UPDATE: Gay marriage bill gets final approval in Maryland Senate

We told you yesterday that the Maryland Senate had given preliminary approval to legislation giving legal recognition to same-sex marriage in that state. Now comes word from GayPolitics.com that the Senate has given final approval to the measure. The final vote, just like the preliminary vote, was 25-21, according to NPR.

The bill now heads to the Maryland House of Delegates and if it is approved there, it will go to Gov. Martin O’Malley who must sign it before it becomes law. If that happens, it will make Maryland the sixth U.S. state to recognize gay marriage.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Gays celebrate in Hawaii; Atlanta Eagle cops were drunk; Rick Santorum

Kristin Bacon gets a kiss on the cheek from partner Siobhan Ni Dhonacha after the Hawaii Senate voted to approve the Civil Unions bill.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Lawmakers in Hawaii, one of the earliest battlegrounds for same-sex marriage two decades ago, on Wednesday gave final approval to a civil unions bill that will make the Aloha State the seventh in the nation to grant gay and lesbian couples rights equivalent to marriage. And just before the civil unions vote, the state Senate confirmed the first openly gay member of the Hawaii Supreme Court, the same body whose 1993 ruling almost legalized same-sex marriage and led to passage of the nation’s first constitutional amendment banning the practice. It’s only 5 a.m. in Hawaii, so we imagine the gays are still partying as we write this.

2. Speaking of partying, undercover officers who raided the Atlanta Eagle in September 2009 were drunk with more than just power and anti-gay hate — they’d also been downing shots of Jagermeister. Wait, did anyone ever check those Rainbow Lounge receipts?

3. Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who’s seeking the Republican presidential nomination, is struggling with name recognition in key primary states. Which is somewhat strange because we recognize his name just fine: He’s the “frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.”

—  John Wright

Senate votes to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

John Wright  |  Online Editor

In a landmark victory for gay rights, the U.S. Senate gave final approval Saturday afternoon to a bill repealing the military’s 17-year-old ban on open service.

The bill, which passed the House earlier in the week, cleared the Senate by a margin of 65-31. It now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature before the process of implementing a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” can begin.

This morning, the Senate voted 63-33 to cut off debate on DADT repeal, a defining procedural move that virtually ensured the bill’s passage this afternoon. As expected, Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison both voted against advancing DADT repeal.

Six Republicans joined 45 Democrats and two Independents to provide the 60-vote supermajority needed to cut off debate. The six Republicans were Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Mark Kirk of Illinois and George Voinovich of Ohio. No Democrats voted against advancing the bill, but Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., did not vote.

“This vote represents an historic step forward for this country, and it will very likely be a life-changing moment for gay and lesbian troops,” said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and a former multi-lingual Army interrogator who was discharged under DADT.

Nicholson added that while implementing DADT repeal will take some time, “those who defend our freedom while living in fear for their careers will finally breathe a sigh of relief tonight, and those who have fallen victim to this policy in years past will finally begin to see true closure and redemption on the horizon.”

Repealing the policy will mean that for the first time in this history of the U.S., gays, lesbians and bisexuals can serve openly in the military. More than 13,500 servicemembers have been discharged under DADT since it became law in 1993.

In the wake of the initial vote this morning, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network called on Defense Secretary Robert Gates to immediately suspend all investigations and discharges under DADT.

Under the bill, implementation of DADT repeal won’t begin until 60 days after Obama, Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that eliminating the policy won’t harm the military’s readiness.

“Until the President signs the bill, until there is certification, and until the 60-day Congressional period is over, no one should be investigated or discharged under this discriminatory law,” said SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis. “Even with this historic vote, service members must continue to serve in silence until repeal is final. Certification and the 60-day Congressional requirement must be wrapped up no later than the first quarter of 2011. The bottom line: for now, gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members must remain cautiously closeted.”

The Human Rights Campaign issued this statement:

“Today, America lived up to its highest ideals of freedom and equality. Congress recognized that all men and women have the right to openly serve their country,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Plenty of people had already planned the funeral for this legislation. Today, we pulled out a victory from what was almost certain defeat just a few days ago. We are grateful to President Obama, Majority Leader Reid and Sens. Lieberman, Collins and countless others for their dogged determination to repeal DADT.

