Horrific news from Texas.
News coming out of the White House today shows that a technique supported by the National Institute of Health using genetic modification of cells has proven a safe way to treat and control HIV without drugs.
Our friend Ernest Hopkins comments:
One of several very exciting new studies demonstrating the importance of the investment in basic research and HIV specific research. The NIH is an amazing institution and the breakthroughs in scientific understanding coming from hard, deliberate work over a number of years is deeply gratifying.
Evoking Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, a group of Western-state Republicans plans to enter the battle in favor of same-sex marriage on Tuesday, urging a federal appeals court to declare gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma unconstitutional.
The most prominent of the approximately 20 signers of the brief are former Senator Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming, a longtime supporter of gay rights, and former Senator Nancy L. Kassebaum of Kansas, who said last year that she had reconsidered her former opposition to same-sex marriage. The document says that “marriage is strengthened” and “the social stability of the family unit are promoted” by allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
The document is a friend-of-the-court brief, being filed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver. That court is hearing appeals from Utah and Oklahoma to reinstate their restrictive marriage laws.
Thanks to Al Simpson and his colleagues.
(Hat tip: Charles Francis. Photo courtesy Made In Wyoming.)
The Walt Disney Company has decided to end its funding of Boy Scouts of America over the group's policy against allowing adult leaders.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Obama after speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin that she was not sure he was in touch with reality.
John Riley at Metro Weekly reports on GLAA's ratings and the Gertrude Stein Club's endorsements in the April 1 D.C. primary. (The Stein Club so far has only done its Council endorsements; its mayoral endorsements meeting will be held on March 6.)
John Riley at Metro Weekly reports a disturbing story that illustrates a continuing problem of DC police profiling of transgender people, especially trans women of color.
Peter Montgomery at Religion Dispatches, who is a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way, reports on the situation for LGBT people in several countries around the world.
Amid calls (including by Sen. Patrick Leahy) for a freeze in American aid to Uganda in the wake of President Museveni signing the Anti-Homosexuality Act, Ugandan gay activists are saying such a move would be counterproductive. Gay Star News reports:
Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, has said he does not support aid cuts.
‘We can’t afford to create new victims,’ he said on Twitter this week. ‘We should go after the crazy politicians! Not innocent Ugandans.’
America's presence and aid dollars in Uganda give us leverage that we would lose if we withdraw. It is a very frustrating situation, to say the least, but we should not react in such as way as to leave LGBT Ugandans worse off. And we should seriously consider the views of Ugandans who are enduring the persecution.
Nets center Jason Collins scored his first points as an openly gay player Thursday night in his team's 112-89 win over the Denver Nuggets. He also met with the parents and brother of Matthew Shepard, whose death in 1998 inspired Collins to wear the number 98 on his jersey. He gave one of his jerseys to the Shepards after the game. He is reportedly likely to be signed for the rest of the season.
The 12-year NBA veteran has proven his ability to play. That he is so poised and photogenic makes him very well suited to his role as a gay pioneer.
Adam Polaski at Freedom to Marry reports the latest advances for marriage equality:
The pace of progress is so swift these days, it's hard to keep up. And really, people: Kentucky? Texas? Big wow.
LGBT activists in D.C. won a major victory Thursday morning in the area of transgender health care. From Mayor Gray's office:
Today, the District of Columbia advanced the rights of the city’s transgender community by prohibiting discrimination in health insurance based on gender identity and expression. Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB) is issuing a bulletin to District health insurance companies addressing the application of anti-discrimination provisions in the insurance code, including recognizing gender dysphoria, or gender identity disorder, as a recognized medical condition....
This action follows DISB’s March 15, 2013 bulletin notifying health insurers to remove language that discriminated on the basis of gender identity and expression from their policies and permit those with gender dysphoria to obtain medically necessary benefits. Today’s action goes one step further in protecting this community’s health insurance rights by affirming that gender dysphoria is a recognized medical condition and thereby treatment, including gender reassignment surgeries, is a covered benefit....
Moreover, individuals with gender dysphoria are entitled to receive any medically necessary benefits and services under individual and group health insurance policies covering medical and hospital expenses. In determining the medical necessity of services and benefits provided to individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria, insurance providers must refer to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards of Care, known as WPATH, the recognized standard of medical care for transgender individuals requiring treatment for gender dysphoria. These benefits are not newly mandated, but rather clarify District law to assure that individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria are afforded the same benefits under health insurance policies as individuals seeking medically necessary treatment for non-gender identity or expression-related conditions.
