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Gay rights and the US Senate

 

Wyoming Becomes the 32nd Marriage Equality State

Friday, October 17th, 2014

WyomingAnd another one – that’s three in one day as a judge in Wyoming strikes down the state’s marriage equality ban.

Think Progress reports:

Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl ruled that Wyoming’s statutory law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and unenforceable. This sets up Wyoming to be the 32nd state with marriage equality, but Skavdahl stayed his decision until next Thursday, allowing the state time to appeal. The decision largely defers to the Tenth Circuit’s precedent from the Utah and Oklahoma cases, but Skavdahl did offer a bit of his own commentary. Referring to Wyoming’s claims that an abrupt implementation of same-sex marriage would interrupt the work of state agencies, he wrote, “The fact is State Defendants failed to offer even a scintilla of evidence to support their assertion that a preliminary injunction would cause such administrative nightmares.”

The Governor has said he will not appeal the ruling.

Joe.My.God reports:

“This result is contrary to my personal beliefs and those of many others. As in all matters, I respect the role of the courts and the ruling of the Court. While this is not the result I and others would have hoped, I recognize people have different points of view and I hope all citizens agree, we are bound by the law.” – Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, in a statement announcing that he will not appeal today’s ruling. That notice will be delivered to the court “no later than Thursday, October 23, 2014, at 5:00 p.m.”

Thirty Two. A week and a half ago it was 19. Do I hear 33?

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Wyoming.

And Then There Were Four – GOP Senator Collins Supports Marriage Equality

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Maine Senator Susan CollinsWith the addition of Susan Collins, four US GOP Senators now support marriage equality.

Think Progress reports:

Susan Collins became the fourth Republican senator to support marriage equality on Wednesday, announcing her position in a questionnaire from Maine’s Bangor Daily News. “A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision,” Collins wrote. Voters in Maine outlawed same-sex marriage in 2009, but legalized it in 2012.

The other three are Rob Portman (OH), Mark Kirk (IL) and Lisa Murkowski (AK).

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Maine.

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch Says US Marriage Equality Inevitable

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Utah Senator Orrin HatchA conservative US Senate Republican thinks that US marriage equality is now all but inevitable.

The Huffington Post reports:

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch conceded Wednesday it’s only a matter of time before gay marriage is legal across the country, even though he doesn’t think that’s the right way to go. Hatch said people who can’t see what’s happening aren’t living in the real world. He made the remarks during an appearance on KSL-Radio’s Doug Wright Show. “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,” said Hatch, a seven-term Republican senator who has been a proponent of keeping marriage exclusively between a man and a woman.

Surprisingly, he also supported the two judges in Utah who issued pro-marriage equality rulings. Is the GOP slowly (ever so slowly) turning over a new leaf on the issue?

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Utah.

USA: GOP Lobbyist Proposes Bill to Ban Gay NFL Players

Monday, February 24th, 2014

GOPGOP lobbyist Jack Burkman (yes, that Jack Burkman) announced Monday that he is preparing a piece of legislation which, if enacted would ban openly gay players from joining the National Football League.

In a statement, Burkman said,

”We are losing our decency as a nation. Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?”

He also added, “if the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it.”

Burkman alleges that up to five Republican Representatives and one Senator are “interested” in co-sponsoring the proposed bill, according to his words. Even more ridiculously, he claims that the number of co-sponsoring Representatives and Senators once the bill is introduced could rise to as high as 36 and five, respectively.

If introduced, the bill stands no chance whatsoever of passing either chamber, and would almost assuredly be laughed out of the building by President Obama should it somehow manage to reach his desk.

P.S. Hey, guys! My name is Tyler and I am ecstatic to be joining the Gay Marriage Watch crew, having answered Scott’s “Help Wanted” post earlier. I look forward to hearing from you all!

USA: Senator Ted Cruz Introduces Anti Marriage Equality Bill

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Texas Senator Ted CruzSenator Ted Cruz of shut-down-the-government fame is introducing the companion bill to a House measure that would stop the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages in states that ban the practice.

