1589 posts categorized "Legal"

July 11, 2014

Blade: GLAA opposes ENDA over religious exemption

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Blade reports:

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, D.C.’s leading non-partisan LGBT advocacy group, voted at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night to declare its opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA.

GLAA becomes one of the first prominent local LGBT groups to join a growing number of national LGBT advocacy organizations that have announced their opposition to ENDA within the past two weeks.

GLAA's statement is here.

Wisconsin appeals gay marriage ruling

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Thursday appealed a decision from last month that struck down Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage.

The two Republicans filed a two-page notice of appeal that will soon be followed up with a full brief explaining their legal arguments.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in June found the state's gay marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution, but she stayed her order so Van Hollen and Walker could pursue an appeal.

Thursday's filing puts the case before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. It comes amid a wave of court rulings across the nation striking down state bans on same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to ultimately determine whether gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry.

The 7th Circuit is already hearing an appeal of a decision striking down Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage. The appeals court last week agreed to put that case on a fast track.

On Wednesday, Utah officials announced that they are appealing the 10th Circuit's ruling in their marriage case to the U.S. Supreme Court, making Utah's gay marriage ban the first to be appealed to SCOTUS since the Windsor ruling in June 2013. Which case, if any, the high court will hear in the coming term remains to be seen.

July 09, 2014

Washington Lawyers' Committee approves

Our friends at the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs tweeted today during the Judiciary Committee hearing on three bills. I testified for GLAA on two of them, including the bill to repeal Prostitution Free Zones. @WashLaw4CR liked what I had to say, including my statement about redlining during questioning.

GLAA testifies for repeal of Prostitution Free Zones

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(At witness table: Cyndee Clay, HIPS; Kishan Putta, ANC 2B; Maneka Sinha, Public Defender Service; Rick Rosendall, GLAA)

Today I testified for GLAA before the D.C. Council Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety on Bill 20-760, the Repeal of Prostitution Free Zones Amendment Act of 2014. I filled in for GLAA Secretary Saul Cruz, who was out sick. Below is my reading text. Full written testimony is here.

Good morning, Chairman Wells. I am Saul Cruz, Secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, which was founded in 1971.

GLAA strongly supports repeal of Prostitution Free Zones, as we testified in 2012. We therefore thank Councilmembers David Grosso, David Catania, and Mary Cheh for introducing Bill 20-760, the "Repeal of Prostitution Free Zones Amendment Act of 2014."

The use of PFZs facilitates discriminatory profiling of transgender people. As our colleagues in the DC Trans Coalition note:

  1. The Attorney General has determined that PFZs cannot be defended in court and are likely unconstitutional.
  2. MPD suspended PFZ implementation and said it was working to rescind its PFZ general order.
  3. Eliminating PFZs is a step toward reducing violence against sex workers.
  4. PFZ repeal makes sense from a public health perspective.

In our written testimony we quote extensively from 2005 testimony by Stephen M. Block, then legislative counsel for ACLU of the Nation's Capital. I will not read those passages. I will just note that we include his many case law citations to emphasize that PFZs are not only ineffective and harmful, but unconstitutional.

Continue reading "GLAA testifies for repeal of Prostitution Free Zones" »

GLAA testifies on marriage dissolution amendment bill

Earlier today, I presented testimony for GLAA before the D.C. Council Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety on Bill 20-793, the "Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Clarification Amendment Act of 2014." I filled in for GLAA Secretary Saul Cruz, who was out sick. Below is my reading text. Official copy is here.

Good morning, Chairman Wells. I am Rick Rosendall, President of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, which was founded in 1971.

Bill 20-793, the "Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Clarification Amendment Act of 2014," amends the D.C. Code to clarify that the mechanism for the dissolution of marriage includes divorce and legal separation. We thank Chairman Mendelson for introducing it. We support the bill with a recommended change.

