UPDATE: Gates tells Boy Scouts to change policy

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Boy Scouts President Robert Gates

Robert Gates, president of the Irving-based Boy Scouts of America, has called on the organization to change its policy on gay scout leaders.

“I remind you of the recent debates we have seen in places like Indiana and Arkansas over discrimination based on sexual orientation, not to mention the impending U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer on gay marriage,” he said.

He said he wasn’t asking the board to make any changes at this meeting, but said he was speaking to them as bluntly as he did when he headed the CIA and Defense Department.

“We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained,” he said.

Gates said more councils will contest the gay ban and the BSA could revoke their memberships. As states implement nondiscrimination policies, he said, the Boy Scouts could simply be ordered to change its employment policies.

“We must all understand that this probably will happen sooner rather than later,” he said.

Gates said it was better to act sooner and create policies that would allow church-chartered troops to set standards consistent with their religious beliefs and allow others to follow their beliefs.

Resource Center CEO Cece Cox released the following statement:

“The Center supports President Gates’ call for the Boy Scouts of America to end the ban that has forced LGBT Scout leaders to lie about who they are. It is a common-sense reflection of where the nation is on LGBT issues and involvement in everyday life.

“We urge Scouting leadership to take formal action and repeal the ban. Qualified LGBT Scout leaders should be able to participate in and contribute to an iconic American institution where honesty and trustworthiness are bedrock principles, without a dated and arcane policy standing in the way.

“The announcement from President Gates is yet another step toward comprehensive change that the Center first called for in February 2013. We would like to see the Scouts ensure open participation in all its activities by adopting a comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination policy. The Center is hopeful that Scouting will make this positive change.”

—  David Taffet

Jindal’s end run around fairness and equality

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

Just hours after a so-called “religious freedom” bill died in the Louisiana Legislature on Tuesday, May 19, Gov. Bobby Jindal had issued an executive order allowing businesses to discriminate based on owners’/operators’ religious beliefs on marriage.

“We are disappointed by the committee’s action to return the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act to the calendar,” Jindal said in a statement Tuesday afternoon, according to a New Orleans Times-Picayune report. “We will be issuing an Executive Order shortly that will … prevent the state from discriminating against persons or entities with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

The Times-Picayune notes Jindal told reporters the order was issued Tuesday afternoon and went into effect immediately. The order will remain in effect until 60 days after the end of the next legislative session. The next governor, however, can repeal it upon entering office in January, if he or she chooses.

The New Orleans newspaper also quoted state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, who criticized the timing of the order, as well as Jindal’s decision to buck the will of the Legislature.

“It’s a sinful attempt to deflect from the failures of what should be the top legislative priority, what we’re dealing with every day, which is a bogus state budget,” she said from the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon.

The Washington Post today (Wednesday, May 20), noted that Jindal’s executive order nearly mirrors the content and intent of the failed “Marriage and Conscience Act,” which itself closely resembles Religious Freedom Restoration Acts like the one that was vetoed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson after an outcry from businesses, led by Wal-Mart, and the one recently enacted in Indiana, throwing that whole state into an uproar and hitting the Hoosier pocketbook hard and fast.

A similar measure died last week in the Texas Legislature.

The Post notes that one of the main reasons the Marriage and Conscience Act died in the Louisiana Legislature is because lawmakers feared it would impact the state’s economy, and would be especially harmful to tourism in a state that thrives on its visitors:

New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau Chief Executive Stephen Perry called the bill “a radioactive, poisonous message,” saying it could cost the state $65 million per year.

But Jindal, in New York Times op-ed last month, said money doesn’t matter: “As the fight for religious liberty moves to Louisiana, I have a clear message for any corporation that contemplates bullying our state: Save your breath,” he wrote.

Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk predicted that the executive order will substantially harm the tourism industry in the state. “Gov. Jindal’s stunt today once again underlines his disregard for Louisiana families, his disdain for the state legislature and his apparent contempt for the state’s tourism industry — the only segment of our economy his failed policies haven’t crippled,” Handwerk said.

The Post also pointed out that Jindal’s decision to stage an end run around the Legislature seems especially hypocritical, considering his attacks on President Barack Obama’s use of executive orders in connection with immigration reform.

—  Tammye Nash

Florida House committee approves anti-LGBT adoption bill

Even as the Indiana Legislature begins consideration of an amendment to its recently approved Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would bar discrimination by private businesses based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity, Equality Florida is reporting that anti-gay legislation is making headway in the Sunshine State.

You’d think that the massive backlash over Indiana’s anti-gay RFRA that has sent lawmakers there scrambling into damage control mode and convinced Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to change his mind about signing a similar bill in his state might make lawmakers elsewhere think twice, too.

But not in Florida, apparently. They ain’t gonna be skeered off in Florida.

According to an Equality Florida press statement released this afternoon (Thursday, April 2), the Florida House Judiciary Committee has Screen shot 2015-04-02 at 4.13.50 PMpassed an adoption bill that would allow discrimination against prospective LGBT parents “and places childrebn seeking a permanent home at continued risk.”

