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National LGBT Groups Drop ENDA Support

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

New Human Rights Campaign President Ready to Wade Into More Marriage Equality FightsIt started yesterday with an announcement from NGLTF.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Six of the nation’s leading LGBT rights advocacy groups on Tuesday announced they were withdrawing their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), fearing that broad religious exemptions included in the current bill could compel private companies to cite objections similar to those that prevailed in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week.

The withdrawal was first announced earlier Tuesday by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and by mid-afternoon the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and the Transgender Law Center issued a joint statement that they would no longer support the current version of ENDA because it provides “religiously affiliated organizations … a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people.”

The issue has been simmering for awhile, but the Hobby Lobby decision last week brought it to a boil.

Towleroad.com reports from the NGLTF press release:

“The morning after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, we all woke up in a changed and intensified landscape of broad religious exemptions being used as an excuse to discriminate. We are deeply concerned that ENDA’s broad exemption will be used as a similar license to discriminate across the country. We are concerned that these types of legal loopholes could negatively impact other issues affecting LGBT people and their families including marriage, access to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention and access to other reproductive health services. As one of the lead advocates on this bill for 20 years, we do not take this move lightly but we do take it unequivocally – we now oppose this version of ENDA because of its too-broad religious exemption. We cannot be complicit in writing such exemptions into federal law.”

The lone hold-out? HRC.

Pink News reports:

Despite the shift, the Human Rights Campaign – which tackled anti-gay discrimination – has maintained support for the bill. Human Rights Campaign Vice President Fred Sainz said yesterday: “HRC supports ENDA because it will provide essential workplace protections to millions of LGBT people.”

Is HRC hanging on because it has spent years and years failing to get this thing passed, and now fears seeing the whole thing go down in flames?

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Transgender Rights Update 7/2/14

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Transgender FlagWe had a number of transgender rights stories come across the wires today – enjoy!

USA: President Obama says he will sign an executive order to ban workplace discrimination against federal employees based on their gender identity. full story

USA: At the same time, Labor Department Secretary Ton Perez announced that non-discrimination protections will be extended to transgender employees.full story

USA, California: A new law that took effect yesterday will make it easier for transgender Californians to change their name and gender on state documents. full story

USA, Texas: A transgender woman in Austin was turned away from a lingerie store. full story

USA: Marriage Equality Trumps Religious Objections, Poll Finds

Friday, June 27th, 2014

titleA new poll finds that a majority of Americans think marriage equality should trump “religious freedom”, at least when it comes to health care and businesses.

The Gazette Extra reports:

A solid majority of Americans now supports equal treatment for same-sex couples despite religious objections, according to the State of the First Amendment survey released this week by the First Amendment Center. Sixty-one percent of respondents agree that the government should require religiously affiliated groups that receive government funding to provide health care benefits to same-sex partners of employees–even when the religious group opposes same-sex marriage. And 54 percent of the public agree that a business providing wedding services to the public should be required to serve same-sex couples, even if the business owner objects to gay marriage on religious grounds.

When it’s about commerce, LGBT rights (just like African American rights and women’s rights) should trump someone’s religious objections.

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An Historic Marriage Equality Anniversary

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Rainbow Supreme Court

Today is the one year anniversary of the Windsor and Prop 8 decisions from the US Supreme Court, as well as the 11 year anniversary of the Lawrence v. Texas case.

And they were all very close calls, a fact that’s easy to forget now, looking back.

Keen News Service reports:

Kennedy’s words in both Lawrence and Windsor have been repeated in numerous court decisions since. And the powerful influence of words and decisions has almost obscured the fact that they were narrow victories.

In Lawrence, Kennedy wrote for just five of the six justices who considered sodomy laws to be unconstitutional; while Justice Sandra Day O’Connor provided a sixth vote in concurrence with the judgment, she did not join Kennedy’s opinion to the extent that it overruled the 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick (which had upheld state sodomy laws). O’Connor said she would simply strike Texas’ law on equal protection grounds. (“Moral disapproval of this group, like a bare desire to harm the group, is an interest that is insufficient to satisfy rational basis review under the Equal Protection Clause.”)