We agree with Professor Nancy Polikoff that the bill should be amended to make it clear that the court can decide matters of property division and spousal support. As she explained in an email on May 7, "[F]or a same-sex couple married in DC but domiciled in a non-recognition state, there is no other place that will determine a division of property and an award of spousal support if appropriate because those laws apply only to married couples and the state of domicile does not consider them married."

If District judges think they cannot divide property or award spousal support in such cases, it is best to be explicit. We will leave the amendatory language to Professor Polikoff. We thank her for lending her expertise, which has been invaluable in helping the District navigate its journey to equality for same-sex couples and their families. The greatest challenge, as in this case, has stemmed from the confusion and gaps in legal protection caused by differences in family law from state to state. We cannot be governed by speculation as to when the U.S. Supreme Court may end all such confusion by establishing marriage equality nationwide. So let us clarify our law this year.

Thank you.

Geidner: Three Reasons LGBT Groups Are Fighting Over A Bill That Isn’t Going To Become Law

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An interesting analysis by Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed.

GLAA opposes ENDA over sweeping religious exemptions

Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
P.O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
www.glaa.org

For Release:
July 8, 2014
Contact: Rick Rosendall
(202) 328-6278

GLAA opposes ENDA over sweeping religious exemptions

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C. (GLAA) voted at its monthly meeting on July 8 to adopt the following statement. It may be attributed to GLAA President Rick Rosendall.

GLAA joins the growing list of LGBT rights organizations that oppose the present version of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). In its current form, sweeping religious exemptions in ENDA could enshrine anti-LGBT discrimination into law by allowing far more organizations to bypass civil rights protections than are permitted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Furthermore, provisions added by Senator Rob Portman through amendment seek, in his words, "to ensure that government cannot penalize a religious employer because it qualifies as exempt from the non-discrimination requirements of ENDA." These assurances could weaken existing state and city non-discrimination protections resulting in a step backwards in protecting the LGBT community.

Continue reading "GLAA opposes ENDA over sweeping religious exemptions" »

July 07, 2014

Marriage News Watch

An update from AFER's Matt Baume, who is in Pennsylvania this week.

George Takei: Why I love a country that once betrayed me

Gay actor George Takei tells of when soldiers with bayonets came to his Los Angeles home when he was 5 and sent his family to a Japanese-American internment camp on a presidential order, without due process. He then talks about his heroes, including the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit in American military history. And he explains why he loves America and is committed to democracy.

July 03, 2014

Oh no, Scott Lively is unhappy with John Oliver

International poison merchant Scott Lively is unhappy over the above segment by "Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver, whom he calls "a liar and a fraud." Well he would know. Oliver, who recently moved from Comedy Central's "Daily Show" to helm his own show on HBO, is one of the best things on television. I ran a portion of his interview with Pepe Julian Onziema before, but if you haven't seen the full thing, including his intro, I recommend it. Oliver nails it, and Pepe's restraint and quiet confidence and poise in the face of ignorance and hysteria are simply astounding. I saw Pepe at the U.S. Capitol last week, and he is not someone you forget.

July 02, 2014

Evangelism as Therapy

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My latest column is now online at Metro Weekly, arguing that faith-based advocacy should not be disguised as licensed healthcare. Here's an excerpt:

Encountering the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg in the D.C. Council Chambers on June 27 took me back five years to our battles over the District's marriage equality bill. This time it was a hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors. Sprigg was furious at the attempt to deny choice to troubled teens seeking to overcome their gay desires.

One should always be skeptical toward right-wing busybodies who use "choice" as a rallying cry, and so it is in this case. Gay and lesbian teens whose ears are filled with cries of abomination know the sound of rejection. If choice is a concern, shouldn't they be given the choice of a supportive environment? And if professional therapy is the way to help, shouldn't we mention that homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder in 1973?

The anti-gay groups represented at the hearing, including FRC, PFOX, and the International Healing Foundation, are frozen in amber on homosexuality, which they deem forever sick, sinful, and illicit. With the pathologizing and criminalizing of gayness having ended in America, and with many faiths affirming LGBT lives, the dwindling band of demonizers resorts increasingly to shrillness and deception at home and proselytizing overseas.

The homophobes conceal their faith-based motivation behind a veil of pseudoscience. The trouble is, they dictate nature rather than observing it.

Read the whole thing here.

Tag: #BornPerfect

Federal court strikes down Kentucky's gay marriage ban

Equality's march continues.

Clash over gay conversion therapy at D.C. Council hearing

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade and Metro Weekly report on the June 27 hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors. My caption for the above photo, in which notorious reparative therapist Christopher Doyle is testifying, is me (over his shoulder) saying, "Who are these creepy guys?" and Alison Gill of HRC (at left) saying, "I thought they were your friends."

Here are links to testimony from GLAA, HRC, American Counseling Association, therapy survivor Andrew "Jud Brown", and the anti-gay Family Research Council.

Where a company is deemed more of a person than a woman is

John Oliver gave an excellent take on the Hobby Lobby ruling the day before it was issued.

The fact that court observers saw this one coming is no comfort. Building on the corporations-are-people ruling in Citizens United, SCOTUS on Monday effectively ruled that a closely held corporation has more rights of personhood than a woman does. The notion that a company's religious views (what an absurd phrase) trump the religious rights of its employees is not only topsy-turvy, it threatens to turn every shop into a law unto itself.

Here is an excerpt of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg's scathing dissent:

Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. … The distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clear as it is, constantly escapes the Court’s attention. One can only wonder why the Court shuts this key difference from sight.

Our friend Jonathan Rauch has an interesting take on Hobby Lobby's religious liberty claims:

Religious folks are pushing the envelope really far when they say it’s a major intrusion on their religious conscience to have to buy an insurance policy that covers choices that other people make. To me that’s kind of picking a fight. And I am very sympathetic to religious liberty claims.

I agree with the dissenting opinions in the Hobby Lobby ruling, which say, “If you find your religion being burdened by something so indirect then when does it end?” If religious folks try to withdraw too much from practices of ordinary society—if they push too hard for the right not to participate—it will backfire. It sends a bad message about their inclusivity and their willingness to engage with society.

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(Photo credit: AP/Matt Sayles)

June 28, 2014

Self-Aware Bobby Jindal Is Tired Of 'Candidates Who Tell Us One Thing Then Go Do Another'

Another gem from Miranda Blue at RWW.

Ben Carson: gay marriage is a Marxist plot to impose the 'New World Order'

Miranda Blue of RWW reports.

Friday's hearing on bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors

I spent 5 hours on Friday in a D.C. Council hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors (so you wouldn't have to). One highlight was Peter Sprigg of FRC expressing his fury over the bill. Special thanks to Bishop Rainey Cheeks and Rev. Graylan Hagler for their testimony, to Saul Cruz for representing GLAA, and to Alison Gill of HRC for coordinating the coalition effort. Frank Kameny would be rolling in his grave (if he had one) over the repeated invocations of NARTH and other quacks by our opponents. But we have the science, the DC Council, and 2 federal courts on our side.

Lots of groups got involved, including the DC Center, Wanda Alston Foundation, SMYAL, SPLC, The Trevor Project, American Academy of Pediatrics, PFLAG, National Association of Social Workers, American Counseling Association, Alliance for Progressive Values, People of Faith for Equality, plus survivors of reparative therapy. It was a fine demonstration of a broad and strong coalition effort. Thanks to all of them. But oh, how happy I was when Graylan Hagler's voice boomed from the witness table. It made up for so much nonsense and lies I had been listening to from our opponents.

Oh, and though HIV Testing Day and other matters kept Metro Teen AIDS from attending, they are submitting written testimony. Speaking of which, anyone is free to weigh in. From the hearing notice: "For those unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Copies of written statements can be emailed to rsmith@dccouncil.us or mailed to Rayna Smith at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Room 115, Washington, D.C., 20004. The record will close at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 11, 2014."

In the next few days I will post links to various groups' testimony over at GLAA's main website.

