HRC Ready for Federal Funding Battles

The following is from HRC Senior Public Policy Advocate Andrea Levario:

As we told you in late December, funding for federal programs is set to run out on March 4, 2011. Over the past few weeks, House appropriators have been cobbling together another stopgap measure to keep the government running for the remaining seven months of this fiscal year.  Last night, Harold Rogers (R-KY), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, revealed the funding package for the balance of FY 2011. Using a chainsaw, rather than a scalpel to make targeted cuts, the Republican appropriators were able to meet their unprecedented and unreasonable savings of target of $ 100 billion.

The House majority’s proposal would defund key provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  The health reform law provided one billion in new funding to expand Community Health Centers (CHCs), the continuing resolution as drafted would zero out that funding.  Millions of Americans, rely on these primary care centers and providers for basic health care services.  For LGBT people, the CHCs have and continue to be at the frontline in the fight against HIV/AIDS and they have been in desperate need of additional funding to continue services to a growing patient base. The resources to train health professionals to deliver those services, in CHCs or in other settings, were also placed in the unnecessary column by the majority.

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative which had received $ 114 million to provide comprehensive, medically accurate, and age-appropriate sex education to young people to help reduce their risk of unintended pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and other STDs was zeroed out.  And, the proposed CR would reinstate the rider to ban funding for syringe exchange programs in the District of Columbia which we have fought hard,  along with our coalition partners for years, to have lifted. 

Earlier in the week Chairman Rogers released a more modest plan which would have curtailed spending by $ 32 billion.  After being rebuffed by new members who pledged much deeper cuts, the current proposal was cobbled together.  Next week the House will vote on that package which is FIVE times larger than any other discretionary cut package ever considered by the House, and those reductions are expected to be made not over a full year but a mere 7 months!

As happened with the effort to repeal health reform, the leaders in the Senate are not onboard with their House colleagues. They acknowledge the difficult financial situation, but plan to stand firm to protect programs to ensure the health and safety of all Americans.  All lawmakers agree that the country’s deficit must be reduced. The real leaders are those that recognize programs to ensure the health of our citizens, in the short and long-term, are investments in the well-being of our country.

Real funding battles are looming and we are preparing. HRC will, at every opportunity, alone and in partnership with other progressive groups, fight to preserve the dollars to address HIV/AIDS, implement the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

LGBT couples celebrate Valentine’s Day, but are strangers under federal law

A new video from GetEQUAL.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  David Taffet

GOP Rep. Randy Forbes: Make All Federal Docs Say “Mother” And “Father”

GOP Rep. Randy Forbes (VA) has introduced legislation which would require all federal documents to use only the words “mother” and “father” when describing parents. Forbes’ bill is meant to directly counter a recent compromise by Clinton’s State Department, which last month added the words “Parent 1″ and “Parent 2″ to passport applications. When we last heard from Forbes, he had introduced a House resolution calling for the words “In God We Trust” to be added to every public building, including courtrooms, schools, and government offices.

Joe. My. God.

—  David Taffet

Reuters details gap in Federal Benefits for LGBT couples

Reuters has detailed the painful story of how Herb Burtis and John Ferris, although a beautiful love story, continue to be cheated out of the benefits the surviving spouse, Burtis, deserves.

Herb Burtis and John Ferris met while both were undergraduate music students at Michigan State University in 1948. Burtis was 18, and Ferris was a 22-year-old veteran of the U.S. Army. They studied with the same organ teacher and connected initially through their mutual love of music.

Burtis and Ferris committed to one another and ultimately spending 60 years together. They were married in 2004, after Massachusetts became the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage.

“I told him I was only marrying him for his benefits,” Burtis recalls with a laugh. At the time, he was just kidding about the benefits– but it turned out to be no laughing matter.

The article goes into detail about the thousands of dollars we are denied through Social Security, health insurance, income taxes, tax treatment of estates along with denied Medicare benefits. Of course, their story of discrimination is legion in our community. There truly is no excuse except for a desire to continue to deny us our equality.




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—  David Taffet

MASSACHUSETTS: NOM Files DOMA Amicus Brief With Federal Appeals Court

Joe. My. God.

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Obama Renominates Gay Man as Federal Circuit Judge

Presdient Obama today re-nominated more than 40 judicial candidates, sending them to the Senate where they will face scrutiny from the Judiciary Committee.

