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

UPDATE: Maryland marriage bill dead for the year

An Associated Press article posted online by The Washington Post is saying that the decision in the Maryland House of Delegates today send to send the Civil Marriage Protection Act back to the House Judiciary Committee has effectively killed the legislation for this year.

According to the article, supporters chose to send the bill back to committee rather than take a final vote because they did not believe they had the 71 votes necessary to pass the measure. House Speaker Michael Busch said supporters will try again next year.

Marriage equality opponents, of course, claimed the outcome as a victory.

—  admin

MD Senator on anti-gay testimony: ‘What I witnessed from the opponents of the bill was appalling’

Yesterday, Tim did a post on how the testimony of Maggie Gallagher and other anti-gay leaders helped convince Maryland State Senator Jim Bronchin to support marriage equality.

Today, Bronchin issued a statement to announce his support for the bill, which we got from Equality Maryland:

“What I witnessed from the opponents of the bill was appalling.” Brochin said. “Witness after witness demonized homosexuals, vilified the gay community, and described gays and lesbians as pedophiles. I believe that sexual orientation is not a choice, but rather people are born one way or another The proponents of the bill were straightforward in wanting to be simply treated as everyone else, and wanted to stop being treated as second-class citizens.

Brochin added, “For me, the transition to supporting marriage has not been an easy one, but the uncertainty, fear, and second-class status that gays and lesbians have to put up with is far worse and clearly must come to an end.”

Keep it up, Maggie. Testify. You’re getting us votes. We need 24 votes in the Maryland Senate. Last week, the Washington Post whip count showed 20 votes on our side. Make that 21 now.

Maggie is zipping around the country to spew her gay-bashing. She was in Rhode Island yesterday. But, remember, when she had the chance, Maggie wouldn’t testify — under oath — during the Prop. 8 trial. That’s probably because, as David Boies noted, “a witness stand is a lonely place to lie.”




AMERICAblog Gay

—  David Taffet

Marriage Opponents to Keep Fighting Against Equality in D.C.

Opponents of marriage equality are readying themselves once again for an attempt to strip the right to marry from same-sex couples in the nation’s capital. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, recently told beltway newspaper The Hill that he supports legislation to repeal marriage equality in D.C. Our own Michael Cole-Schwartz sounded off on the issue today in Metro Weekly

Jordan expressed that the he believes that the 175 member committee will push for a vote during the 112th Congress, and that he was “100 percent for it.”

Same-sex couples began seeing marriage equality in the district last year and recently won a struggle against outside groups like Alliance Defense Fund and the National Organization for Marriage trying to put citizens’ right to marry up for a public vote.

Attempts to place marriage equality on the ballot in D.C. have been rejected by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics after having been determined to violate D.C. Human Rights Act. Most recently, the Supreme Court refused to weigh in on the issue, initiating a shift in the tactics of marriage equality opponents in the district from judicial to legislative.

Brian Brown, NOM’s Executive Director, recently commented on congressional action, stating that he will “look at what the best route is” to have Congress intervene.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Supreme Court Rejects Appeal by D.C. Marriage Equality Opponents

Today we applauded the Supreme Court’s rejection today of a last-ditch appeal  by marriage equality opponents determined to put the rights of same-sex couples in D.C. up for a public vote. Last March, D.C. became the sixth jurisdiction in the nation to permit same-sex couples to marry.

“Today’s action by the Supreme Court makes abundantly clear that D.C.’s human rights protections are strong enough to withstand the hateful efforts of outside anti-LGBT groups to put people’s basic civil rights on the ballot,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.  “For almost two years, the National Organization for Marriage and the Alliance Defense Fund, along with Bishop Harry Jackson, have fought a losing battle to shamelessly harm gay and lesbian couples in D.C. who seek nothing more than to share in the rights and responsibilities of marriage.  The D.C. Council and Mayor courageously made marriage equality a reality last year, and the courts have since upheld the rights of D.C. residents to govern ourselves and take the necessary steps to eliminate discrimination in our community.”

The Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari today leaves standing a D.C. Court of Appeals decision issued last July that determined the Council acted within its authority when more than thirty years ago it established a requirement that proposed ballot initiatives may not authorize, or have the effect of authorizing, discrimination prohibited by the D.C. Human Rights Act.  The Court further held that an initiative on same-sex marriage would impermissibly permit discrimination against gays and lesbians in the District.

In December 2009, the D.C. Council overwhelmingly passed the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Act of 2009.  The bill was signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty, transmitted to Congress for review and became law on March 3, 2010. The first marriages between same-sex couples were performed less than a week later. Since then hundreds of same-sex couples have been married in D.C.

With today’s decision from the Supreme Court, marriage equality opponents have reached the end of their legal wrangling.  The D.C. Board of Elections, Superior Court, Court of Appeals and now the U.S. Supreme Court have rejected their meritless and tired arguments that they should be permitted to impose a discriminatory ballot measure on D.C. voters.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

‘Don’t Trust, Don’t Believe’

Meghan Stabler

By Meghan Stabler |  HRC Board of Directors, Houston

“I’m a politician which means I’m a cheat and a liar, and when I’m not kissing babies I’m stealing their lollipops. But it also means I keep my options open.”

Sure, it’s a movie line, and it’s a comment that I use in some of my speeches regarding politicians, but it is also so true.

We are maybe 48 hours from a vote to finally repeal the discriminatory law called “don’t ask don’t tell.” Yet there is significant risk! Not passing now will likely put repeal on hold for a minimum of two-plus years.

Our opponents are doing whatever they can to stop the bill. I just received this message from one group called Public Advocate of the United States: “All the Homosexual Lobby needs is for their lapdogs in the Senate to rubber stamp the bill and it will go to Barack Obama’s desk for his signature. And unless you take action RIGHT NOW, he’s going to succeed. Tell [your Senator] to PROTECT our armed forces and vote AGAINST the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

So our opponents are making all the last minute calls to Congress they can.  Is our community?

Now is not the time for us to rest, now is not the time for us to stop calling Congress.

Just because a senator says they will vote for DADT repeal means they’re keeping options open, just as the politician said in the Hunt for Red October quote at the opening of my note. We need some Republicans to vote YES, but just because they or their staffers say they will is no guarantee. If they are not a bill co-sponsor, then their vote is still an at-risk one.

So, share this note to your friends. Ensure they keep calling. Then call again. And again. Ask that they co-sponsor the bill. If not, hound them to do so, and make sure they understand history is the measure of actions of the past.

Keep calling. Call 202-224-Murkowski-6665, Snowe-5344, Voinovich-3353, Lugar-4814, Gregg-3324, Kirk-2854, Brown-4543.

—  admin

El Paso voters rescind domestic partner benefits for city workers — and possibly for retirees too

El Paso was home to one of the few, if not the only, anti-gay initiative on the ballot anywhere in the U.S. on Tuesday. And The El Paso Times reports that the measure to roll back domestic partner benefits for city employees passed easily:

The ballot initiative was supported by conservative religious groups that took aim at the city’s domestic partners ordinance from the time that it was passed by the City Council last year. But the way the initiative was worded caused confusion among some voters — and questions about how city officials will implement it.

“I’m sure there will be some legal action,” Mayor John Cook said.

Fewer than two dozen city employees receive the benefit. Opponents say it sends the message that the city approves of homosexuality and of heterosexual couples living out of wedlock.

And the initiative struck a chord with a majority of the El Paso electorate.

The story goes on to say there are problems with the wording of the initiative, which says, “The city of El Paso endorses traditional family values by making health benefits available only to city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children.”

The meaning of “endorse” is unclear, according to the mayor, and city legal staff says the measure could be interpreted to exclude retirees from DP benefits.

Good. Let’s hope it gets tied up in court for a long time.

—  John Wright

Proposal revived to prohibit Cedar Springs club-goers from parking on Hall Street

A little over a year ago we wrote about a proposal to establish a “resident-parking only” zone on the 3900 block of Hall Street, just off the Cedar Springs strip.

The RPO zone would prohibit non-residents from parking on the block during certain hours on weekend nights.