The Washington Blade reports:

Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced legislation on Thursday in the U.S. Senate to prohibit the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states without marriage equality. The Texas Republican said he introduced the bill, called the State Defense Marriage Act, in response to the Obama administration’s recognition of same-sex marriage in federal programs — even for gay couples living in non-marriage equality states — following the Supreme Court decision against the Defense of Marriage Act. “I support traditional marriage,” Cruz said in a statement. “Under President Obama, the federal government has tried to re-define marriage, and to undermine the constitutional authority of each state to define marriage consistent with the values of its citizens. The Obama Administration should not be trying to force gay marriage on all 50 states.”

The country needs jobs and support for the newly growing economy. Cruz gives us the repeal of Obamacare and a return to repressive 90’s policies against gays. And this is the future of the GOP?

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USA: Group of GOP Senators Introduces Discriminatory Bill

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Washington DC LegislatureA group of GOP senators just introduced a bill that would legalize discrimination against same-sex couples by individuals or businesses.

Towleroad reports:

The proposed Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, authored by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah (pictured above with FRC’s Tony Perkins), would allow organizations to refuse service or products to gay people simply by citing their religious beliefs. Lee believes that while President Obama promised to respect religious liberty in his statement on the Supreme Court’s repeal of DOMA back in June, his administration may do otherwise. Washington Examiner reports: Lee thinks federal officials could work around that promise by trying to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that support traditional marriage. “We need not just statements, but we need legislation to protect religious liberty from this kind of potential threat,” he said during the interview.

It’s amazing to me how it’s more important to these folks to protect someone’s feelings than to protect some one else from actual harm. And as Towleroad notes about one of the sponsors:

You may recall Sen. Vitter espousing his ‘traditional values’ back in 2007, when it was revealed that he had been involved in a high-profile prostitution ring in Washington D.C.

Preaching to us after a stunt like that takes chutzpah.

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USA: A Few ENDA Updates

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

Washington DC LegislatureNow that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has passed the US Senate, we have a few follow-ups for you.

First off, Mormons helped pass ENDA in the Senate.

The New York Times reports:

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who at 79 is one of the Senate’s longest-serving members, became the first Republican to signal he would reverse his opposition as the bill faced a crucial vote in committee. He voted against a similar bill the last time it came up in the Senate — 17 years ago — but changed his mind earlier this year after Gordon H. Smith, a fellow Mormon and former Republican senator, convinced him there was nothing in it that violated church doctrine. “The church does want to be helpful where we can be, without violating our own conscience,” Mr. Smith, a former bishop, said in an interview. And as the bill approached a vital vote earlier this week, Senator Dean Heller, the Nevada Republican who has taught Sunday school at his Mormon church, provided the crucial 60th vote to break a filibuster. In the end, all but two of the Senate’s seven Mormons voted yes.

This newfound support for LGBT rights pointedly does NOT extend to marriage equality.

Openly gay House representative Jared Polis believes the bill would pass the House, if Boehner would bring it to a vote.

The Washington Blade reports:

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who’s gay and co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, predicted during an interview with the Washington Blade Friday that ENDA would pass the House and said the next step for the bill is to pressure Republican leaders to bring it to the floor. He added that a number of undeclared Republicans have privately told him they’d vote “yes.” “The next step is, of course, to continue to apply pressure to the speaker and the majority leader to bring it to the floor, where I’m confident it has enough support to pass,” Polis said. “The best way to do that is to demonstrate it has that support and continuing to add co-sponsors, particularly more Republican co-sponsors to ENDA so that we can have a stronger case to make that we need to bring it before the House to the floor for a vote.”

President Obama is thinking along similar lines.

On Top Magazine reports:

“Today’s victory is a tribute to all those who fought for this progress ever since a similar bill was introduced after the Stonewall riots more than three decades ago.”
“Now it’s up to the House of Representatives,” the president added. “This bill has the overwhelming support of the American people, including a majority of Republican voters, as well as many corporations, small businesses and faith communities. They recognize that our country will be more just and more prosperous when we harness the God-given talents of every individual.”