Sam Stein reports: Dumont

"They may face an additional round of committee hearings, a Senate aide said, but that will be determined by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the ranking Republican, likely to be, according to a Senate aide, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Hearings or no, the committee will have to vote on each candidate again before sending them back to the Senate floor for final consideration. And with more Republicans in the chamber than there were for the past two years, the nominees' chances may be slimmer."

Among the nominations is Edward Carroll DuMont of the District of Columbia, nominated to be United States Circuit Judge for the Federal Circuit. DuMont would be the first openly gay federal appellate court judge in the nation. DuMont was originally nominated last April.


Towleroad News #gay

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Breaking Prop 8 news: federal case punted by 9th circuit back to California Supreme Court

There’s a lot of legalese to read through, but the short answer is that the federal court (9th circuit) is handing the case back to the California Supreme Court to determine whether the Protect Marriage crowd has standing to appeal. The brief:

               

Calitics has a quick analysis up:

A further reading of the document issued minutes ago by the 9th Circuit indicates that the court is ready to rule that Prop 8 proponents DO have standing to appeal. In turn, that would enable the 9th Circuit to decide whether Prop 8 is a violation of the 14th Amendment (and obviously it is), a decision that would have major ramifications across California and the country. Here’s what the 9th Circuit said:
If California does grant the official proponents of an initiative the authority to represent the State’s interest in defending a voter-approved initiative when public officials have declined to do so or to appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative, then Proponents would also have standing to appeal on behalf of the State….

We are aware that in California, “All political power is inherent in the people,” Cal. Const. art. II, ? 1, and that to that end, Article II, section 8(a) of the California Constitution provides, “The initiative is the power of the electors to propose statutes and amendments to the Constitution and to adopt or reject them.” We are also aware that the Supreme Court of California has described the initiative power as “one of the most precious rights of our democratic process,” and indeed, that “the sovereign people’s initiative power” is considered to be a “fundamental right.”…

The power of the citizen initiative has, since its inception, enjoyed a highly protected status in California. For example, the Legislature may not amend or repeal an initiative statute unless the People have approved of its doing so….

Similarly, under California law, the proponents of an initiative may possess a particularized interest in defending the constitutionality of their initiative upon its enactment; the Constitution’s purpose in reserving the initiative power to the People would appear to be ill-served by allowing elected officials to nullify either proponents’ efforts to “propose statutes and amendments to the Constitution” or the People’s right “to adopt or reject” such propositions. Cal. Const. art. II, ? 8(a). Rather than rely on our own understanding of this balance of power under the California Constitution, however, we certify the question so that the Court may provide an authoritative answer as to the rights, interests, and authority under California law of the official proponents of an initiative measure to defend its validity upon its enactment in the case of a challenge to its constitutionality, where the state officials charged with that duty refuse to execute it.

So what does that all mean? Let me boil it down. Basically, California’s constitution and various CA Supreme Court decisions in the last few decades have indicated that the initiative power is a right inherent to the people of the state, and does not stem from the Legislature. It sets up the people as a kind of fourth branch of government. And therefore, if the Governor and the Attorney General refuse to defend a proposition in court, that could essentially nullify the fundamental rights of the voters. Since ballot initiatives stem from the people, presumably the people – in the form of the initiative proponents – DO have standing to defend Prop 8 in court and to appeal it to the 9th Circuit in order to preserve the people’s initiative power.

Click over for more.
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New federal task force on LGBT youth suicide prevention is launched

Welcome news!  As promised, The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (“Action Alliance”) has launched three new task forces to address suicide prevention including one for youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention today added three new task forces to address suicide prevention efforts within high-risk populations:  American Indians/Alaska Natives; youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT); and military service members and veterans. …

Studies from organizations such as the Suicide Prevention Resource Center report that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are from 1.5 to seven times more likely to report having attempted suicide than their non-LGBT peers, while transgender youth are believed to have higher rates of suicidal behavior as well.  

Co-leading the LGBT Youth Task Force are Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, U.S. Department of Education, and Charles Robbins, Executive Director of The Trevor Project, the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among LGBT youth.

“This task force will bring together the best minds in the country to combat suicide and make sure that every LGBT youth has the opportunity to grow up in a supportive, accepting community and to enter adulthood safely,” Robbins said.

