ACA rules change for 2015 recognizing same-sex married couples

Posted on 27 Jan 2015 at 4:09pm

healthcareUnder the Affordable Care Act, the rules have changed for same-sex couples buying health insurance on The Marketplace in 2015.

“For coverage starting in 2015, an insurance company that offers health coverage to opposite-sex spouses must do the same for same-sex spouses,” Healthcare.gov explains on a page for same-sex married couples.

The couple must be legally married in a state that issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The current count is 36 states+2 marriage equality cities: D.C. and St. Louis. Every state now at least borders on a marriage equality state.

So, if a couple is legally married, it doesn’t matter where they live, where the insurance company is located or whether the policy is new or reissued. A same-sex couple is now entitled to buy the same policy offered to opposite-sex couples

When applying, select “married” if you and your spouse plan to file a joint federal tax return for 2014, select “yes.” (By the way, if you are married, you must either file jointly or as married, filing separately.

If you are not married, but in a same-sex relationship, this rule does not apply. However, if either partner has an employer that offers partner benefits, the uninsured partner may be able to buy insurance through the employer. It may be cheaper, however, to purchase a plan as a single on The Marketplace.

The deadline to enroll this year is Feb. 15.

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BREAKING: Judge declines to toss Perry indictment case

Posted on 27 Jan 2015 at 3:52pm
Rick-Perry

Former Gov. Rick Perry

A state judge declined today (Tuesday, Jan. 27) to toss an indictment against former Gov. Rick Perry for abuse of power, the San Antonio New-Express reports.

Perry was indicted last summer after he threatened to veto funding for the public corruption unit in the Travis County District Attorney’s office. He stated the Democratic incumbent Rosemary Lehmberg had lost the public’s trust after being arrested for drunk driving. After Lehmberg refused to resign, Perry cut the funding.

Lehmberg, a Democrat, decided to not seek re-election.

A complaint filed by Texans for Public Justice alleged Perry abused his official capacity and accused him of “coercion of a public servant.”

Perry, who is mulling a second presidential run, has reportedly paid his legal team  $1 million out of his campaign war chest.

 

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Alabama judge issues second ruling upholding equality

Posted on 27 Jan 2015 at 1:26pm
U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade issued a second ruling today (Tuesday, Jan. 27) upholding marriage equality in Alabama, according to Freedom To Marry, the national organization working for marriage equality nation wide.

Granade, appointed by President George W. Bush, issued a similar ruling on Friday, Jan. 23, in a different marriage equality case. Both rulings have been stayed for 14 days pending appeals. But if the stays are not extended, same-sex couples should be able to legally marry in Alabama beginning the week of Feb. 9, making it the 37th marriage equality state.

(And unless the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of marriage equality very quickly and chooses not to issue a stay, that would mean Alabama will be a functioning marriage equality state before Texas. Alabama, y’all!)

Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson said of the newest ruling: “Today’s victory in Alabama is the latest in a number of marriage wins from a bipartisan cascade of courts across the country, including the Deep South. When the first couples marry, their neighbors across Alabama will see that families are helped and no one is hurt. As we look forward to a nationwide ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer, this tremendous momentum shows that America — all of America — is truly ready for the freedom to marry.”

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BREAKING: Mormon Church to back LGB nondiscrimination bill

Posted on 27 Jan 2015 at 11:53am

Equality_Utah_logoThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced this morning (Tuesday, Jan. 27) at a press conference its support of a bill in the Utah legislature barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The LDS Church also announced it backs a bill that affirms an individual’s right to refuse a same-sex marriage if that individually objects on religious grounds.

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, the move is major milestone for Utah’s LGBT community. The nondiscrimination measure is likely to pass with the Church’s backing.

“We call on local, state and the federal government,” said Elder Dallin Oaks in a news release, “to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals, families, churches and other faith groups while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants and transportation — protections which are not available in many parts of the country.”

The LDS Church previously backed a similar ordinance barring discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity in Salt Lake City in 2009. The measure ultimately passed.

Still the Church’s support of the religious liberty bill reaffirmed its belief that same-sex sexual relations are contrary to their religious beliefs.

Oaks reiterated the Church’s position. He lamented “the steady erosion of treasured [religious] freedoms that are guaranteed in the United States Constitution.”

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Same-sex couple buys JebBushforPresident.com

Posted on 27 Jan 2015 at 10:33am

As I wrote yesterday, the 2016 GOP presidential primary is in full swing.

Candidates are rallying the base, forming political action committees and laying their ground game.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has done all of that. But somehow Bush forgot to purchase JebBushforpresident.com.

One’s man mistake is another man’s opportunity. Or, in this case, a gay couple’s opportunity. According to to Business Insider, CJ Phillips and Charlie Rainwater work in the tech industry and live in Portland, Ore. The tech bears told B.I. they bought the domain in 2008.