“This is Indiana-style legalized discrimination, plain and simple,” Equality Florida Public Policy Specialist Carlos Guillermo Smith declared in the statement. “But it’s even worse because this promotes state-sanctioned and taxpayer-funded discrimination.”

Smith, saying that lawmakers know the bill is “as indefensible as it is unnecessary,” said the new measure would allow any private adoption agency — either secular or religious — to discriminate against prospective parents based on sexual orientation, gender identity, family status and religious or political beliefs.

“One of the cruelest measures embedded in the bill would allow agencies to refuse to place foster children with members of their extended families based on their marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion,” the Equality Florida statement says. “A loving, unmarried grandparent, for example, or a stable, welcoming relative of a different faith could be deemed unsuitable under the proposed law.”

Smith noted that Florida already has an Religious Freedom Restoration Act in place that allows faith-based organizations to factor in religious beliefs when offering adoption and other services. The new bill, he added, “strips prospective parents of legal recourse if they’ve been discriminated against, and prohibits the state from withholding taxpayer money from discriminatory agencies.”

Ellen Kahn, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Children, Youth and Families Program, also condemned in the new bill, saying it “flies in the face of our responsibility to find permanent families and safe, loving homes for every child.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

Star-Telegram runs first same-sex wedding announcement

Star Telegram wedding ad

Photo from first Star-Telegram same-sex wedding announcement

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram ran its first same-sex wedding announcement on March 15.

Joshua Adam Rogers and David Apolonio Hernandez were married in New York on July 14, 2014 after having a ceremony in Fort Worth on July 12. The announcement didn’t run until the newspaper changed its policy this month.

According to the announcement, the Fort Worth ceremony was “on the 10-year anniversary of their personal commitment to one another.”

The paper listed a best man and best woman and the picture shows the couple holding hands.

We found it interesting that the Star-Telegram said the couple married in Fort Worth on July 12 and were legally married on July 14 in New York. With marriage equality spreading across the country and Texas still on hold, most Texas couples call their Texas ceremony their religious ceremony or their ceremony at home in front of friends and family. Most announcements we’ve seen recently call the out-of-state legal ceremony the marriage.

That’s nothing more than something we found interesting, certainly not a criticism.

As of this writing, there were seven comments in the online version — all of them words of congratulations.

Let us add our congratulations to the couple on their now 10-years-plus together and on their wedding and its announcement. And congratulations to the Star-Telegram that decided equality is good business. Engagement and wedding announcements come under paid advertising.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: More on same-sex couple married in Travis County

The two women who today became the first lesbian couple to receive a marriage license and be legally married in Texas exchanged their weddingGoodfriend and Bruant vows this morning in front of the same building where they were denied a marriage license eight years ago, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Sarah Goodfriend is a unpaid policy advisor to Austin state Rep. Celia Israel. She advises primarily on environmental and energy issues. Suzanne Bryant is an attorney in private practice in Austin. The two have been a couple for 31 years, and they exchanged their wedding vows in front of the Travis County Clerk’s office this morning with Rabbi Kerry Baker officiating.

To read read the couple’s petition to the court and the judge’s resulting order, go here.

—  Tammye Nash

Same-sex couples ask Granade to make probate judge issue licenses; Lambda Legal urges probate judges to ignore Moore

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

 

So, I have already told you about Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s temper tantrum over marriage equality and how he is just gonna hold his breath til he turns blue or the big bad gay people go away.

But the same-sex couples in Alabama who want state officials to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision not to extend a stay on a lower court ruling overturning the state’s marriage equality ban aren’t going away and giving up.

In fact, the National Center for Lesbian Rights reported today (Tuesday, Feb. 10), that four same-sex couples in Mobile asked District Judge Ginny Granade — the judge who issued TWO rulings last month overturning the Alabama marriage ban — to instruct Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to issue them marriage licenses.

Davis has stopped issuing marriage licenses entirely rather than issue licenses to same-sex couples. Mobile County is one of 47 of the state’s 67 counties where the probate judges are following Moore’s orders and not issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

In their request to Judge Granade, the couples explained that each of them appeared at the Davis’s Mobile offices and were denied marriage licenses, and they say they are suffering serious harm each day that they continue to be excluded from marriage.

The Alabama couples — represented by NCLR, Birmingham attorney Heather Fann and the ACLU of Alabama —  include James Strawser and John Humphrey, who previously obtained a ruling from Judge Granade declaring that Alabama’s exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional.

The other three couples are Meredith Miller and Anna Lisa Carmichael, Robert Povilat and Milton Persinger, and Kristy Simmons and Marshay Safford.

NCLR Legal Director Shannon P. Minter said, “We are hopeful that a ruling on this motion will provide clarity regarding the obligations of probate judges across the state and correct the misunderstanding generated by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has erroneously instructed those judges not to comply with the requirements of the federal Constitution. We are confident that all Alabamians, regardless of where in the state they live, will soon enjoy the freedom to marry.”