With this executive action, a major unfinished piece of the LGBT equality agenda in D.C. is won. Thanks to all who helped make this possible, including our fellow advocates (especially the fabulous Andy Bowen) and Vince Gray for his leadership. There is no mayor or governor in America with a stronger record on behalf of transgender citizens. Today he earned his championship point all over again.
Right Wing Watch shares the latest lunacy from the president of Tea Party Nation, in reaction to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of SB1062.
Weighing in from another moon base, Tucker Carlson said on Fox News that requiring businesses to provide equal services to gay customers is fascism.
When you've gone too far for John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Mitt Romney, you might want to take a reality check. On the other hand, blogger Andrew Sullivan worries about a backlash:
As for the case for allowing fundamentalists to discriminate against anyone associated with what they regard as sin, I’m much more sympathetic. I favor maximal liberty in these cases. The idea that you should respond to a hurtful refusal to bake a wedding cake by suing the bakers is a real stretch to me.
Yes, they may simply be homophobic, rather than attached to a coherent religious worldview. But so what? There are plenty of non-homophobic bakers in Arizona. If we decide that our only response to discrimination is a lawsuit, we gays are ratcheting up a culture war we would do better to leave alone. We run the risk of becoming just as intolerant as the anti-gay bigots, if we seek to coerce people into tolerance.
Unless one is prepared to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this is absurd. Licensed businesses are not entitled to discriminate against their customers. That is a price we pay for living in a diverse society. In any case, Andrew shows no sign of having researched the number and geographic distribution of non-homophobic Arizona bakers. What if you live in a small town with only one bakery, and it puts a "No Homos" sign in its window?
As a general rule, I don't want hostile people preparing food for me. But that should be my choice. As a participant in the local economy, I want to be treated with respect. A gay version of Jim Crow is not acceptable. When we talk about LGBT equality, we do not add an asterisk that says "unless it makes someone uncomfortable." Whatever the legal standard is for everyone else, that is what should apply to us as well. Libertarians generally think that non-discrimination laws should only apply to the government; but that is not the status quo, and their view, while intellectually coherent, is not popular and is not about to be enacted. As for a backlash, we've been fighting one since before I started my activist career in the late 1970s. We are winning the culture war that was launched against us by people who thought everyone should be forced either to believe and talk and act the same as them or to disappear. Well we did not disappear.
As my colleague Bob Summersgill noted a few days ago, D.C. Councilmember Yvette Alexander tried in 2009 to add a religious exemption provision to D.C.'s marriage equality bill during its committee markup. The vote on that amendment was 4 to 1 against. The Archdiocese of Washington wanted a number of similar carve-outs added to let them violate the D.C. Human Rights Act, and then-Judiciary chairman Phil Mendelson (with our strong backing) refused.
Most Americans already think that using religion as a pretext for discrimination is wrong. They are right about that. In such a religiously diverse society, we cannot allow pharmacists or restauranteurs or automobile mechanics or hospitals or city clerks to refuse service based on their religious beliefs. If we are to avoid being at one another's throats, we simply must be more tolerant of our differences. The problem is that the ones most loudly demanding a religious exemption actually just want right-wing Christians like them to have that right. This is a ploy to preserve privilege in the guise of religious freedom. And as we see in Arizona, it is not working. As Intel and Apple and Delta Airlines pointed out, it's bad for business.
Chief Cathy Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department has released the long-awaited report on police handling of hate crimes. The effort was led by the D.C. chapter of the Anti-Defamation League. Thanks to GLOV, DCTC, and our other coalition partners for pressing for its release. More later, once I have a chance to read it. Right now I'm running to the Stein Club endorsement meeting on D.C. Council candidates.
(Hat tip: Tom Sherwood)
As a user of several Apple products, I say thank you, Tim Cook, for your company's stance.
U.S. Embassy Kampala shares:
Archbishop Tutu's plea to #Ugandan President #Museveni to reconsider the country's Anti-Homosexuality Bill has made news around the world. He says, “We must be entirely clear about this: The history of people is littered with attempts to legislate against love or marriage across class, caste and race. But there is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love. There is only the grace of God…. Our diversity requires of us to be tolerant and compassionate and respectful of each other. ” Read on here: http://goo.gl/Cka3VQ
Amen. Wherever you are, join me tonight in lighting a candle of hope for our brothers and sisters in Uganda, that they find safety and preserve courage and hope.
