1559 posts categorized "News"

July 09, 2014

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.

July 03, 2014

GLAA supports increasing Office of Police Complaints access to police information

On July 2, I testified for GLAA before the D.C. Council Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety on Bill 20-63, the "Police Monitoring Enhancement Amendment Act of 2013." Here is a portion:

We support Bill 20-63 with a requested change. The Police Monitoring Enhancement Amendment Act of 2013 would, as the summary says, "give the Office of Police Complaints access to information and supporting documentation of the covered law enforcement agencies to improve the monitoring and evaluation activities of the Police Complaints Board."

This proposed reform has been kicking around the Council for several years. We thank Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers Cheh and Bowser for re-introducing it. However, when they introduced similar legislation in 2009, the City Paper reported that the bill specified that the board "shall have unfettered access to all information and supporting documentation of the covered law enforcement agencies...."

By contrast, the current bill refers to "reasonable access." The difference between "unfettered access" and "reasonable access" is the difference between real access and mere rhetoric about access. "Reasonable access" is a vague and slippery term that can mean anything and nothing. If our intent with the present bill is to enhance police accountability by granting OPC statutory access to information, that access should be clearly stated and not conveyed by ambiguous wording that effectively turns it from a requirement into a suggestion. We urge that you restore the bill's teeth by changing "reasonable" back to "unfettered."

Read the whole thing here. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is strongly opposed to the bill, which she hyperbolically said would endanger the public safety. Once again the Bad Cathy comes roaring back! I am sorry, but OPC needs unfettered access to the data in question to do its job. Chief Lanier is wrong. The Council should pass the bill.

Thanks to Monica Hopkins-Maxwell, the new Executive Director at ACLU of the Nation's Capital, who agrees with GLAA on this and who presented excellent testimony.

July 02, 2014

Federal court strikes down Kentucky's gay marriage ban

Equality's march continues.

Twin Cities archbishop accused of child molestation

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(Photo: KARE)

Local news station KARE in Minneapolis/St. Paul reports:

Archbishop John Nienstedt, the head of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, has been accused of inappropriately touching a minor in 2009.

In light of the accusation, the Archbishop will step down from public ministry while the church and St. Paul Police investigate the incident. The accuser alleges Nienstedt touched his buttocks during a "public photo session" following a confirmation ceremony.

I am shocked, shocked to learn that a homophobic archbishop has been accused of such a thing.

Tea Partiers block buses carrying undocumented immigrants

A crowd of irrational xenophobes blocks buses in which federal authorities were transferring undocumented immigrants who had been detained. Reuters reports:

As the buses neared their destination, some 150 protesters waiving American flags and shouting "Go home - we don't want you here," filled a street leading to the access road for the Border Patrol station, blocking the buses from reaching the facility.

The demonstrators disregarded orders from police to disperse, but officers did not attempt to intervene physically to break up the demonstration.

After about 25 minutes, the buses backed up, turned around and left. A board member of the union representing border patrol agents, Chris Harris, said the buses would likely be rerouted to one of six other Border Patrol stations in the San Diego sector.

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 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."

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.

A yoga tax by any other name

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(Photo credit: Washington City Paper)

The D.C. Council on Tuesday, by a vote of 9-4, upheld the so-called yoga tax (or wellness tax or gym tax) as part of the tax reform package in the 2015 budget. Does this mean all the kvetching over this trivial matter will finally stop? One can always hope, but Lane Hudson, one of the leaders of the protest against the tax, says he's only just begun. Or something.

Meanwhile, Miss Emily Litella, disguised as Marion Barry, came out squarely against the yogurt tax.

June 22, 2014

'Reparative therapy' platform plank misunderstood, Republican delegate says

This guy says he doesn't want to be misunderstood as being anti-gay. He just wants to preserve dangerous quackery as an option.

June 20, 2014

Robert Alfandre, 1927-2014

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Our old friend Bob Alfandre has died at age 87, the Blade reports:

Robert “Bob” Alfandre, a prominent D.C.-area homebuilder and philanthropist who contributed to LGBT rights and AIDS-related causes, died June 12 in his home in Washington following a long battle with cancer. He was 87....

Rev. Jerry Anderson, an Episcopal priest, said he met Alfandre in the 1980s through All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church in D.C., where Alfandre was a parishioner and Anderson served as director of the D.C. group Episcopal Caring Response to AIDS. He said he and Alfandre became friends and kept in touch after Anderson moved to Miami and later to Los Angeles.

“He was a wonderful human being,” said Anderson. “He was one of those gay men who responded immediately and wholeheartedly to the AIDS epidemic. He was a very generous, passionate advocate for the AIDS cause.”