June 26, 2014

Catholic bishops react to Indiana marriage ruling

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Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Indianapolis, along with five other Indiana bishops, issued the following statement on yesterday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Young overturning Indiana's ban on same-sex marriages:

The dignity of the human person, rooted in his or her creation in the image and likeness of God, is a fundamental principle of Catholic social teaching. The Church upholds the dignity of every human person, including persons with same-sex attraction, whom we accept and love as our brothers and sisters.

At the same time, the Church upholds the dignity and sanctity of marriage as a natural union established by God between one man and one woman, intended towards the establishment of a family in which children are born, raised, and nurtured. This is not simply a matter of belief. It is at the very heart of the nature of marriage. Thus, it is not within the power of any institution, religious or secular, to redefine marriage since it is God who is its author.

Today’s decision by Richard L. Young, Chief Judge United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, to redefine the institution of marriage as an emotional partnership between two consenting adults regardless of gender ignores this fundamental and natural truth of marriage and opens its definition to the whims of public opinion.

With deep respect for all our brothers and sisters, we nevertheless see no basis in law or in nature for any definition of marriage that seeks to expand it beyond that of a covenant between one man and one woman. Our position on this matter seeks only the common good of all men and women as well as the health and well being of families.

As pastors, we will continue to preach and teach the truth of marriage as it is ordered by God, encouraging all people to embrace the fullness of that truth, while upholding the dignity of all persons. We will continue to work through the Indiana Catholic Conference to encourage our legislators and judges to uphold this truth as well. We urge all involved in this issue to conduct themselves with mutual respect and civility in public discourse.

Notice the utter blindness to church-state separation. As Frank Kameny would say, "Your God may say that. Mine does not." We are free to believe differently than His Excellency. In addition, his statements about nature are an attempt to dictate what nature is rather than observe it. That suggests unfamiliarity with, if not hostility toward, the scientific method.

Libertarians and Gay Marriage

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Our friend David Boaz at Cato Institute sends the following, which I publish with his permission:

In the moving HBO documentary “The Case against 8,” Chad Griffin jokes at one point that if the chairman of the Cato Institute supports marriage equality, maybe he should rethink his position. Of course he’s joking. But the implication is that it’s some sort of surprise to find a libertarian scholar supporting equality under the law, perhaps because of the mistaken impression that the Cato Institute is, or libertarians in general are, are “right-wing.” In fact, of course, libertarians were ahead of liberals on gay rights. The Libertarian Party Platform of 1972 called for an end to laws regulating voluntary sexual behavior, and the Party issued a pamphlet in 1976 that endorsed marriage equality. Cato’s amicus brief was cited in the Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision. Indeed, in this Cato video from 2011 John Podesta says you probably had to be a libertarian to have supported gay marriage 15 years earlier:

http://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-video/constitutional-case-marriage-equality

Here’s the Cato Institute chairman’s take on Griffin’s comment, along with a video clip:

http://www.cato.org/blog/case-against-8

David Boaz
Executive Vice President
Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202)842-0200
http://www.cato.org/people/boaz.html

Check out my blog: http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/author/david-boaz/
and my books: Libertarianism: A Primer (the theory); The Libertarian Reader (the history); The Politics of Freedom (essays on politics, policy, and libertarianism); and The Libertarian Vote (ebook on libertarians in the electorate).

As it happens, I mentioned Cato's support for marriage equality in my latest column, "When Rights Collide." Those suffering from what philosopher Stephen Toulmin called "hardening of the categories" would do well to recall Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

June 25, 2014

Jury finds HIV/AIDS grant money was used to build D.C. strip club

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(Photo: J.M. Eddins Jr./The Washington Times)

Matthew Cella at The Washington Times reports on a matter that we have been following for a few years:

A D.C. jury found that a nonprofit group and its director misappropriated more than $300,000 from the city’s HIV/AIDS program for renovations on a proposed job-training center that instead was used to open a strip club.

The jury found damages of $329,653 against the nonprofit Miracle Hands Inc. and its director, reformed gangster Cornell Jones, after a four-day trial in D.C. Superior Court.