Judy's three children (Liza, Lorna, and Joey) are going to do a tribute at the Oscars next week to mark the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz. This could be painful. I may call up one of my Wiccan friends and ask them to cast a spell to keep it scripted and mercifully short.
The news from Uganda today could hardly be worse. President Museveni said during the signing at State House Entebbe:
Homosexuals are nurtured but not natured. No study has shown that one can be a homosexual purely by nature. Since nurture is the cause, that is why I have agreed to sign the Bill into law,” Museveni said during the public signing of the Bill into law.
It is interesting and darkly amusing, if also preposterous and hypocritical and damning, that Museveni relies on junk science while ignoring reputable scientists, and wraps his actions in anti-colonial rhetoric notwithstanding the fact that the bill he signed was pushed by American evangelicals and reinforces the colonial-era British Penal Code. What in heaven's name is African about that?
His action is really about seizing on a scapegoat to throw to the mob to distract them from his own misrule. It is a tragic day. Many lives will be destroyed for the sake of his opportunism, and not a soul will be helped. I have been getting desperate pleas by email from gay Ugandans. I respond by sending them links to various resources that may be of help. But those groups are undoubtedly being swamped.
If you are a praying person, pray for Uganda and its LGBT people. They are in grave danger.
The White House press secretary issued a statement today:
Instead of standing on the side of freedom, justice, and equal rights for its people, today, regrettably, Ugandan President Museveni took Uganda a step backward by signing into law legislation criminalizing homosexuality. As President Obama has said, this law is more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda, it reflects poorly on the country's commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and will undermine public health, including efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. We will continue to urge the Ugandan government to repeal this abhorrent law and to advocate for the protection of the universal human rights of LGBT persons in Uganda and around the world.
Congratulations to Jason Collins for becoming the first active openly gay player in NBA history by signing with the Brooklyn Nets. Look for him to suit up tonight for the game against the Los Angeles Lakers. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted:
We welcome @jasoncollins34 to Brooklyn and applaud his courage. RT if you're proud Brooklyn will be emblazoned across his jersey.— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) February 23, 2014
Brian S. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), issued this statement today:
After reviewing all legal options, the National Organization for Marriage has decided not to bring litigation seeking to allow voters to have the right to vote on the marriage amendment in 2014. While we believe a strong legal case can be made that the amendment could appear on the ballot this year, we think that the time and expense of such an effort would be better devoted to holding legislators accountable for their votes, and to preparing to elect a strong pro-amendment Legislature to pass the pending amendment in 2015. Accordingly, we will be working with our allies in the state to impact elections this year, beginning with the upcoming May primary races. We look forward to continuing to educate Hoosiers about the importance of the unique nature of marriage as society’s only institution that brings men and women together for the benefit of the couple and any children born of their union.
Wayne Besen writes at Truth Wins Out:
Sexual orientation is not a choice and the evidence is quite clear that it is caused by biological factors.This study helps further debunk myths and misconceptions spread by anti-gay activists who falsely portray homosexuality as unnatural.
David S. Cohen and Dahlia Lithwick at Slate discuss the import of the perfect record for marriage equality since the Windsor ruling last June at SCOTUS.
GLAA's candidate ratings for the April 1 primary were released on Thursday. Here are some news reports and reactions.
Washington Post: Mike DeBonis
City Paper: Gray, Wells Top LGBT Activist Rankings
Washingtonian: Gray, Wells, Evans Get High Marks From LGBT Activists
Red State: Right-wing blogger Erick Erickson embraces identity politics, slamming GLAA for rating Libertarian mayoral candidate Bruce Majors based on his positions on our issues rather than giving him high marks just for being gay.
Vincent Gray (Mayoral race)
Nate Bennett-Fleming (At-Large Council race)
Charles Allen (Ward 6 Council race)
Mark Lee's business column in the Blade this week discusses mayoral candidates' responses to GLAA's question on liquor license reform. Here's a portion:
The question, one of 12, is as follows: “Will you support strengthening Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) reforms by eliminating license protests filed by citizens associations and ad hoc groups, requiring stakeholders to participate in the community process provided by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission?”