Moore claims he is the one with the authority to tell probate judges who they can and can’t give marriage licenses to, and since he was not named as a defendant in either of the two cases Granade ruled in, then the ruling doesn’t apply to him. And he has issued an administrative order telling probate judges not to issues the licenses.

Lambda Legal urges probate judges to ignore Moore

Obviously not everyone agrees with Moore that he is The Man in Charge. In fact, Lambda Legal today sent a letter to the president of the Alabama Probate Judges Association and the probate judges in those 47 counties not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, urging them to pay no attention to that bigot behind the curtain.

The letter included a lot of legal talk citing Alabama case law backing up Lambda Legal’s point that “Chief Justice Moore does not have the authority to issue the administrative order” telling the probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Greg Nivens, counsel a Lambda Legal, said, “The law is clear — all Chief Justice Moore has done is create chaos and his order is clearly out of bounds.”

Read the full letter here.

 

—  Tammye Nash

Fayetteville repeals nondiscrimination ordinance

map_of_fayetteville_arVoters in Fayetteville, Ark., repealed a nondiscrimination ordinance passed by the city council in August. The special election was held on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

According to the Fayetteville Flyer, the vote was 7,523 votes for repeal and 7,040 against.

The ordinance prohibited landlords from evicting someone or businesses from firing someone because of sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic background, marital status or veteran status.

Voters in Fayetteville repealed a similar law in 1998, according to the city’s newspaper.

So it’s now legal once again to fire someone because he’s a veteran or deny housing to a couple who was legally married in Arkansas earlier this year.

—  David Taffet

Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth top Texas cities in HRC Municipal Equality Index

MEI-2014-map-650x375The Human Rights Campaign released its third annual Municipal Equality Index today (Wednesday, Nov. 12) assessing LGBT equality in 353 cities across the nation, including 22 in Texas, according to a press release from HRC.

The MEI, the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy, assesses cities on a one to 100 scale.

The average score for the 22 Texas cities is 28 out of 100 points, far below the national average of 59. Only Austin achieved a perfect 100 score. Dallas came in second with 91 points and Fort Worth third with 83 points.

San Antonio, El Paso and Houston earned scores of 72, 52 and 54 respectively, the only other cities to score more than 50 points.

Other surveyed Texas cities included Amarillo: 14,  Brownsville: 20, Corpus Christi: 16, Killeen: 10, Laredo: 2, Lubbock: 0, McAllen: 0, Pasadena: 10, Waco: 24.

The MEI rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories: Non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage, contracting non-discrimination requirements, and other policies relating to equal treatment of LGBT city employees, inclusiveness of city services, fair law enforcement practices and leadership on matters of equality.

Check out the full list here and this week’s edition of the Voice for comments from local leaders.

—  James Russell

AMPA issues Veteran’s Day challenge to VA’s discrimination against LGBT vets

AMPAFor Veteran’s Day, The American Military Partner Association, the nation’s largest organization for the partners, spouses, families, and allies of America’s LGBT service members and veterans, once again called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to grant full and equal benefits to legally married LGBT veterans and their spouses.

“This is completely unacceptable and must be fixed now,” said Gene Silvestri, a U.S. Army veteran and AMPA’s Veterans Affairs Coordinator. “It’s unconscionable that legally married LGBT veterans are still being denied their full veterans benefits if they happen to live in a state that doesn’t respect their marriage. These are earned federal benefits, not benefits from the state.”

“How much longer do these families have to wait for the benefits they’ve sacrificed for and earned serving our nation?” asked Ashley Broadway, spouse of a U.S. Army officer and AMPA’s Director of Family Readiness. “More importantly, why does no one seem to care that these families are being treated differently? Where are the members of Congress who are supposedly champions of our veterans and their families?”

Even after the fall of the Defense of Marriage Act that prevented the federal government’s recognition of same-sex marriages, the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to follow discriminatory language in Title 38 section 103c when determining the validity of marriages for veteran benefits purposes. As service members transition from active duty, same-sex couples in non-marriage equality states are denied full and equal access to many earned veterans’ benefits from the VA. Legally married active duty service members living in non-marriage equality states are also denied access to the full backing of VA home loans.

In August, AMPA filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of the VA challenging the VA’s regulations.

“Having weathered the federal government’s past, longstanding discrimination against them, lesbian and gay veterans and their families find themselves once again deprived of equal rights and earned benefits by the government they served and the nation for which they sacrificed.”

The challenge is now pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [AMPA v. McDonald, No. 14-7121 (Fed. Cir. 2014)].

—  David Taffet

Equality comes to the Equality State tomorrow

safe_imageEquality comes to Wyoming, whose nickname is The Equality State, on Tuesday, Oct. 21.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights brought suit against Wyoming to come into line with the rest of the Tenth Circuit after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from Utah and Oklahoma, also in that circuit.

The state announced that it would not appeal, clearing the way for marriages to begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

Wyoming becomes marriage equality state No. 32 after AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, ID, IA, IL, IN, ME, MD, MA, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OK, OR, PA, RI, UT, VA, VT, WA, WV and WI, plus DC.

—  David Taffet