Some residents say the RPO is needed because they have no place to park due to spaces being taken by patrons of the gay entertainment district.

But opponents say those residents knew it was an entertainment district when they moved there, and they fear another RPO zone would make a bad parking situation worse in Oak Lawn.

There are dozens of RPO zones in Dallas — mostly in the Lower Greenville area. There currently is only one RPO near the gay entertainment district — in the 3200 block of Throckmorton Street.

According to Jim Musick, a resident of the 3900 block of Hall Street who opposes the RPO, the proposal appears to have been revived after more than a year.

“I find this totally inappropriate and offensive.” Musick wrote to Instant Tea.

Musick forwarded a note from the property manager for his complex seeking volunteers to circulate a petition in support of the RPO. As the note dated Oct. 12 states, the petition would need the signatures of two-thirds of homeowners on the block for the proposal to proceed. Here’s what the note said:

Hi All:

It had been mentioned to me at the Board meeting held last month that there is an interest in homeowners and guests being able to park in the street and spaces being available.

I met with a neighboring property on your street that I also manage and they have visited the city to see what needs to be done to apply for permits for homeowners on Hall Street . I have a form that each homeowner would have to sign and provide your license plate number. A total of 2/3 of the homeowners have to sign this document to be submitted to the city.

I need a volunteer that can visit each homeowner within your community to get it signed. Would someone like to help me with this project as I need original signatures?

Please let me know and I can drop by and give you the form.

Thanks
Ed

Ed Colvin, CMCA, AMS
Association Manager
Principal Management Group, AAMC, AMO

—  John Wright

Texas Transgender Summit attendees on Nikki Araguz case: Littleton v. Prange is bunk

Dozens of individuals and organizations meeting at the Second Annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit in Houston issued a joint statement Thursday on the Nikki Araguz case. In case you missed it, Araguz is the transgender widow of firefighter Thomas Araguz III, who died in the line of duty earlier this month. Thomas Araguz’s is family is suing Nikki Araguz in an effort to prevent her from receiving death benefits, alleging that the marriage was invalid. Below is the full text of the statement. For a list of signatories, go here.

HOUSTON, Texas (July 22, 2010) — We, the attendees of the Second Annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit, issue this statement to demonstrate our support for Mrs. Nikki Araguz and to call attention to her plight and that of all transgender people in the state of Texas.

Mrs. Nikki Araguz legally married a man, and her marriage has been recognized under the laws of the state of Texas. Nikki’s husband, a fireman in Wharton County, tragically was killed in the line of duty, and now other parties are attempting to use the courts to have her marriage legally overturned in an effort to deny her inheritance and insurance.

These parties are claiming that Nikki is not legally a woman under Texas law. Nikki’s opponents are attempting to use an obscure Texas case, Littleton v. Prange (1999), to declare that her marriage should be invalid. The Littleton case says that a person’s gender is determined by chromosomes, not physical attributes. The Littleton case was decided to deny a transgender woman her right to bring a wrongful death suit on behalf of her husband — even though Littleton had legally changed her gender and had been legally married in Texas.

The Littleton case was wrongfully decided at the time, and if taken literally stands for the proposition that a transgender person cannot marry anyone, of either gender, under Texas law. Clearly, this is wrong. Denying anyone the right to marry whom they love is a violation of the most basic freedoms under our laws. To deny the validity of an existing, legal marriage, after one of the spouses has died, as justification for the redistribution of inheritance and insurance, is abhorrent to the values of common decency, fair play, and justice that most Texans hold dear.

We, the attendees of this Summit, extend our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Araguz, and call for the swift dismissal of this lawsuit so that Mrs. Araguz may be left to mourn her loss in private without distraction or worry for her financial stability.

If necessary, we also call for the courts to consider the Littleton case superseded by the recent changes to the Texas Family Code that recognize a court ordered gender change as definitive proof of identity.

Sadly, discrimination against people because of either their gender identity or expression is common. There are few laws in the state of Texas to address this need. The purpose of our Summit is to find ways to help people confront and overcome the issues now facing all transgender people in Texas and, tragically, Mrs. Nikki Araguz.

—  John Wright