Best Answer: Mayor Vincent Gray. He’s a “YES” and demonstrates his keen understanding of the need for reform while clearly enunciating why: “Frivolous licensing protests filed with the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) stand in the way of businesses operating free of special operating protocols. Protests by ad hoc groups…should not interfere with the issuance of ABC licenses to businesses.”
Great Answer: D.C. Council member Jack Evans. He’s a “YES” and provides a rationale: “I have heard from both residents and businesses that the ABC Board takes too long to make decisions. I think this needs to be a more decisive process…Dragging out some of these cases months and months really can be very unfair to everyone and unnecessarily divisive.”
Business Insider reports on NFL draft prospect Michael Sam coming out, which prompted some anonymous criticism from football staffers but also official praise from the NFL:
In all likelihood, Sam will become the first openly gay NFL player when he's drafted in April.
Sam came out to his Missouri teammates before the 2013 season. They supported him, and the team went 12-2 in the SEC. There were not locker room issues.
Metro Weekly reports.
Capitol Hill Seattle reports that a suspect has been arrested in the New Year's arson attack at the gay nightclub Neighbors in Seattle; one million dollars bail has been set; and the FBI is investigating hate crime charges.
Bangor Daily News reports:
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday guaranteed the right of a transgender child to use the school bathroom designated for the gender with which he or she identifies.
It is the first time any court in the nation has ruled it is unlawful to force a transgender child to use the school bathroom designated for the sex he or she was born with rather than the one with which the child identifies, according to the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders of Boston, which represented the girl and her family.
Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality writes:
This is a huge victory for students. The decision is thoughtful and dead on. Congratulations to the Maines family and GLAD.
Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality expresses the perplexity shared by many LGBT advocates as to why President Obama has refused to sign an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination against employees of federal contractors, as he promised during the 2008 campaign.
But as our friend Kurt Vorndran, legislative representative for the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), points out, such an order would not be enforceable in practical terms unless the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) gets sufficient staffing and budget to enforce compliance. OFCCP was created by President Johnson through executive order in 1965, and expanded under Nixon. It was decimated (not eliminated) by Reagan. In other words, Reagan kept the window dressing. Right now, according to the DOL website, OFCCP has 800 staff. That is for all their EEO and affirmative action programs related to federal contracts nationwide. Firms they go after love to drag proceedings out as long as possible and then demand dismissal because the action is not timely.
House Speaker John Boehner says we have enough regulations already, but that is a mere slogan to conceal the GOP's long and relentless efforts to cripple the government's ability to regulate everything from food and medicine safety to employment discrimination. Then they decry government ineffectiveness. That is a most cynical game. The Obama administration has worked tirelessly in federal agencies to repair and restore the government's regulatory apparatus. But there is a limit to what you can do without the resources being budgeted for it.
So we need more than an executive order. We need the staffing and budget to enforce it. The devil is in the details.
Update: Kurt Vorndran adds:
In the last year of the Clinton Administration, OFCCP had an FTE level of 786. The G.W. Bush Administration decimated the office to a level of 585. By FY2011, the Obama Administration was able to restore the office to the approximate level before Bush (755 FTEs). While the office is now back to the level of staffing from 13 years ago, it has a tremendous backlog. Director Shiu has tried to make the office more efficient, but given an increase in workload since 2001, she has a tough job.
Enforcing a sexual orientation E.O. is also going to take resources as most of OFCCP's effectiveness and work comes not from individual complaint examinations but by compliance reviews. They are going to have to develop some innovative ways to do lgbt compliance reviews.
Dale Carpenter at the Volokh Conspiracy discusses yesterday's decision by the Ninth Circuit standing by its decision of last year rejecting the First Amendment defense of conversion therapy on minors.
I note that Carpenter and Eugene Volokh are among the libertarian supporters of marriage equality who have submitted amicus briefs defending the Alliance Defending Freedom in its defense of anti-gay photographers, florists, and others in their claim of a religious right to discriminate. Their attempt to thread the needle is seriously off-track, in my view, as its logic would unravel the Civil Rights Act. But Dale does see a distinction between what he sees as religious freedom in the wedding-related businesses case and the medical care in this one.
This is of local interest in D.C. because we and our allies are attempting to pass Bill 20-501, the Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Amendment Act of 2013.
Two white doves that were released by children standing alongside Pope Francis as a peace gesture have been attacked by other birds.
