President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

Texas: A not-so-great state

As Perry eyes the presidency and Dewhurst makes a bid for the Senate, let’s look at the story the numbers really tell

Phyllis Guest | Taking NoteGuest.Phyllis.2

It seems that while David Dewhurst is running for the U.S. Senate, Rick Perry — otherwise known as Gov. Goodhair — is planning to run for president. I wonder what numbers they will use to show how well they have run Texas.

Could they cite $16 million? That’s the sum Perry distributed from our state’s Emerging Technology Fund to his campaign contributors.

Or maybe it is $4.1 billion. That’s the best estimate of the fees and taxes our state collects for dedicated purposes — but diverts to other uses.

Then again, it could be $28 billion. That’s the last published number for the state’s budget deficit, although Perry denied any deficit during his last campaign.

But let’s not get bogged down with dollar amounts. Let’s consider some of the state’s other numbers.

There’s the fact that Texas ranks worst in at least three key measures:

We are the most illiterate, with more than 10 percent of our state’s population unable to read a word. LIFT — Literacy Instruction for Texas — recently reported that half of Dallas residents cannot read a newspaper.

We also have the lowest percentage of persons covered by health insurance and the highest number of teenage repeat pregnancies.

Not to mention that 12,000 children have spent at least three years in the state welfare system, waiting for a foster parent. That’s the number reported in the Texas-loving Dallas Morning News.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has agreed to put several amendments to the Texas Constitution before the voters. HJR 63, HJR 109 plus SJR 4, SJR 16, and SJR 50 all appear to either authorize the shifting of discretionary funds or the issuance of bonds to cover expenses.

Duh. As if we did not know that bonds represent debt, and that we will be paying interest on those bonds long after Dewhurst and Perry leave office.

Further, this spring, the Lege decided that all voters — except, I believe, the elderly — must show proof of citizenship to obtain a state ID or to get or renew a driver’s license. As they did not provide any funds for the issuance of those ID cards or for updating computer systems to accommodate the new requirement, it seems those IDs will be far from free.

Also far from free is Perry’s travel. The Lege decided that the governor does not have to report what he and his entourage spend on travel, which is convenient for him because we taxpayers foot the bill for his security — even when he is making obviously political trips. Or taking along his wife and his golf clubs.

And surely neither Rick Perry nor David Dewhurst will mention the fact that a big portion of our state’s money comes from the federal government. One report I saw stated that our state received $17 billion in stimulus money, although the gov and his lieutenant berated the Democratic president for providing the stimulus.

And the gov turned down $6 billion in education funds, then accepted the funds but did not use them to educate Texans.

The whole thing — Dewhurst’s campaign and Perry’s possible campaign, the 2012-2013 budget, the recent biannual session of the Texas Legislature — seems like something Mark Twain might have written at his tongue-in-cheek best.

We have huge problems in public school education, higher education, health care, air pollution and water resources, to mention just a few of our more notable failures.

Yet our elected officials are defunding public education and thus punishing children, parents, and teachers. They are limiting women’s health care so drastically that our own Parkland Hospital will be unable to provide appropriate care to 30,000 women.

They are seeking a Medicaid “pilot program” that will pave the way for privatized medical services, which will erode health care for all but the wealthiest among us. They are fighting tooth and nail to keep the EPA from dealing with our polluted environment. They are doing absolutely nothing to ensure that Texas continues to have plenty of safe drinking water.

They are most certainly not creating good jobs.

So David Dewhurst and his wife Tricia prayed together and apparently learned that he should run for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat. Now Rick Perry is planning a huge prayer rally Saturday, Aug. 6, at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

God help us.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Another anti-gay measure filed in TX Legislature

Rep. Paul Workman

Fortunately, it’s just a meaningless, piece-of-crap concurrent resolution that isn’t worth the piece of paper it’s written on.

Rep. Paul Workman, R-Travis County, today filed HCR 110, which would urge President Barack Obama to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. The text of the resolution is not yet available on the Legislature’s website, but it sounds pretty self-explanatory. Obama’s administration, of course, has announced that it will no longer defend a section of DOMA in federal court because it’s unconstitutional. And while Workman’s resolution may be likely to pass, the Obama administration certainly isn’t going to pay it any attention. As such, it’s clearly just an attempt to score political points on the part of Workman and others who support it. Let’s just hope it’s not a sign of things to come as this year’s session proceeds. Last week, State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, filed a bill that would create a loophole for the Attorney General to block same-sex divorces. Although the main bill-filing deadline has passed, there’s always the danger of amendments.

