Public input sought on non-discrimination amendment effort

Fairness Works Houston, a new organization formed to pass a proposed non-discrimination charter amendment in Houston, will hold a public meeting this Saturday, Feb. 25, to seek public input. As previously reported by Houstini, the proposed charter amendment, which is still being drafted, will remove discriminatory language added to the city charter in 1985 and 2001 and make it a crime to deny employment, housing or public accommodation to a person because of their “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The meeting, scheduled for 1 pm at the GLBT Cultural Center (401 Branard) in rooms 112/113, looks to identify community resources that can be used both topass the amendment and to gather the 20,000 signatures that will be needed to place the amendment on the November ballot. Scheduled speakers include Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Jenifer Rene Poole who chairs the Caucus’ committee on the proposed amendment.

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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.

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Obama admin. asks Supreme Court to deny LCR’s motion to end the DADT stay

The Acting Solicitor General, Neal Kumar Katyal, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to deny the Log Cabin Republican’s motion to vacate the stay of the DADT injunction:

Government lawyers asked the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday to deny a request by the Log Cabin Republicans that the court lift a stay of the worldwide injunction a federal judge placed on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in September after she rule the law unconstitutional.

The motion includes with a Declaration from Clifford Stanley, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness who tells the Court:

I submit this declaration to make the following point: the Government intends to appeal the Court’s decision. During the pendency of that appeal, the military should not be required to suddenly and immediately restructure a major personnel policy that has been in place for years, particularly during a time when the Nation is involved in combat operations overseas. The magnitude of repealing the DADT law and policy is demonstrated by the Department’s ongoing efforts to study the implications of repealing DADT, which I outline in detail below.

According to Stanley, the injunction would adversely impact “military readiness”:

As demonstrated below, in the event DADT is no longer in effect, an injunction with immediate and worldwide effect will have adverse effects on both military readiness and the Department’s ability to effect a smooth and lasting transition to a policy that accommodates the presence of openly gay and lesbian servicemembers. The stakes here are so high, and the potential harm so great, that caution is in order.

There’s has been an abundance of caution. Too much caution. DADT should be long gone by now.

Could this be a bigger mess for the Obama administration? They’ve so lost control of this process – and I don’t really think there is a strategy to fix it. That’s why this Log Cabin lawsuit keeps causing more and more problems for the administration.

Log Cabin’s Executive Director and the group’s attorney have issued statements.

First, really interesting background from R. Clarke Cooper, the Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans:

“It is unfortunate the Obama Justice Department has forced the Log Cabin Republicans to go to the Supreme Court to halt this failed policy. At the same time, President Obama remains far from the front lines of the fight for legislative repeal while commanding his lawyers to zealously defend ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in court. This week Log Cabin Republicans have conducted meetings with numerous Republican senators potentially in favor of repeal, all of whom are waiting for the President’s call. The White House has been missing in action on Capitol Hill, undermining efforts to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the final session of this Congress, potentially leaving the judiciary as the only solution for our brave men and women in uniform.”

The White House was also missing in action in September, when the Defense bill hit the Senate floor.

And, here’s the statement from Dan Woods, the lead attorney from White & Case:

“We have reviewed the government’s opposition to Log Cabin’s application to vacate the stay of Judge Phillips’s injunction by the Ninth Circuit. In our view, the government’s lengthy, detailed, 29-page brief does not address the two key arguments we presented to the Supreme Court. First, we argued that the premise of the government’s position–that it needs time to conduct an orderly process of repealing DADT–is entirely speculative because Congress has not and very well may never repeal DADT; the government’s filing today does not address that issue. Second, we argued that the Ninth Circuit order did not take into account the harm to servicemembers and potential enlistees resulting from the stay; the government’s filing today does not respond to that point either. At this point, all we can do is to look forward to a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court.”

A favorable ruling from the Supreme Court would be a very good thing.

Solicitor General’s Opposition to LCR’s Supreme Ct. Motion to Vacate DADT Stay




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