In Windsor, Kennedy wrote for just five justices. One of those five, Elena Kagan, had been on the bench for only two and a half years and apparently had to recuse herself from a similar DOMA challenge that had reached the high court sooner because she likely discussed it while serving as Solicitor General. If the court had taken that first case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, the court likely would have rendered a tie vote and DOMA would still be in effect in most states.

Over at Time, Stuart Armstrong II looks at the impact the DOMA ruling had on LGBT finances:

The Supreme Court’s ruling last year on the Defense of Marriage Act has had a momentous impact on financial planning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender couples. But the momentous impact has little to do with the case at issue. The focus of the landmark case, United States v. Windsor, was an estate tax issue. Given that it takes millions of dollars in assets to trigger federal estate taxes, hardly any Americans are subject to them. Yet the decision allowing for federal recognition of same-sex marriages has a major influence on the day-to-day financial lives of LGBT couples — not just the high-net-worth ones — affecting everything from income taxes to Social Security benefits.

And James Esseks at The Advocate looks at Windsor’s other effects:

…with a year’s hindsight, it’s clear that Windsor signaled more than just the end of DOMA, it also propelled us on an accelerated journey toward the freedom to marry nationwide.

In just the last year, Windsor has helped create incredible momentum for the freedom to marry:

- We’ve won six new marriage states since June 2013, bringing us to 19 states plus Washington, D.C., where gay couples can marry.

- Now 44 percent of the country lives in a freedom-to-marry state, up from 18 percent just a year ago.

- Polls show a clear majority nationwide supports marriage for same-sex couples.

- We’ve won 21 court rulings for marriage since Windsor, including two just yesterday (one from a federal appeals court covering Utah and another from a federal trial court in Indiana), and we’ve lost an incredible record on a “culture war” issue in the courts.

- There are now over 80 marriage equality cases pending in state and federal courts across the country, including in every state that doesn’t allow same-sex couples to marry and in seven federal appeals courts.

So happy birthday, US vs. Windsor – and we hope we’ll have a lot more to celebrate when you turn two.

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Ninth Circuit Upholds Heightened Scrutiny Ruling for LGBT Rights

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Ninth Circuit, San Francisco - Apple MapsIt’s an obscure sounding thing – a ruling on a gay juror in San Francisco that applied “heightened scrutiny” to the case. But it has big implications for marriage equality.

Buzzfeed explains:

While most laws that create groups or classifications must merely show there is a rational basis, or a legitimate reason, for the law, laws subjected to heightened scrutiny must show more. Some, like those that classify based on race, must show a compelling state interest for the classification, while others, like those based on sex, must show a lesser but still important state interest in doing so. Although the Supreme Court has not explicitly ruled on the question of what level of scrutiny sexual orientation claims should receive, the initial 9th Circuit decision in the case… stated that the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act “established a level of scrutiny for classifications based on sexual orientation that is unquestionably higher than rational basis review.”

The Ninth Circuit yesterday denied a request to give the case another hearing before the full circuit court.

Joe.My.God reports:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today denied the request for an en banc review of the January three-judge ruling that applied heightened scrutiny to a case involving LGBT issues. One month after the earlier ruling, Nevada Attorney General Katherine Masto withdrew her defense of her state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying that the application of heightened scrutiny removed any chance of the ban’s survival.

We’ll see how this plays out in the Ninth Circuit cases over the next several months.

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Image via Apple Maps

USA: NCLR Launches Initiative To Abolish “Conversion” Therapy Nationwide By 2019

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Born Perfect NCLR

Advocates of “conversion” therapy often promote the practice as a means for gay children and adults to successfully rid themselves of “unwanted sexual desires.” This aforementioned “conversion” is supposedly accomplished through a wide variety of methods, which can include showing the subject images of gay sex scenes accompanied by sensations of extreme heat, extreme cold, or even extreme pain, and in some cases, may even include electroshock therapy. These methods among others utilized by “conversion” therapy practitioners and the detrimental psychological effect these methods have on the subject are contributing factors to the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychoanalytic Association, and the National Association of Social Workers (to name a few) all officially denouncing such efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation as likely to cause severe and long-lasting psychological harm to the subject.