Here’s the text (click on the image to see a larger version if you are having trouble reading it):

Bears Jeb Bush

I’ve sent an email to the couple. I’ll update this post later today if I hear from them.

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Dallas LGBT synagogue joins 70th anniversary ceremony of Auschwitz liberation

Posted on 27 Jan 2015 at 10:15am
Holocaust menorah

Holocaust menorah placed on permanent loan at the Dallas Holocaust Museum by the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.

Today, Jan. 27, marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the concentration camp in Poland where about 1 million people were killed during the Holocaust.

Rabbi Steve Fisch of Congregation Beth El Binah, a synagogue with outreach to the LGBT community, spoke at the Dallas Holocaust Museum on Sunday, Jan. 25 at a ceremony that included about 10 Holocaust survivors who live in the Dallas area.

“Once people are treated as less than, it’s easy to treat them as subhuman,” Fisch said.

Bishop Deshotel of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas also spoke, saying he was humbled to be in the presence of the survivors. He placed a Holocaust menorah that had been on display at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Ross Avenue in downtown Dallas for almost two decades on permanent loan at the Dallas Holocaust Museum.

A Holocaust menorah has six branches, one to remember each million of the six million Jews killed. A traditional Jewish menorah has seven branches and a Hanukah menorah has nine.

The Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance fights all forms of discrimination. In the past, it mounted an exhibit from the U.S. Holocaust Museum entitled “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933–1945.” On Thursday, March 26, the museum hosts Michael Sam as part of its ongoing Upstander speakers series.

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Join the discussion, join the battle to end discrimination

Posted on 26 Jan 2015 at 4:59pm

Marriage equality efforts are getting the lion’s share of the headlines these days: Texans wait on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on marriage equality in The Lone Star State (and Louisiana and Mississippi), and the nation waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the question once and for all.

But as the LGBT community makes great strides toward marriage equality, hundreds of thousands of LGBT people in the U.S. daily face the very real threat of discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and more.

Today (Monday, Jan. 26), LGBT equality groups nationwide began holding public awareness events, including launching an online discussion using #discriminationexists, to shine a light on the fact that so many hardworking people still do not have basic legal protections from discrimination.

(You can follow the discussion at DiscriminationExists.org.)

Screen shot 2015-01-26 at 4.55.51 PM

Here in North Texas, and across the state, community leaders took the chance today to speak out against discrimination, issuing a call to action to LGBTs and their supporters in all areas and in all walks of life to join the fight for real equality,

Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas: “The Texas I believe in is a land of opportunity and freedom, where people who work hard and meet their responsibilities have a chance to get ahead. Clear protections from discrimination would help ensure that all Texans, including those who are gay or transgender, have a fair opportunity to earn a living, meet their obligations, provide for themselves and their families and build a better life. Changing the law won’t end all unfair treatment overnight. But it provides one more tool to ensure that all Texans are treated fairly and equally.”

Cece Cox, chief executive officer at Resource Center: “Discrimination exists against LGBTQ people at many levels. We have no statewide protections in areas like employment and public accommodations, and even in those few cities where protections exist, some state lawmakers want to see those protections removed. Texans overwhelmingly support fairness and equal opportunity for all people.”

Lou Weaver, trans outreach specialist for Texas Wins: “We have been talking about same-sex marriage for a long time in the U.S. We need to also think about basic rights for everyone: ‘Can I get a job? Can I find a place to live?’ Transgender people are still facing discrimination at high rates, and we need to take an honest look at our policies. We need access to basic fairness and equality in order to survive. That is what this is about, living our lives and having access to the same opportunities as everyone else.”

The Rev. Steve Sprinkle, professor of practical theology at Brite Divinity School: “Faith leaders of every background believe that everyone is created with God-given dignity. Our faith calls upon us to speak out for everyone’s dignity and security in the work they do, and for full access to housing. No one in our country should live in fear of losing their job or being denied fair housing just because of who they are.”

Todd Whitley, board chair for Hope for Peace & Justice: “It is hard to imagine any person being able to enjoy a sense of peace on their job or entering a public accommodation if that person has no assurance they won’t legally be discriminated against because of who they are. Sadly, this is exactly the reality for gay and transgender people in our state, -a grave injustice that must be resolved so that we can all enjoy the same opportunities without fear of legalized discrimination.”

A recent poll found that 9 of out 10 voters think that a federal law is already in place protecting LGBT people from workplace discrimination. Unfortunate, that is not true. There is no federal nondiscrimination law, and here in Texas, there is no state law either. We remain vulnerable in so many areas.

But Equality Texas officials say their organization is working to change that, partnering with business leaders, faith leaders and community members to put the necessary protections in place.