Anderson and Rev. John Beddington, current pastor of All Souls Episcopal Church, said Alfandre had a wry sense of humor and became admired for lifting up the spirits of his friends and associates, including people with AIDS.

Anderson said Alfandre often hosted fundraisers and social gatherings at his home in D.C.’s Kalarama section and often invited AIDS patients. He said he has especially fond memories of a party Alfandre hosted for residents of the Carroll Sledz House, a Whitman-Walker facility that Alfandre initiated and funded in honor of his late partner.

Bob was a warm and generous man. Condolences to all his family and friends. There is an online guest book to which you can post condolences. The Blade reports:

A visitation was scheduled for Friday, June 20, from 6-8 p.m. at Joseph Gawler’s, 5130 Wisconsin Ave., N.W. A funeral service was scheduled for Saturday, June 21, at 11 a.m., at All Souls Episcopal Church, 2300 Cathedral Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.

June 19, 2014

Presbyterian Church Votes To Allow Gay Marriage

HuffPost reports:

In a monumental move, the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination voted Thursday to change its definition of marriage and allow its pastors to officiate same-sex ceremonies in states where gay marriage is legal.

By a vote of 429-175, leaders of the 1.76 million-member Presbyterian Church (USA) voted during the biennial General Assembly in Detroit to change the denomination's Book of Order to describe marriage as being between "two people."

The decision opens a path toward gay marriage across the denomination's 10,000 churches.

A majority of the church's 173 regional bodies, called Presbyteries, must now approve the decision before it's official, a process that can take up to a year. But after years of failed efforts to get the church to approve gay marriages, LGBT activists and pastors said they were optimistic.

It took a long time to reach this moment. But the moment finally came.

Spate of anti-trans robberies hits Eastern Avenue corridor

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Police Chief Cathy Lanier posted the following Wednesday night on the MPD-SLU listserv:

Good evening,

I want to take this opportunity to share a recent pattern that has emerged in PSA 608, along the Eastern Avenue corridor and side streets. Between June 10th and June 18th, during the hours of 2:00 am and 6:00 am in the morning, with the exception of one, there have been five robberies in which the victims are all transgender. In each case the victim is approached by one or more suspects and demands are made for their purse. The descriptions of the subjects are not the same. There were guns displayed in at least two of the robberies and verbal threats were used in others. In the most recent robbery, on June 18th at 2:30 am, MPD arrested two juveniles and recovered the property that was stolen from the victim. At this time, we do not believe that these robberies are related as MPD has been provided varying descriptions by the victims.

If any member of the community has information related to these robberies, we are requesting that you contact MPD at 202-727-9099. Additionally anonymous information may be submitted to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE by test messaging 50411. We have also requested the support of our community advocates to provide outreach to the victims in these cases. The Sixth District is working with both MPD’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLU) and The Prince Georges County Police Department to enhance patrols and investigate these crimes.

Cathy L. Lanier
Chief of Police

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.

March for Marriage isn't antigay, Archbishop Cordileone says

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SFgate reports the unsurprising news that San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is doubling down on his plans to speak at Thursday's so-called March for Marriage in Washington.

Does Sal set off anyone else's gaydar?

Joe Jervis reports about a "secretive new anti-gay supergroup" that NOM has formed with Cordileone and others.

June 17, 2014

Marriage News Watch

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

June 16, 2014

Obama wil sign executive order protecting LGBT employees of federal contractors

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(AP Photo by Charles Krupa)

More crumbs! (Sorry, Larry Kramer briefly hacked my account.) I mean, thank you Mr. President. Better late than never!

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

Bobbie Gills, R.I.P.

Bobbie Gills

WaPo reports:

Roberta Heather Gills "Bobbie," age 63, of Arlington, VA passed away peacefully on June 7, 2014. Roberta was born in Washington, DC and lived most of her life in Arlington, VA. An avid student and activist, Roberta recently graduated from Northern Virginia Community College with honors. She was a passionate advocate of the fight for human rights and dignity for all people. She is survived by her mother, Clara S. Gills, brother, George W. Gills, sister-in-law, Thu Nyugen, sisters Suzanne J. MacInnis and Janet G. Kimble as well as many close cousins, aunts and friends. The funeral service will be held on Thursday, June 12, at 12 p.m. at Murphy's Funeral Home in Arlington, VA. Visitation will be prior to the service at 11 a.m. Interment will follow at Mount Comfort Cemetery, Alexandria, VA. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Northern Virginia Community College Educational Foundation or the DC Trans Coalition.