GLAA wrote about this in our 2012 policy brief, which provides some context:

The contrast between Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.'s vehement opposition to gay strip clubs in 2007 and his support for straight-oriented strip clubs in 2011 suggests a gaping double standard that he has not credibly explained. [Note: As we go to press, Councilmember Thomas appears set to resign as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors. We are not deleting this material because the issue continues to stir debate.] WAMU reported that Thomas "has supported the applications of the clubs and says these upscale strip clubs can be good corporate neighbors." Thomas denied being influenced by campaign donations, despite a Washington Times report (in June 2011) that "Keith Forney, a co-owner of the Stadium Club whose companies have received more than $90 million in D.C. construction funds since 2000, made separate payments to Team Thomas in 2008 and 2009 totaling $6,000." On top of this, former crack cocaine kingpin Cornell Jones is accused of diverting more than $300,000 in District HIV/AIDS funds to renovate the club. The city owes us a single standard that neither depends on campaign cash nor involves misuse of public funds.

At last, some justice in the case. As the Times story quotes D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, the verdict “should serve as a warning to all those who would attempt to misuse District grant funds.”

House Appropriations Committee votes to block D.C. mj decriminalization

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DCist reports:

An amendment introduced by a Republican Representative from Maryland to block the implementation of D.C.'s marijuana decriminalization law passed 28 to 21 in the House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Andy Harris, a physician, introduced the amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill, saying today marijuana is "dangerous to the developing brain."

As D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton notes:

D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization bill is undergoing a 60-day congressional review period and is expected to take effect in mid-July. As expected, Republicans are using a rider rather than the disapproval process set forth in the Home Rule Act to try to block D.C.’s decriminalization bill.

Norton's statement includes the following:

“Representative Harris is not only trying to overrule the will of my constituents, to whom he is not accountable, he is acting contrary to the laws of his own state, which recently decriminalized marijuana,” Norton said. “It is particularly offensive that he is trying to impose on another Member’s district what he was unable to do democratically in his own. Before tomorrow’s markup, I hope Representative Harris realizes that his amendment violates his own professed principles of local control of local affairs. Even those who profoundly disagree on particular local laws adhere to the most basic American principle of local control. Representative Harris can’t overturn the marijuana decriminalization laws of the 18 states that have decriminalized marijuana so he has stooped to using autocratic, anti-democratic power to seek to overturn our local laws. His constituents are going to be surprised to learn that their Member, who argues for limiting the federal government’s power over even traditionally federal matters, is offering an amendment that would insert the federal government into a local government’s local affairs. Representative Harris has been in Congress for two terms, but has only managed to introduce 10 bills this Congress, and he has not introduced a single amendment on the House floor this Congress. Surely, he should spend more time focused on bills and amendments to benefit his own Maryland constituents instead of introducing an amendment that will harm minorities, especially African Americans, in my district. Our allies in Maryland and across the country are prepared to help us prevent this amendment from being enacted.”

GLAA's policy brief for 2014, Building on Victory, states the following:

It makes no sense for the relatively benign marijuana to be proscribed while alcohol, a proven killer, is legal. Tommy Wells' bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts, Bill 20-409, is a good beginning. We support David Grosso's legalization and regulation bill, Bill 20-466. We understand the District's caution regarding Congress; but in light of developments elsewhere, and considering the damage done to lives by incarceration for victimless crimes, we are glad that the District has joined the nationwide discussion of this issue.

Thanks to Congresswoman Norton for fighting for the District. We have some work ahead of us.

Judge overturns Indiana's gay marriage ban, no stay, weddings begin

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(Photo credit: Fox59)

IndyStar reports on the latest step in the march toward marriage equality.

Above is a photo of Craig Bowen and Jake Miller, the first same-sex couple granted a marriage license in Indianapolis. Marion County Clerk Beth White, with the most matter-of-fact statement, says it all (and sorry, but embedding is disabled for the video): "We're ready for people to come and exercise these rights that they now have."