If you’d like to tell Workman what you think of his resolution, you can e-mail him by going here, and the phone number for his Capitol office is 512-463-0652.

UPDATE: Here’s the full text:

CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
WHEREAS, President Barack Obama took an oath to “preserve,
protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” but on
February 23, 2011, he instructed the U.S. Department of Justice to
stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage
Act; and
WHEREAS, The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was passed in
1996 with overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress and
signed into law by then president Bill Clinton; DOMA consists of two
core provisions: it defines the words “marriage,” “spouse,”
“husband,” and “wife” wherever they appear in the U.S. Code as
referring only to the union of a man and a woman, and it defends the
right of each state to reject the redefinition of marriage that has
occurred in a handful of other states as a result of state court
decisions or legislation; and
WHEREAS, Nearly 40 states have enacted laws defending the
institution of marriage, and 31 have embraced traditional marriage
in their constitutions; the Texas Defense of Marriage Act was
signed by the governor in 2003, and the statute was solidified with
a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a
man and a woman, which was approved by voters in November 2005; and
WHEREAS, The constitutional role of the president of the
United States is to execute the laws, not adjudicate them; it is
well-established policy of the U.S. Department of Justice to defend
a federal statute unless no reasonable argument can be made in its
defense, but instead President Obama has unilaterally decided that
DOMA is unconstitutional; the constitutionality of this law should
be determined by the courts, not by the executive branch; now,
therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the 82nd Legislature of the State of Texas
hereby respectfully urge the president of the United States to
order the U.S. Department of Justice to defend the
constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act; and, be it
further
RESOLVED, That the Texas secretary of state forward an
official copy of this resolution to the president of the United
States.

—  John Wright

More good news: Maryland Senate approves marriage equality bill in preliminary vote

The Washington Blade reports:

The Maryland Senate voted 25-22 in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples today. It was a preliminary vote that followed debate over amendments. Final passage of the bill in the chamber could come Thursday.

—  John Wright

Texas senators go quiet on DADT repeal

Dallas Log Cabin Republicans President Rob Schlein, left, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

Dave Guy-Gainer, a local board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, reported Monday night:

“Well I tried again to meet with Senator Hutchison or her staff. The Dallas number rang busy all day Friday. So, I tried their fax and it went thru. I proposed an establish communications’ meeting with myself and four other, major Dallas leaders. It’s Monday nite and I didn’t hear squat back. Guess she isn’t interested in representing us at all.”

Dallas Voice also contacted the offices of both Hutchison and Sen. John Cornyn on Monday to find out where they stand on the standalone measure to repeal DADT. But as of this morning, we had received no response — not even from Cornyn spokesman Kevin McLaughlin, who normally at least acknowledges our existence. After all, dealing with the media is part of McLaughlin’s taxpayer-funded job.

We also never heard back from McLaughlin about why Cornyn missed last week’s failed cloture vote on the Defense Authorization Act, to which DADT repeal was attached. (Hutchison voted against closure, joining the Republican filibuster that blocked the bill.)

This morning we contacted Rob Schlein, president of the Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, to find out whether he’d had any contact with the two senators’ offices about DADT repeal.

Schlein said he has not but is pretty sure they will vote against it.

“I am going to say that I wouldn’t suspect that they would support it, just because that’s been their history,” Schlein said. “I really don’t know, but it won’t surprise me if they both vote against it. You’ve got to remember that part of the senators’ job is to vote their constituency. I know the polls show the majority of the nation supports repeal, but I’m sure that in Texas, the numbers are a little bit different.”

Schlein added that their votes aren’t really that important, because there’s enough Republican support to pass DADT repeal in the Senate. He again blamed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, for failing to pass DADT repeal sooner.

“The more interesting question is, will Reid put the bill on the floor without sabotaging it?” Schlein said. “If the process is right, if Reid doesn’t play any more games and he doesn’t attach any unrelated amendments like the DREAM Act, I think it will pass.”

If you’d like to try to contact the senators yourself, Hutchison is at 202-224-5922 and Cornyn is at 202-224-2934.

—  John Wright

Researcher coming to Dallas to interview gay couples about effects of marriage amendment

America's Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage by Daniel PinelloProfessor Dan Pinello of John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York is studying the effects of anti-gay laws on same-sex couples in Super-DOMA states. Those are states such as Texas that have ratified amendments to state constitutions banning recognition of all forms of relationship rights.