“This has been a long fought battle, but this failed and discriminatory law will now be history,” added Solmonese. “Congress now joins the majority of our troops and the American public in the common sense belief that on the battlefield, it does not matter whether a service member is lesbian, gay or straight — what matters is that a service member gets the job done. The President can now fulfill his promise and sign this repeal legislation into law. After signing this legislation, we call on the President and Secretary of Defense to act expeditiously to complete the steps necessary to implement final repeal.”

—  John Wright

Realtors adopt non-discrimination policy

All members of North America’s largest trade organization must comply with amended code of ethics that now includes protection based on sexual orientation

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

FAIR HOUSING | From left, Texas Pride Realty’s Bob McCranie and Leslie Wilson, Oregon Realtor Steve Strode, NAGLREP founder and Executive Director Jeff Berger, NAGLREP Director and Legislative Liaison Eric Kodner at the National Association of Realtors national meeting in New Orleans earlier this month after an amendment to the trade association’s code of ethics to include sexual orientation passed. (Courtesy Bob McCranie)

A suburban Dallas homeowner once posted this sign: “For Sale by Owner. No Queers.”

Within the city of Dallas, housing discrimination has been illegal since 2002, and if the ordinance had been in effect at the time, the homeowner could have been fined $500 for violating the city’s nondiscrimination housing ordinance.

But while some found the sign offensive, nothing was done.

The sign is now in the archives at Resource Center Dallas.

And since the National Association of Realtors voted to amend its code of ethics to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation at its November meeting, that homeowner could no longer receive help from any of NAR’s more than 1 million members. Any Realtor showing that house would be violating NAR’s code of ethics.

NAR is the largest trade organization in North America.

When the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals organized in 2007, passing this amendment to NAR’s code of ethics was an original goal.

A NAGLREP board member brought the amendment to the Wisconsin state association. That organization then officially introduced it to the national organization.

In May, NAR’s board of directors approved the amendment, which sent it for final approval by a vote by the general membership.

The amendment passed easily on a voice vote at the national meeting in New Orleans earlier this month. By NAR rules, since the proposal did not pass unanimously, opposition could call for a paper ballot, and an Arkansas Realtor who opposed the measure did just that.

But even with the secret vote, the measure passed with 93 percent of the 25,000 convention attendees voting in favor.

According to Jeff Berger, founder of NAGLREP, the only opposition that was voiced concerned federal fair housing laws that do not include sexual orientation.

“But there wasn’t much resistance,” he said.

Still, opposition was expressed on the group’s blog, Berger said, citing the usual biblical and religious excuses to discriminate. He pointed out that those Realtors writing anti-gay comments on the blog would now be considered to be in violation of the organization’s code of ethics and could be sanctioned.

Berger called the code the industry’s own mini-ENDA.

“Clients can’t be discriminated against,” he said. “Realtors can’t discriminate against each other.”

And everyone who works in an office with a Realtor designation now is bound by non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation.

Should someone violate the code, Berger said they could be brought before NAR’s grievances committee. If found in violation, they risk anything from a warning to losing their membership and the Realtor designation.

Jeff Updike of RE/MAX Urban in Downtown Dallas serves on the board of NAR.

“I don’t know that it’s going to have a huge impact,” Updike said, but he wasn’t downplaying the significance of the new rule.

Updike believes that any sort of discrimination is just bad business and that any agent that does discriminate will probably not survive in the competitive industry.

Berger said that in the last six months, 10 cases of housing discrimination against gays and lesbians have been documented. An older case in Dallas involving an agent refusing to sell property in Oak Lawn because of the area’s connection to the LGBT community ended with that agent leaving the business. Her license status is “suspended.”

NAGLREP has also been asked to prepare a “best practices” chart for Realtors when doing business with the LGBT community.

“We will be presenting it to NAR at the midyear meeting in Washington, D.C. in May 2011,” Berger said.

The last time the NAR code of ethics was changed, Berger said, was in 1988 to include families with children and people with handicaps. That change was made in conjunction with a change to federal law.

“Our next goal is to see the federal Fair Housing law amended,” Berger said.

Updike would also like federal housing regulations to match the new industry standard. He said he expects NAR to support without lobbying for that change.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens