Delaware may be next civil unions state

Delaware State Capitol

With a marriage bill advancing in neighboring Maryland, Delaware lawmakers have proposed civil unions for that state, according to WBOC in Dover.

Equality Delaware helped craft the legislation. The bill is intended to give couples with a civil union the same state rights as married couples and gives religious groups an exemption from participating.

A poll released this week shows that 48 percent of people in Delaware support full marriage equality. Only 31 percent were strongly opposed. Others were not sure or fell in the middle. In neighboring Maryland, where a marriage bill is close to passing, 51 percent of the population supports marriage equality.

Delaware Right to Marry statewide director Bill Humphrey said that opposition to marriage equality “dropped dramatically” in states like Vermont and Massachusetts as people saw firsthand that same-sex marriage has no negative impact on their lives.

—  David Taffet

HRC says Jeb Hensarling of Dallas could pose major threat to gay rights in new Congress

The Human Rights Campaign says Jeb Hensarling is “extremely connected and close to a lot of the right-wing religious groups.”

Following the release of a Human Rights Campaign report showing an anti-LGBT majority in the new U.S. House — which we mentioned earlier — we requested a full list of which lawmakers the group considers anti-LGBT, pro-LGBT and mixed.

“Sorry but the list is proprietary and we aren’t releasing the names publicly,” HRC spokesman Michael Cole told us moments ago.

Naturally, we were interested to see how HRC categorizes various Texas lawmakers. And while HRC isn’t releasing its secret list, we do know about one member of the GOP leadership from Texas whom the group considers a major threat — our old buddy Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, who chairs the House Republican Caucus. From The HuffPo’s piece about the HRC report:

“I think they’re going to have to give some red meat to their base, and I assume it’s either going to be anti-gay, anti-choice, or anti-immigrant, or all of the above,” said [HRC legislative director Allison] Herwitt. “So I just think that when you have someone like Jeb Hensarling, who is chairman of the House Republican Conference, he’s extremely connected and close to a lot of  the right-wing religious groups, so there’s going to be pressure on the leadership to deliver on some of these issues.”

—  John Wright

Does U.N. vote mean dark days ahead ?

With a simple majority vote of 9 countries, LGBT people are removed from category of ‘vulnerable populations,’ left exposed to arbitrary execution

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

The United Nations recently took a vote and with a simple majority of just nine countries, they removed LGBT people from the special protections category of “vulnerable populations.” That category specifically mentions special protection from extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution.

What does this mean? Well, according to the U.N., we are no longer considered worthy of protection against arbitrary execution. In other words, it’s open season on LGBT people in a whole lot of countries.

It is important to note who voted against us: The Russian Federation, China, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi plus a host of Middle Eastern countries joined the majority to remove us from that list.

In the case of the African nations, I cannot fail to mention that the radical right, especially the far-right ministers in this country, have been a big influence. If you will remember, the draconian anti-gay laws in Uganda were in part encouraged by religious groups from the U.S.

Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of the International Gay And Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said, “This vote is a dangerous and disturbing development. It essentially removes the important recognition of the particular vulnerability faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people — a recognition that is crucial at a time when 76 countries around the world criminalize homosexuality, five consider it a capital crime and countries like Uganda are considering adding the death penalty to their laws criminalizing homosexuality.”

Essentially, the vote takes away any power the U.N. might have to protect the lives of LGBT people.

The vote has sent shock waves through the international LGBT community but seems to have had little traction herein the U.S. I suspect that is because much of what the U.N. does is considered unimportant by many Americans.

It’s sad that this body, where crimes against LGBT people have routinely been condemned, has now decided to become silent.

It should be noted who voted to remove LGBT people from this protected group. The list may surprise you:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brunei Dar-Sala, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Two nations that really disturb me are Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been an ardent opponent to the wars the Bush administration started there, and now I have even more reason to hope for a speedy end to our involvement.

Many of the names on this list are “most favored nations,” as far as trade with the U.S., and one in particular is most disturbing since it already grants full rights to LGBT people: South Africa.

I can only hope they did not understand the gravity of what they were signing, but I suspect it may signal a new and more repressive future for the African nation that held the most promise.

My suspicion is that the nation of Benin, which brought the matter up on behalf of the African Nations Group, is planning something dark. I would not be surprised to see a whole new raft of severe laws against LGBT people in these African nations.

It looks like very dark times ahead for LGBT people in Africa and the Middle East. I pray I am wrong.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

U.S. Department of Education warns schools that anti-gay bullying can violate civil rights laws

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

“It Gets Better” has been a success. Videos and public appearances by people like Councilman Joel Burns led to videos by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

A transgender North Dallas High School student’s attempt to run for homecoming queen ended with a rally of support at her school as well as an appearance on MTV.

Many young people have gotten the message but so have school districts and even the U.S. Department of Education.

The education department announced Tuesday that school districts that do nothing to combat bullying will lose money. The letter said the guidelines “do include protection against harassment of members of religious groups based on shared ethnic characteristics as well as gender and sexual harassment of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals.”

The announcement also said that the White House will convene a conference on bullying early next year.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said:

“Bullying is a problem that shouldn’t exist. No one should ever feel harassed or unsafe in a school simply because they act or think or dress differently than others. To every student who feels threatened or harassed—for whatever reason—please know that you are not alone. Please know that there are people who love you. And please know that we will protect you.”

—  David Taffet