#BornPerfect: the Campaign to End Conversion Therapy

On Friday, June 27 at noon in the D.C. Council chamber, GLAA and others will testify on Bill 20-501, to prohibit so-called conversion therapy for minors. The above video from National Center for Lesbian Rights, with whom GLAA is in coalition, is from their #BornPerfect campaign against this dangerous and discredited junk medicine.

10th Circuit Court upholds same-sex marriage

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(Keith Johnson | Tribune file photo)

SLTrib reports:

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that states outlawing same-sex marriage are in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

By upholding a Utah judge’s decision, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver became the first appeals court to rule on the issue, setting a historic precedent that voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment rights of same-sex couples to equal protection and due process.

But the court stayed the implementation of their decision, pending an anticipated appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court....

The split ruling affects all states in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

Read the ruling here.

June 22, 2014

Bauer: Obama 'Obsessed' With Gay Issues, Will 'Destroy' Republic

Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch reported from Friday's "Road to Majority" summit. In this clip, Gary Bauer offers an astonishing catalog of lies about our 44th president, from he destroyed America's military to he declared war on the Little Sisters of the Poor. One wonders how many wars the (in my view) more-than-sufficiently hawkish Obama would have to start in order to avoid the former charge. As to the latter charge, it appears to be based on the nuns having to fill out a form concerning their religious exemption to the contraception mandate in ACA, because they don't just want to avoid providing such converge to their employees--they want to prevent their employees from getting it from anyone.

In short: as usual with the radical religious right, if they are prevented from imposing their intolerant doctrines on others, they claim their own freedom has been infringed. And the commandment against bearing false witness is once again trampled by the ones most loudly announcing their righteousness. As the saying goes, God help us.

Obama announces further steps to protect human rights in Uganda

As the above report from NTV Uganda indicates, the White House has announced further steps in response to the anti-LGBT persecution represented by Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act. The new U.S. actions include:

  • Restricting entry to the United States of specific Ugandan human rights abusers.
  • Ceasing support for Uganda’s community policing program.
  • Redirecting certain financial support for the Ministry of Health (MOH) to other partners.
  • Relocating funds for a planned public health institute and other measures relating to health programming.
  • Cancelling a military aviation exercise.

(Hat tip for video to Frank Mugisha)

June 19, 2014

Huelskamp: Real Men Oppose Gay Rights

RWW reports:

Tim Huelskamp, the chief sponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, had a message for “every man in America” at today today’s March for Marriage: “Your woman, your wife, she needs you, it’s time you become a real man and stand up.”

Possibly under the impression that the legalization of same-sex marriage will break up opposite-sex unions, the Kansas Republican congressman emphasized that he loves his wife and believes that men who love their wives must join the fight to stop marriage equality.

The level of incoherence here can hardly be overstated. Perhaps President Obama should send a few drones to knock out the idiot factory, once we locate it.

As to the march: as usual with NOM's events, the crowd was paltry and its significance nil. I celebrated Juneteenth by staying home.

When Rights Collide

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Happy Juneteenth. Here's my latest column at Metro Weekly. I'll talk with Mark Thompson about it this evening at 7 pm EDT on Make It Plain on SiriusXM Progress, Channel 127.

Here's an excerpt:

On April 7, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) declined to hear the Elane Photography case, in which an Albuquerque studio refused to take commitment ceremony photos of Vanessa Willock and her same-sex partner, Misti Collinsworth. This left in place the New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that Elane Photography's claimed free speech right "directly conflicts with Willock's right ... to obtain goods and services from a public accommodation."

If you think this pleased all gay rights advocates, you are wrong. An amicus brief supporting the photographer was filed on behalf of the Cato Institute, Eugene Volokh, and Dale Carpenter, all marriage equality supporters. Volokh explained that "wedding photographers ... have a First Amendment right to choose what expression they create, including by choosing not to photograph same-sex commitment ceremonies."