Bobbie was kind, generous, brave, and determined. She exemplified the resilient spirit I have observed, with a certain degree of awe, in so many trans folk I have met. Her example was an inspiration to others. Here is to her memory. I am off to Ballston for her funeral.

June 11, 2014

The moratorium that wasn't

I figured in this story on the SALM ANC-focused blog about Ward 2 CM Jack Evans bringing up the subject of a liquor license moratorium on 14th Street NW. Such a moratorium was roundly rejected by the ANCs and residents last year, so it's odd that Jack brought it up. But Jack has cleared it up: no moratorium on 14th.

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.

June 04, 2014

Wilson HS principal comes out on Pride Day

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Metro Weekly reports:

“You know, what I kept thinking is: how can I be the principal of Wilson High School, and oversee a Pride Day, and tell kids to be themselves and be who you are, and me not do that? It’s hypocritical.”

–Pete Cahall, principal of Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest D.C., in an interview with local ABC affiliate WJLA after coming out in a speech given during Wilson’s LGBTQ Pride Day celebration.

Good for Principal Cahall. We have learned that he will march with D.C. Councilmember and mayoral candidate David Catania, who chairs the Council's Education Committee, in the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, June 7.

(Photo courtesy Woodrow Wilson High School)

Richard Grenell Behind PR Campaign For Soldiers Critical Of Bowe Bergdahl

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Media Matters reports:

Fox News contributor Richard Grenell and his public relations firm have been coordinating interviews for soldiers criticizing the actions of recently-released Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

Those critics have said that Bergdahl, who had been imprisoned by the Taliban since 2009, risked the lives of soldiers who tried to find him after he reportedly walked off his Afghanistan base.

Several media outlets have reported on these soldiers and their concerns, including Fox News, The New York Times, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Mail, and The Daily Beast. According to a report in Buzzfeed, Fox News contributor Richard Grenell and his firm Capitol Media have "played a key role in publicizing" these critics.

Grenell served as a spokesman for former U.N. ambassador (and current Fox News contributor) John Bolton in the George W. Bush administration, and also worked for a short time on the Romney 2012 campaign.

Ah, Richard Grenell. Here is my piece on him from 2012.

June 02, 2014

Anti-trans referendum in MD fails to get enough signatures

Allvoices writes:

Just over a day after transgender Americans won a major victory at the national level, Marylanders fighting for equality won another battle for transgender rights when opponents of a bill signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley failed to obtain enough signatures to force a referendum on the law by midnight Saturday.

Equality Maryland, the state’s largest organization lobbying for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, announced the outcome on their Facebook page just after the clock struck midnight Sunday morning.

Congrats to Maryland.

A strangely monochromatic photo op at Stonewall Inn

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(Photo courtesy of the Gill Foundation's Facebook page)

Our left coast friend Mike Petrelis writes:

Take a look at this photo snapped on Friday in front of the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Manhattan, as the National Park Service announced a project to identify and designate additional sites of relevance to LGBT and American history, and see what's wrong with it....

At the lectern bearing the seal of the Secretary of the Interior is millionaire and gay political strategist Tim Gill, who has donated $250,000 to the Department of Interior's project, on the left is Democratic gay New York City Councilmember Corey Johnson and a member of the National Park Service wearing a green uniform. Also speaking at the event was Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Notice how there are no drag queens, no people of color and no veterans of the Stonewall Riot. Representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are two white men, hardly displaying the diversity of our community and especially those who stood up to the Mafia bosses and New York Police Department in the sweltering month June 1969.

Gill, it should be noted, is a philanthropist who through his foundation has donated an estimated $240 million to the cause of LGBT equality. He is to be commended for his generosity and vision. But Mike raises a very good question. The announcement at Stonewall should have been more representative.

Give this man anything he asks

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(Image courtesy of GPN/Nebraska ETV Network and WNED Buffalo)

Congrats to LeVar Burton on his huge crowdsourcing success with his Reading Rainbow reboot. He exceeded his $1 million goal within 24 hours, and has now set a new goal of $5 million to expand the program into more classrooms. A great many of us fell in love with him (and those eyes) 37 years ago with his legendarily soulful and shattering performance as Kunta Kinte. How the hell can we be that much older? Anyway, the cause of literacy just got a much-needed boost. Good on him and all the people who joined the cause. You can kick in here.

Protest as anti-gay Uganda minister heads for human rights top job

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(UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe/SG's Office)

The Guardian reports:

The United Nations is facing a chorus of criticism over the inauguration as president of its general assembly of Uganda's foreign minister, just four months after that country enforced a brutal and widely denounced anti-gay law.