Pinello is the author of America’s Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage (2006) and Gay Rights and American Law (2003).

He has already conducted more than 100 interviews in Georgia, Michigan and Ohio to determine the grassroots impact of these laws.

He will be in Dallas interviewing lesbian and gay couples in the DFW area for his new book. He’s investigating the grassroots effects of the 2005 Texas Marriage Amendment and wants to meet with a wide variety of same-sex pairs in committed relationships.

Pinello will be in North Texas Jan. 8-16. Interviews will take no more than 60 minutes. For further information, please contact him at dpinello@jjay.cuny.edu.

—  David Taffet

Statement from Sen. Collins on DADT repeal

Sen. Susan Collins

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, released the below statement Wednesday night on the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed a vote earlier in the day on the Defense spending bill containing DADT repeal after Collins said she wasn’t ready to move forward. Collins represents the key Republican vote needed to overcome a filibuster of the Defense bill.

“Senator Joe Lieberman and I continue to negotiate in good faith with the Majority Leader to try and come up with a fair process under which the important Defense Authorization bill could be considered in the limited time remaining in this session. Without a fair process, the motion to proceed to the bill would likely fail in the U.S. Senate.

“Senator Lieberman and I requested a meeting with Senator Harry Reid last week during which we outlined a specific plan for allowing debate and amendments similar to how the Senate has considered the authorization bill in the past.

“It wasn’t until 1:35 pm today that I received a legitimate offer from Senator Reid, which I consider a good starting point. We made a counter offer which would provide sufficient time for debate, and includes protections to help ensure that Republicans would be able to offer a limited but fair number of amendments that are relevant to this legislation.

“I am encouraged that the Majority Leader decided to postpone the vote he had scheduled for tonight. I urged him to do this so that we could consider the tax legislation first, which I believe could be on the floor as early as tomorrow and completed quickly. At that point, I believe we could move immediately to the Defense Authorization bill under a fair agreement, and I would vote to do so. I would hope he carefully considers our proposal. I believe we have outlined a very clear path forward for the Majority Leader to take that would allow this very important debate to occur.”

—  John Wright

Reid: Senate will take up DADT repeal next week

John Wright  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday, Sept. 13, that he plans to bring to the floor next week the 2011 defense spending bill that includes an amendment to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell.” But it remains unclear whether there are enough votes to break a possible Republican filibuster of the bill or stave off unfriendly amendments.

Reid’s plan, first reported by The Washington Blade, represents a major breakthrough for repeal advocates, who fear that if the Senate doesn’t take up DADT repeal next week, it may not happen for several years.

Anti-repeal Republicans are widely expected to pick up seats in mid-term elections, and some senators have indicated they would consider only a temporary defense spending bill during the lame-duck session at the end of this year.

“We are both pleased and relieved that Sen. Reid has decided to schedule the defense authorization bill for floor time next week,” said Alexander Nicholson, founder and executive director of Servicemembers United. “We are fairly confident that we will have the 60 votes to break a filibuster of this bill. It would be shameful for lawmakers to vote to hold up an important and expansive piece of legislation like the defense authorization bill simply because of their opposition to one or two provisions within it.”

Servicemembers United and other groups advocating for DADT repeal had launched a major push in recent weeks, pleading with people to call their senators and urge them to take up the bill. Monday’s announcement comes on the heels of a federal judge’s landmark decision last week declaring the military’s ban on open service unconstitutional, as well as some high-profile DADT repeal advocacy from the likes of Lady Gaga.

“We applaud the Senate Majority Leader’s courage and his statement to bring the defense bill to the floor. Now, we must deliver,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Repeal proponents may well need 60 votes in the Senate to get to this important debate in September.  We are now in the final stretch and we must prevail. Repeal supporters should not stop calling their senators. Sen. John McCain has been a strong and vocal opponent from the start and it is critical that we beat back any filibuster threat, defeat attempts to strike repeal, and defeat any crippling amendments.”

The House passed the defense authorization bill, including Rep. Patrick Murphy’s DADT repeal amendment, in May. Even if the Senate passes the bill, the policy wouldn’t be repealed right away. After the Pentagon completes a study of the impacts of repeal, due Dec. 1, the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must certify that repeal won’t hurt military readiness.


—  John Wright