As of this writing, the only U.S. states which have enacted legislation to ban “conversion” therapy for minors under the age of 18 are California and New Jersey. In the past year, there have been several efforts to enact similar bans on the practice in more than half a dozen other states plus the District of Columbia (which is scheduled to hold hearings on the subject starting Friday), however, most of these efforts have stalled.

Enter the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). On Tuesday, the group announced the start of a new campaign entitled #BornPerfect, which aims to ban “conversion” therapy throughout the entire United States of America within the next five years.

The Advocate reports:

The new campaign involves working with activists, organizers, lawmakers, and citizens to enact legislation in all 50 states outlawing the use of “reparative therapy” on minors by licensed therapists and counselors within the next five years. NCLR hopes to accomplish this by providing state legislators and LGBT leaders with comprehensive resources to build local campaigns against the discredited practice, then continuing to work closely with lawmakers and advocates as they draft legislation and testifying in support of such bills in state legislatures. The legal group is already in touch with a number of LGBT adults who were subjected to such treatment as children and can speak directly to the harm it caused them.

The campaign’s website hosted by the NCLR contains sections on the dangers of conversion therapy, survivor stories, proposed and active pieces of legislation, active legal cases, a resource center, and much more. Please do yourselves a favor and check it out. You won’t regret it!

US Mayors Support Marriage Equality

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

United States Conference of MayorsAt their annual meeting, the US Conference of Mayors voted to support marriage equality.

SDGLN reports:

The U.S. Conference of Mayors today overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, to expeditiously bring an end to marriage discrimination against gay couples nationwide. The vote took place at the group’s annual meeting in Dallas, Texas. Mayors from states that still ban marriage for same-sex couples, including Arizona, Texas, Ohio, Colorado, Missouri, and Georgia, were among those who led passage of the resolution. Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix – a co-chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry – was a leader in introducing the resolution.

One more step toward full national recognition of marriage equality.

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Why the US Supreme Court Must Act on Marriage Equality

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

US Supreme CourtFurther proof of the need for the Supreme Court to rule that state same-sex marriage bans are a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution came via a Friday announcement from the Social Security Administration.

“Social Security has published new instructions that allow the agency to process more claims in which entitlement or eligibility is affected by a same-sex relationship,” the federal retiree agency said. Unfortunately, “the Social Security Act requires the agency to follow state law in Social Security cases.”

When the Supreme Court invalidated the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), federal agencies set about making their policies reflect the new reality. That is, ensuring that legally married same-sex couples were being treated equally under the law.

Authored By Jonathan Capehart – See the Full Story at The Washington Post

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62% of Americans Think It’s Illegal to Fire Someone for Being Gay

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

Although you can still be fired in 29 states for being gay, a majority of Americans think the practice is already illegal.

LGBT Employment Poll

The Dish reports:

On what other subject is the public so grotesquely misinformed? And what does it say about the acumen of the Human Rights Campaign that its Number One legislative priority for the last 25 years (with 76 percent national support!) remains as out of sight as ever? Just keep sending them your checks, guys. In another quarter century, you might get something back for them.

It’s amazing that 76% support this, and we still can’t get it done. But then again, see immigration reform and gun control.

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Presbyterian Marriage Equality Passed in Lopsided Vote

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Presbyterian Church USA LogoThe US Presbyterian Church became the latest denomination to accept marriage equality this afternoon.

RNS reports:

By a 76-24 percent vote, the General Assembly of the 1.8 million-member PCUSA voted to allow pastors to perform gay marriages in states where they are legal. Delegates, meeting in Detroit this week, also approved new language about marriage in the church’s Book of Order, or constitution, altering references to “a man and woman” to “two persons.” This change will not become church law until a majority of the 172 regional presbyteries vote to ratify the new language. But given the lopsided 3-1 ratio of the vote, approval is expected. Gay rights activists within the church rejoiced at their victory, which was remarkable for its margin of victory after multiple years of razor-thin defeats.

I still remember vividly when all the churches were against us. Amazing.

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