phillip Pittinger-Dunham and NASW student member Walter “Allen” Pittinger-Dunham attend the marriage equality rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26.

NASW student member Walter “Allen” Pittinger-Dunham and his husband, Phillip R. Pittinger-Dunham, participated in a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26 to show their support for marriage equality.

They joined an enthusiastic crowd as the high court began hearings in two cases that support marriage equality in the U.S.

“It was important as a gay man for me to stand with others, both LGBTQ and ally alike, so that our voices would be heard,” said Allen Pittinger-Durham, who is set to graduate this month with an MSW from the Catholic University of America’s National Catholic School of Social Service. He noted he and his husband were married in the nation’s capital in 2010.

“For too long equality has been ‘misappropriated,’ and ‘fringe’ populations have been disenfranchised and denied the rights that are afforded to those of the ‘norm,’” he said. “I was proud to see people from all walks of life and faiths there to show support for what is truly a civil right. Marriage has been defined by the states and judicial system as a civil right, and to have LGBTQ and allies there to ensure that …. was very empowering.”

Other NASW members along with NASW national staff also joined in the Supreme Court demonstrations to show support for marriage equality. Prior to the event, NASW sent an advocacy alert to members.

It noted that the NASW policy positions support local, state, federal and international policies and legislation that ban all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation, including marriage.

“It is time for our nation’s highest court to ensure that same sex couples are treated fairly under the law — and we need you to help make that happen,” the alert says.

The court heard arguments on March 26 in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry, otherwise known as Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in California.

The following day, court members heard oral arguments in United States v. Windsor, which challenges the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. It defines marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman.

Dina Kastner, Sherri Morgan NASW Senior Field Organizer Dina Kastner, left, and NASW Associate Counsel Sherri Morgan join the demonstration with other national office staff and NASW members.

NASW, through its Legal Defense Fund, filed amicus briefs in both cases.

In the Proposition 8 brief, it notes that “In depriving gay men and lesbians membership in an important social institution, Proposition 8 conveys the state’s judgment that committed intimate relationships between people of the same sex are inferior to heterosexual relationships. This is the essence of stigma.”

The DOMA brief noted that empirical research demonstrates that the psychological and social aspects of committed relationships between same-sex partners largely resemble those of heterosexual partnerships.

“Like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples form deep emotional attachments and commitments,” the brief states. “Heterosexual and same-sex couples alike face similar issues concerning intimacy, love, equity, loyalty, and stability, and they go through similar processes to address those issues.”

It also explained that there is no scientific basis for concluding that gay and lesbian parents are any less fit or capable than heterosexual parents, or that their children are any less psychologically healthy and well adjusted.

The briefs can be found at the Amicus Brief Database.

The court is expected to issue rulings in the two cases later this year.

In other NASW advocacy news, the NASW Advocacy blog posted a message in March seeking support of furthering action for the mental health parity law.

It noted that although the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was enacted more than four years ago, the final federal rule implementing the law has not been issued.

“Although it has promised a final MHPAEA rule by the end of the year, the Obama Administration has not clarified if the necessary protections will be in the final rule,” the alert states. “The Administration needs to hear from social workers who have witnessed parity violations, so that these practices are clearly prohibited in the final rule. Parity violations include insurance plans denying or more strictly managing mental health and addiction treatment services than other services covered by the plan.”

Get more information: Parity Implementation Coalition.