As tens of thousands of people watched in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, a seagull and a large black crow swept down on the doves right after they were set free from an open window of the Apostolic Palace.
Oh, dear. This reminds me of Ben Franklin's proposal of the turkey as America's national bird. Our Founders went with the safer choice of a bald eagle. Granted, "peace eagle" would create some cognitive dissonance, but if you released one in a grand gesture with lots of witnesses, it's safe to say it would not be attacked by pigeons. Then you have the Swedish warship Vasa, which was so top-heavy that it keeled over and sank shortly after its launch in 1628, as dignitaries watched. Somewhere out there is bound to be a variable you didn't anticipate.
Goldie Hawn was mortified when she found out about the horrible behavior of the head of state with whom she posed for a TwitPic at Davos.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma pledged to treat a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage like any other bill this year. But critics say that vow fell away on Tuesday when he yanked the measure out of a committee where it seemed doomed to fail and sent it to one where it's all but certain to pass.
The highly unusual move means the proposed constitutional amendment is almost certain to get a vote on the House floor. It also reveals just how quickly positions are shifting on the issue — especially among Republicans.
A few weeks ago, no one would have anticipated that the measure would have had any trouble getting out of the House Judiciary Committee, where Bosma initially assigned it. But last week, three GOP committee members surprised many observers — including, apparently, Bosma — with reservations about the amendment.
That left Bosma with few options. He could let the measure die and risk angering conservatives who want an opportunity to vote on the issue. Or, he could use his powers as speaker to push the measure through at the risk of seeming desperate or heavy handed.
He chose the latter.
Freedom Indiana responds:
In a last-ditch effort to advance this deeply flawed, anti-freedom amendment, Speaker Bosma has broken his word and interfered with the traditional legislative process. Since it was unclear if there were enough votes to pass HJR-3 in the Judiciary Committee, Speaker Bosma has switched the amendment to a new committee, the House Elections and Apportionments Committee, which will hold a hearing [today] at 3:30pm.
“Thousands of opponents of HJR-3 have called, written and come in person to the Statehouse to explain to lawmakers how this divisive amendment will harm our families, friends and loved ones. We’ve explained the very real problems with this amendment through our personal stories. We’ve followed the legislative process with an earnest expectation that legislators truly seek to represent their constituents,” said Megan Robertson, Freedom Indiana Campaign Manager.
There's a smell of right-wing desperation in the air.
Rachel Maddow reports.
Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle reports:
A lawyer can't remove prospective jurors from a panel because they are gay or lesbian, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in a decision that could open the door to challenges of other types of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco extends to gays and lesbians the same rights in jury selection that the U.S. Supreme Court granted to African Americans in 1986 and to women in 1994. Just as importantly, the appeals court interpreted a recent Supreme Court ruling as requiring "heightened scrutiny" for any government discrimination based on sexual orientation - the same standard that covers gender bias.
The June 2013 ruling that granted same-sex married couples equal rights to federal benefits made it clear that the high court "refuses to tolerate the imposition of a second-class status on gays and lesbians," Judge Stephen Reinhardt said in the appeals court's 3-0 decision.
Influential Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, responding to a harsh anti-gay law passed in Nigeria, has revealed his homosexuality.
Wainaina's brave act in speaking out is an example of why the fight for LGBT equality in Africa will win. But it will be a long struggle. Bravo to him for stepping up.
Marty Rouse at HRC reported on Tuesday evening:
Moments ago HRC-endorsee Jennifer Wexton was declared the winner in a Virginia State Senate special election.
Wexton fills the seat of HRC-endorsee Mark Herring, who won his race for attorney general in November.
With Wexton's win, (and pending the results of a recount in another special election earlier this month), the Virginia Senate would be in fair-minded control. The Senate would be tied 20-20, with any tie votes being decided by HRC-endorsee Ralph Northam, a strong supporter of LGBT equality.
Congratulations to Jennifer Wexton. This victory will be celebrated by fair-minded Virginians across the state. Under Governor Terry McAuliffe's leadership, with strong support from Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, watch Virginia now begin to move forward on LGBT equality.
Thanks to all who got out and voted. It made a difference.
Matt Baume of AFER gives an update:
A huge victory in Oklahoma this week, with yet another marriage ban declared unconstitutional. Now comes the appeal, in the same federal circuit as the Utah case. We'll take a look at what to expect. Plus, more progress across the country, from Indiana to Texas to Idaho and Georgia.