Toward that end, Equality Texas is holding three advocacy days, beginning Feb. 17 with Faith Advocacy Day in Austin. More than 225 faith leaders and members of clergy and 65 first responders in Texas have signed on to publicly demonstrate their support for nondiscrimination already.

Visit EqualityTexas.org to find out what you can do to help.

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GOP presidential candidates run toward 2016

Posted on 26 Jan 2015 at 3:15pm
Perry.Rick_

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry

This past weekend, potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders spoke to the grassroots. They’re gearing up for what’s expected to be a blood bath, pitting establishment Republicans against those more aligned with the Tea Party.

Up in Des Moines, Iowa, 20 presidential contenders spoke at the inaugural Iowa Freedom Summit, hosted by the hard right Rep. Steve King and conservative advocacy group Citizens United. Among the speakers were broke straight boy and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. and failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, business mogul Donald Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The goal of the summit, according to its website, was to “bring grassroots activists from across Iowa to hear directly from conservative leaders on how we can get America back on track by focusing on our core principles of pro-growth economics, social conservatism, and a strong national defense.”

The perceived “establishment” — perennial candidate Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — were not in attendance. But another establishment contender, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, braved the event and bellowed to the crowd.

The Huffington Post reported that, fortunately for us, same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues were not high on the agenda. In fact, the only mention of same-sex marriage was when King, introducing Christie, mentioned his veto of a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in his state. But these potential candidates’ agendas speak far louder than their words. Cruz, for instance, needn’t worry about his conservative bonafides. He has announced plans to introduce an amendment allowing states to ban same-sex marriage anyway even if the Supreme Court makes marriage equality legal nationwide.

Fortunately Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another 2016 contender, filled the hate gap. Speaking at the “The Response: Louisiana,” a prayer rally sponsored by the staunchly anti-LGBT American Family Association on the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Jindal spoke for 15 minutes about God, himself, moral decay and the United States. He insisted it wasn’t a chance to score political points with social conservatives.

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Saks backs down from claim on trans people and Title VII

Posted on 26 Jan 2015 at 3:07pm
Leyth Jamal

Leyth Jamal

The National Center for Lesbian Rights reported today (Monday, Jan. 26), that Saks Fifth Avenue has withdrawn a motion to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee on the grounds that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect transgender workers. In addition, an NCLR spokesman noted, the U.S. Department of Justice has filed an historic statement in that same case declaring that Title VII does, indeed, protect trans people.

This is the first time the DOJ has stated without a doubt that Title VII prohibits any time of discrimination against transgender people, not just discrimination based on gender stereotypes.

Saks’ action and the statement from the DOJ are both connected to the lawsuit filed by Leyth Jamal, a trans woman, who claims that she faced extensive discrimination and was eventually fired from Saks in Houston because of her gender identity. NCLR and the Human Rights Campaign became involved in the case after Saks filed its brief saying trans worker are not covered under Title VII.

In a statement announcing that the company was withdrawing the motion to dismiss, Saks officials again denied having discriminated against Jamal:

“We have decided to withdraw our motion to dismiss because important concerns about transgender rights under the current law are overshadowing a clear case of employee misconduct. Our position is, and always has been, that it is unacceptable to discriminate against transgender individuals.  Saks does not, and will not, tolerate discrimination and legal strategy should not obscure that bedrock commitment.  We did not discriminate against this former Associate. And we want to see all individuals protected under the law.”

Saks said Jamal and another former associate were fired for using “inappropriate and offensive language on the selling floor” in front of a customer. The other person fired does not identify as LGBT, the Saks statement said.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for HRC, said, “We are pleased that the case can now be resolved on the merits of the claims and not a sweeping negation of basic Title VII protections.” And NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter credited Saks with “correcting its position and recognizing that it has a legal obligation to treat transgender workers equally.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012 ruled in Macy v Holder that discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity is sex discrimination and so constituents a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed complaints in federal courts in Florida and Michigan in 2014 against two separate companies accused of discriminating against trans employees (Aimee Stephens and Brandi Branson). And last December, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DOJ will no longer assert that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex “does not encompass gender identity per se (including transgender discrimination).”

 

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Judge rules Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional

Posted on 23 Jan 2015 at 7:43pm

EqualityA federal judge ruled Alabama’s sane-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional

According to the Huffington Post, “U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled that Alabama’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, known as the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, violates the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses.”

“If anything, Alabama’s prohibition of same-sex marriage detracts from its goal of promoting optimal environments for children,” Granade writes. “Those children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Alabama are just as worthy of protection and recognition by the State as are the children being raised by opposite-sex parents. Yet Alabama’s Sanctity laws harms the children of same-sex couples for the same reasons that the Supreme Court found that the Defense of Marriage Act harmed the children of same-sex couples.”

 

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