SCOTUS will rule this month in the Hobby Lobby case, concerning a company's right to deny employees contraceptive coverage based on the owners' religious objections. In contrasting briefs, Cato defended Hobby Lobby's free exercise rights, while Lambda Legal wrote that ruling for Hobby Lobby "would transform our equal opportunity marketplace into segregated dominions within which each business owner with religious convictions 'becomes a law unto himself.'"

Meanwhile, LGBT groups differ over the religious exemption in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. DC's Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, which I lead, is among those that support ENDA but favor a narrower exemption. Religious groups are protected in their core religious function; outside it is another matter. Why should anti-LGBT discrimination enjoy exemptions beyond those applying to discrimination under Title VII?

LGBT people are not the only historically oppressed group asked to subordinate their interests....

Click on the above link for the whole thing.

June 18, 2014

Openly gay, lesbian federal judges confirmed

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Examiner.com reports:

The United States Senate made history on Tuesday by approving the nation’s first openly gay black federal judge with a vote of 98-0. With the vote, Darrin Gayles became a district court judge in Florida and was one of three judges nominated by President Barack Obama to be approved on Tuesday.

By a vote of 52-44, senators also endorsed Staci Yandle as a federal court judge in Illinois. Yandle, who is an openly black woman, became one of 112 female federal judges appointed by Obama in his presidency. It is a feat that is more than any previous president. The diversity did not stop there. The Senate also voted to make Salvador Mendoza a federal district judge in Washington State by a vote of 92-4 bringing the total number of Hispanics nominated by Obama to 31.

Staci Michelle Yandle

Good news. We can forget this sort of thing if the GOP takes control of the Senate.

June 17, 2014

Marriage News Watch

AFER's Matt Baume is on the road, and reports this week from Nevada.

June 14, 2014

State LGBT groups split on ENDA’s religious exemption

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Chris Johnson of the Blade reports:

The Washington Blade polled more than 50 state LGBT groups this week on their position regarding ENDA with its current religious exemption. The language would continue to allow religious institutions, like churches or religious hospitals and schools, to discriminate against LGBT workers in ministerial and non-ministerial positions even if the bill were to become law.

The religious exemption in ENDA is broader than similar exemptions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for categories of race, gender, religion and national origin.

The most common response from statewide LGBT groups — including Equality Illinois and Equality California — was that they continue to support ENDA, but oppose or have concerns about the bill’s religious exemption.

GLAA is in the latter group. Here is the statement I gave Johnson:

GLAA has long supported ENDA. Our position was to support the best achievable bill, because we understood the value of strategic compromise--not as an end point but as a way station in the ongoing struggle for equality.

But here in DC, as in the marriage equality fight, we have successfully fought against overbroad religious exemptions. Of course religious groups enjoy protections in their core religious functions; outside that sphere is another matter. For example, Catholic Charities demanded to be able to discriminate against same-sex couples as a government contractor providing adoption services. We and the DC Council said absolutely not. Catholic Charities then chose to stop delivering those services, which were taken over by another organization that was prepared to obey the law.

It is time to push back against the religious bullies. Religious exemptions beyond those applying to discrimination under Title VII should not be accepted in ENDA.

June 12, 2014

Anderson debates Texas GOPer on reparative therapy

Chief Lanier addresses town hall on police-trans issues

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The Blade reports:

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told a transgender community town hall meeting Tuesday night that her department is moving quickly to implement recommendations by an independent task force on ways to improve police response to crimes targeting the transgender community.

Lanier, who was joined by nearly a dozen high-level police officials, including a captain and sergeant in charge of the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, said the overwhelming majority of officers are sensitive to the needs and concerns of transgender citizens.

Rev. Barry Lynn vs. Rep. Louie Gohmert

Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, conducted an impromptu inquisition on the religious beliefs of Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I think Rev. Lynn did quite well.