Encouraging is the systematic, scientific approach Action Alliance is taking.  As we know with anything LGBT related, data collection and reporting can be woefully lacking.  Back in November Action Alliance launched its first batch of task forces to “identify and develop systems and strategies to improve data collection and surveillance of suicidal behaviors, prioritize research on suicide prevention, and update the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.”

The Data and Surveillance Task Force will address many critical issues including the need for more timely data on suicides and suicide attempts, both of which would improve intervention and prevention efforts.  This represents a major advancement for suicide prevention since it currently takes several years to detect new trends as they develop.

“The Research Task Force will develop a dynamic, ongoing process that capitalizes on the latest discoveries, identifies the most significant gaps in current knowledge of suicide prevention, and prioritizes the nation’s research efforts,” said Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, and Research Task Force co-lead.  ”We will develop a process to prioritize topics in suicide prevention research; and with my co-chair, Phillip Satow of the National Council for Suicide Prevention and The Jed Foundation, the task force will look for ways to integrate science and service, which is essential if we are to bend the curve of suicide rates and ensure that suicide deaths decrease dramatically in the next decade.”

The Action Alliance is coordinated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at US Department of Health and Human Services.  SAMHSA also administers the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  SAMHSA’s Administrator is Pamela Hyde is an openly gay Obama appointee.
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NOM is reportedly late with its federal taxes

From Fred Karger:

The four year old National Organization for Marriage (NOM), and the National Organization for Marriage Foundation (NOMF) has once again failed to file its required Federal Income Tax Returns. Their IRS 2009 returns for both of these non-profits, their 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 were due on May 15, 2010. If they received an extension, then they were due October 15, 2010. Now they are 2 ½ months LATE!

I recently visited their new National Office in Washington, DC twice during regular office hours to view the returns. No one was there. They must make them available to anyone during regular business hours. We also have checked online repeatedly for their 2009 returns, and again, nothing. What is NOM trying to hide? Why do they not file their tax returns every year?

Déjà Vu


I went through the identical exercise in 2009 when I attempted to view NOM’s 2007 and 2008 990’s, but they never filed those either. We visited their then National Office in Princeton, NJ many times and no one was ever there either.

One set of 990’s was 5 months late. The other set was 17 months late, when finally, the night before NOM President Brian Brown was to testify in front of the Maine Ethics Commission last year, all of their delinquent tax returns magically appeared on the NOM web site.




AMERICAblog Gay

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New federal task force on LGBT youth suicide prevention to be announced

Pamela Hyde

On World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates launched a new public-private partnership called National Action Alliance on Suicide Prevention (“Action Alliance”).

“This alliance gives us an opportunity to engage every sector of society-public, private and philanthropic,” said Secretary Sebelius. “Now we will be able to work together more effectively than ever before to reach people at risk and help them stay safe.”

The Action Alliance’s own press release was more specific about groups at risk, acknowledging that “…we have high rates of non-fatal suicide attempts in other groups, especially young Latinas and Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender (LGBT) youths.”

The Action Alliance is coordinated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at US Department of Health and Human Services.  SAMHSA also administers the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

SAMHSA’s Administrator Pamela Hyde, an openly gay Obama appointee, stated in a recent letter to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) that Action Alliance “will shortly announce the establishment of a task force to reduce suicide among LGBT youth.”

The task force, she said, will be co-led by Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, US Department of Education, and by Charles Robbins, Executive Director of The Trevor Project.  The Trevor Project is a national suicide prevention program for LGBT youth.

Jennings founded the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which “strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.”  Like Hyde, Jennings is an openly-gay Obama appointee.

“SAMHSA recognizes that LGBT youth face unique risk factors that make them vulnerable to suicide,” said Hyde.  Her agency “will use its programs and initiatives to ensure a focus on LGBT youth. …We are deeply committed to improving the social-emotional conditions and circumstances for LGBT youth.”

Planning for the task force began in September with the convening of the Action Alliance Executive Committee and was an outcome of the interests and expertise of its members, Sally Spencer-Thomas from the Action Alliance Press Office told me in a telephone interview.  Hyde, Jennings and Robbins all sit on Action Alliance’s Executive Committee.  

The LGBT task force will be formally announced by the end of the year, said Spencer-Thomas, along with task forces geared for other at-risk populations including American Indians/Alaska Natives, military veterans and their families and Latina youths.
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