What do you guys think about the current version of ENDA? On the one hand, it is transgender inclusive, and would offer protections not available before to LGBT workers. OTOH, its religious exemptions are overly broad, and could lead to problems down the road. Where do you stand?

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USA: ENDA Passes the US Senate 64-32

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Congress - Capitol BuildingIt’s official – the Employment Non Discrimination Act now goes to the House.

SDGLN reports:

The U.S. Senate today voted, 64-32, with bi-partisan support, to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. The law would ban job discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The Senate Health Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the bill on July 10, 2013, with Republicans Orrin Hatch, Mark Kirk and Lisa Murkowski supporting the proposed law. This is the first time ENDA has been voted on in the Senate in 17 years and the first time a trans-inclusive ENDA has received a vote.

Any chance Boehner allows a vote?

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USA: The Employment Non Discrimination Act Cleared for Final Vote in senate

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

CongressThis just in from the US Senate.

The Advocate reports:

In a procedural vote intended to conclude debate, the Senate voted in favor of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit employers from firing, refusing to hire, or declining to promote a worker simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. A bipartisan coalition of 64 senators voted to move ENDA forward, clearing the way for an affirmative final vote, expected to occur around 1:45 p.m. Eastern today. 33 Republican Senators cast “no” votes against the bill.

An amendment to further broaden religious protections was also shot down:

As debate came to a close Thursday afternoon, senators voted down an amendment from Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey that would have expanded the number of groups and individuals who could discriminate against LGBT people based on religious beliefs failed by a vote of 43-55. Toomey, who voted to invoke cloture and begin debate on the bill earlier this week, said he believed his amendment made an effort to relieve tension between “two vitally important American values”: equality and religious liberty. In explaining how his amendment would affect the scope of the law, Toomey noted that some religious-run organizations take part in secular activities but should still be exempted from adhering to ENDA’s nondiscrimination orders.

Final vote due shortly.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Washington, DC.

USA: Final Vote on The Employment Non-Discrimination Act In the Senate Today

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

US CongressThe U.S. Senate is due to vote on ENDA today.

The Hill reports:

On Thursday, the Senate will vote on a GOP amendment to expand religious exemptions under the bill before voting to end debate on the measure. If Democrats get 60 votes to end debate, the Senate will then vote on final passage at 1:45 p.m. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), S. 815, would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Earlier this week seven Republicans joined Democrats in a vote to begin debate on the bill, making final passage all but certain.

Over at Towleroad, Ari Ezra Waldman looks at the danger of the overly broad religious exemptions in the bill:

Soon, there will be a federal lawsuit challenging a religiously-affiliated organization discriminating against an LGBT person or couple in the provision of services. At that point, a judge will go back and try to determine the balance between equality and religious freedom. He or she will write an opinion discussing this country’s long history of treating people equally. But the judge will eventually be confronted by the uncontroverted fact that LGBT equality laws have broader religious exemptions than equality laws focusing on other groups. To any judge that will mean that society (via Congress) has made a decision that religious freedom enjoys a privileged position relative to gay equality. And that will mean that religious freedom will likely beat out LGBT equality when the two rights come in conflict.

The judge will also look at what lawyers call “legislative history,” or evidence of Congress’s meaning and intentions when it passed a law. Democrats’ failure to oppose the broad religious exemption in ENDA will allow a judge to conclude that the only reason ENDA passed was because of the religious exemptions and that liberals seemed on board with the religious exemptions. They called it “unnecessary,” they didn’t oppose it. So, when a close call comes before a judge — and most cases that get to court are close calls rather than obviously answered by settled law — any court could interpret ENDA’s legislative history as endorsing religious liberty over LGBT equality.

So maybe Boehner is doing us a favor by blocking a vote on the bill in the House? Or should we give away whatever we have to in order to get something, anything passed?

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