Sam Kutesa will become ceremonial head of the world parliament on 11 June. There will be no ballots cast and he will be "elected by acclamation", as he is the only candidate for the 12-month post, having been chosen by t he African Union for the job that falls this year to Africa on a Buggins' turn basis.

But as the appointment nears, questions are being asked about his track record of alleged corruption, as well as his role as cabinet member of a government that has enacted one of the most virulent homophobic laws on the globe. Voices of disapproval have spread from Uganda to the general assembly's home in New York and to the US senate.

Sign the Change.org petition against Sam Kutesa.

May 29, 2014

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.

May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou, 1928 - 2014

A great spirit has left us. And yet, of course, she hasn't. Keep rising, Maya Angelou.

Our friend Ernest Hopkins writes on Facebook:

Hard, very sad day. It is impossible to measure of the depth and import of her contributions to our culture. Her impact is broad and rolling like the sea. The Gods are smiling with her return. Rest in Peace Sister Angelou. Job well done.

May 24, 2014

Anti-gay Illinois priest charged with public indecency

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Chicago Tribune reports an unsurprising bit of news.

The culprit, Monsignor Aaron R. Brodeski, has shared his anti-gay views here.

Gates: 'I would have supported having gay Scoutmasters, but…'

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(Associated Press photo)

AP reports that new BSA president Robert Gates, while he would have done differently, has no intention of revisiting the Scouts' ban on adult gay Scout leaders any time soon:

"I was prepared to go further than the decision that was made," Gates told The Associated Press in an interview in advance of a speech before the group's national leaders at its annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. "I would have supported having gay Scoutmasters, but at the same time, I fully accept the decision that was democratically arrived at by 1,500 volunteers from across the entire country." ...

"Given the strong feelings — the passion — involved on both sides of this matter, I believe strongly that to re-open the membership issue or try to take last year's decision to the next step would irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement — with the high likelihood neither side would subsequently survive on its own," Gates said in prepared remarks.

So thanks for nothing.

D.C. adoption law draws lesbians from other states to give birth here

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(Photo by Melina Mara / The Washington Post)

WaPo reports.

Bob Summersgill comments:

This wasn't by accident. Thank Phil Mendelson for getting all the pieces in place. Tommy Wells is working on the surrogacy piece.

Yep. This legal option for lesbian couples is the result of efforts by legislators and activists. As Bob indicates, the legalization and regulation of surrogacy agreements is a big remaining piece of the puzzle that we hope to put in place this year.

May 23, 2014

Too happy in Tehran

MTV reports:

Six young Iranians have been arrested after they uploaded a video of themselves dancing throughout Tehran to Pharrell’s “Happy.”

“Happy in Tehran” was uploaded to YouTube last month and garnered more than 165,000 views before being made private. It shows three men and three women — all unveiled — looking, well, happy as they dance and lip-synch to Pharrell’s hit.

But authorities in Tehran are calling the video “vulgar,” and all six were arrested and forced to formally apologize on state television. (Under Islamic law, women are required to cover themselves from head to toe in public, a rule monitored by “morality police.”)

Do not take your freedom for granted.

South Dakota Couples Challenge Gay Marriage Ban

AP reports:

Six couples filed a federal lawsuit Thursday seeking to block South Dakota's gay marriage ban, leaving North Dakota as the only state in the country with an unchallenged law prohibiting same-sex weddings.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls, challenges a 1996 law passed by the Legislature and a voter-approved 2006 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which means such cases are now pending in 30 states with gay marriage bans. The lawsuit also challenges a U.S. provision allowing states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

The day gets closer and closer when marriage equality will extend from sea to shining sea.

May 21, 2014

Pocatello Voters Keep LGBT Protections

Boise State Public Radio reports that voters in Pocatello, Idaho yesterday voted to uphold their city's LGBT non-discrimination ordinance (which I learned this morning thanks to Marty Rouse of HRC, who is there). In honor of this fine news, I give you Judy Garland, singing the only song I know that mentions the place.

May 20, 2014

Judge Overturns Pennsylvania Gay Marriage Ban

NYT reports:

Continuing a rush of rulings that have struck down marriage limits across the country, a federal judge in Pennsylvania on Tuesday declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional....

Pennsylvania is the last of the Northeast states with a ban on same-sex marriage, and if Tuesday’s ruling is not successfully challenged, it will become the 19th state to permit gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Judge Jones did not issue a stay.... Even as Gov. Tom Corbett said he was studying the decision and considering whether to appeal it, state officials began issuing marriage licenses on Tuesday afternoon to overjoyed gay couples.

Hooray.