June 21 - FREE HER rally

The untold, real-life story of the prison in "Orange is the New Black." Excerpt:

Now, Families for Justice as Healing is looking beyond Massachusetts to the mass incarceration of women nationwide. On June 21, the group is organizing a FREE HER rally in Washington, D.C., an idea that emerged during those very first meetings in the prison yard at Danbury.
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Today in history - Loving v. Virginia

On this day in 1967, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Loving v Virginia that state anti- miscegenation laws were unconstitutional. Responding decades later to discrimination against gay couples, Mildred Loving expressed support for marriage equality. Here's to the memory of her and her husband, and those who helped them fight for equality.

June 07, 2014

Same-sex marriages begin in Wisconsin

AP reports:

When a federal judge struck down Wisconsin's gay marriage ban, pastor Andrew Warner was among those who headed to the courthouse to get a license so he could legally wed his longtime partner.

Then he turned to perform a wedding for two members of his Milwaukee church.

"I always felt like we were second-class citizens in not being able to get married," Warner said after marrying Jay Edmundson on Friday evening, despite confusion over the effect of a federal judge's ruling that declared Wisconsin's gay marriage ban unconstitutional. "And now I feel good about my state in a way I haven't before."

Clerks in Madison and Milwaukee began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, a little over an hour after the judge released her ruling. More marriage licenses could be issued over the weekend, even though Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the ruling did not clear the way for weddings to begin. Van Hollen has sought an emergency order in federal court to stop more marriage licenses from being issued.

June 05, 2014

Supreme Court Denies Attempt To Stop Oregon Same-Sex Marriages

Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed reports:

The Supreme Court denied the National Organization for Marriage’s attempt to stop same-sex couples from marrying in Oregon.

NOM has appealed the trial judge’s decision not to let the group, which is opposed to same-sex couples’ marriage rights, to intervene in the lawsuit challenging Oregon’s ban on such marriages.

The appeal of the intervention denial now continues at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but same-sex couples will continue to be able to marry during the time that is happening.

The 9th Circuit, which is hearing that appeal, denied NOM’s request to stop the trial court decision striking down the ban from going into effect during the appeal. NOM then went to Justice Anthony Kennedy to ask him to stop the marriages while that appeal is pending before the 9th Circuit.

Kennedy, who hears procedural matters brought to the court from the 9th Circuit, referred the request to the full court, which denied the request without comment on Tuesday.

The momentum grows. I will spare you another pic of NOM's Brian Brown crying.

May 29, 2014

Sen. Hatch concedes nationwide marriage equality is almost inevitable

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The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch says legal gay marriage is almost certain to become a reality throughout the United States.

"Let’s face it, anybody who does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn’t been observing what’s going on," Hatch said Wednesday on KSL Radio’s "Doug Wright Show." "There is a question whether [the courts] should be able to tell the states what they can or cannot do with something as important as marriage, but the trend right now in the courts is to permit gay marriage and anybody who doesn’t admit that just isn’t living in the real world."

The usual crazies will denounce him for saying the obvious. Somewhere Ted Kennedy is smiling.

Houston passes LGBT non-discrimination bill

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(Photo: Twitter/@equalitytexas)

Think Progress reports:

After many hours of testimony from over 200 speakers, the Houston City Council voted 11-6 to approve the Equal Rights Ordinance, which creates nondiscrimination protections for many classes, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Houston was one of the only large cities in the country that had no municipal nondiscrimination policy.

During the debate, supporters of the bill spoke to alliances across groups, noting how the ordinance would protect following identity classifications: sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, and pregnancy. Opponents argued that the protections would impose on religious beliefs, forcing individuals to violate their own religious beliefs by serving, as an example, a marrying same-sex couple. They also asked that the ordinance be put to a city-wide vote instead of being approved by the Council.

The ordinance’s protections will extend to employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Congrats to Mayor Annise Parker and all who worked on the bill. Opponents yesterday pounded repeatedly on the notion that transgender protections would promote voyeurs in bathrooms, despite there being no evidence whatsoever of that ever happening. Thank goodness rationality and fairness prevailed. An anti-gay official is threatening a recall effort against Mayor Parker; so stay tuned.