Houston’s State Rep. Garnet Coleman applauds Prop. 8 decision

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, took to his blog today to applaud yesterday’s decision by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declaring Proposition 8  unconstitutional (Prop. 8, passed in 2008, prohibited marriage equality in California):

“Yesterday’s 9th Circuit decision, just like the decision in Lawrence v. Texas, is a stepping stone on the path to marriage equality for all. As Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in the opinion, ‘Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.’ The same holds true for the marriage equality ban in Texas. That is why I continue to fight for marriage equality and continue to file the repeal of the ban of same sex marriage. Denying gay couples the right to marry is unconstitutional and a blatant denial of human rights. “

Coleman has a long history of filing pro-LGBT legislation in the Texas House. Last year he introduced historic legislation that, had it passed, would have called for a state-wide vote to repeal the section of Texas’ constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage, so he’s no stranger to the battle for marriage equality.

Coleman is seeking re-election to his District 147 seat. He will face long-time local LGBT activist Ray Hill in the Democratic Primary. No republican candidate has filed for the seat.

Read Coleman’s full statement on his blog.

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Al Franken asks public for help passing Student Non-Discrimination Act

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken, D – Minnesota, is asking the public for help passing S. 555, The Student Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would prohibit discrimination against public school students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the provisions of S. 555 students who experienced discrimination because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or because of their association with LGBT people could bring a civil suit against the school officials or districts responsible for the discrimination. The bill currently has 34 co-sponsors (none from Texas) and its House companion (H.R. 998 by Rep. Jared Polis, D – Colorado) has 150 (with 7 Texan co-sponsors including Houston’s own Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green) . Both bills have been referred to committee but neither has received a hearing, a crucial step towards becoming law.

In the video requesting the public call their Senators (after the break) Franken points out that federal law already provides protection for school children harassed because of race, color, sex, religion, disability, and national origin, but that no protection exists for sexual orientation or gender identity.

The inclusion of “association” in S. 555 is particularly well thought out. According to the Williams Institute nearly 1 in 5 same-sex couples in the United States is raising children, in Harris County 18% of same-sex couples are.  As these children enter school it’s important that they be able to receive an education without harassment or bullying due to who their parents are.

Franken is asking people to call the Senate switchboard at 202-224-3121 and encourage their Senator’s to support the bill.

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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

What’s Shakin’ – ‘Gay In America’ at Rice

Gay in America1. Photographer Scot Pasfield is speaking about his new book ‘Gay in America’ at Rice University tonight.  Pasfield spent three years traveling 54,000 miles through all 50 states collecting images and stories of the gay male experience. What emerges is a portrait of a diverse community that transects ever facet of American Life (read Rich Lopez’s interview with Pasfield).  The presentation is at 6 p.m. in Fondren Library, Kyle Morrow Room, 3rd Floor.

2. Resurrection MCC’s weekly Yoga Connection provides a queer friendly space to practice or learn about yoga free of charge. The group meets every Tuesday at 7 pm and all skill levels are welcome. Participants should bring a mat, towel, and water (a small number of loaner mats are available for beginners). For questions (or to reserve a loaner mat), email Yoga@ResurrectionMCC.org. Resurrection MCC is located at 1025 West 11th St.

3. The Associated Press reports that a New Hampshire House panel is scheduled to vote today on whether to recommend a repeal of the state’s year-old same-sex marriage law, replacing it with civil unions.  The unions would be available to any unmarried adults of any sex, including relatives. The bill’s author, Rep. David Bates, R – Rockingham, argues that there is no reason to limit the benefits of civil unions to same-sex couples. So let’ me get this right.  If the legislation passes straight people can choose to either get married, have a civil union, or neither (assuming they’re not related) and queer people (and cousin-lovers) are left with the choice of a civil union or nothing.  Yeah… that sounds fair.

—  admin

Dallas gets $1.28M HUD grant for HIV/AIDS

Officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have announced the allocation of nearly $9 million in grants to projects in seven states that provide permanent and transitional housing and support services to people with HIV/AIDS.

Of that total, $1,287,500 will be allocated to the city of Dallas’ Housing and Community Services Department, the only city or agency in Texas to receive one of the seven HUD grants. The money will be used to provide transitional housing support to 60 ex-offenders over the next three years. According to the HUD press release, the Housing and Community Services Department will be working with the city’s Project Reconnect and the Department of Justice’s Second Chance Act in providing the housing and services.

And the city has committed to “creating an Integrated HIV/AIDS Housing Plan through a comprehensive community planning effort that involves 20 local partners operating in the eight county Dallas Metropolitan Statistical Area,” according to HUD. No word yet on whether those partners will include AIDS Services of Dallas, which is located in Oak Cliff and provides housing for as many as 225 men, women and children impacted by HIV/AIDS through 125 units in four complexes.

The largest of the grants, $1,375,000, is going to the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV. The city of Portland, Ore., gets the second-largest total with $1,365,900. River Region Human Services Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., is getting $1,353,743, and the Corporation for AIDS Research Education and Services Inc. in Albany and Rochester, N.Y., gets $1,344,375.

Dallas is next on the list, followed by Justice Resource Institute Inc. in Boston, which gets $1,223,377. Rounding out the recipient list is the Frannie Peabody Center, a statewide organization in Maine, that is receiving $930,909.

The seven recipients were chosen “through a national HOPWA competition to identify special projects of national significance that will help advance understanding and improve the delivery of housing and care for persons with HIV,” according to HUD.

—  admin

DOMA ruled unconstitutional by bankruptcy court

A federal bankruptcy court in California on Monday ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles ruled that it is discriminatory to prevent a legally married same-sex couple from filing for joint bankruptcy.

The couple, Gene Balas and Carlos Morales, filed a joint chapter 13 petition. They were married in 2008 in California and remain legally married.

In his ruling, the judge wrote: “This case is about equality, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, for two people who filed for protection under Title 11 of the United States Code (Bankruptcy Code).”

It is “undisputed that the Debtors are a lawfully married California couple,” the judge wrote, adding that the couple came to the court to restructure and repay their debt following extended illnesses and long periods of unemployment.

The U.S. trustee for the case filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that two men cannot file jointly for bankruptcy. The judge ruled the trustee did not ask for dismissal based on one of the 11 causes listed in bankruptcy law to dismiss, but simply because the couple are two men.

The judge said the trustee filed no relevant case law supporting his position and said the couple should not be singled out for discriminatory treatment. He cited the Obama administration’s position that DOMA is unconstitutional and ruled that, indeed it is.

—  David Taffet

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo on the Strip

Fiesta on the street

Sure Cindo de Mayo has turned into a drinking-based American celebration, but we’re gonna drop some history here on you.From the completely reliable source of Wikipedia, May 5 is the “date observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride, and to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War.” What’s that? Still wondering where your margarita is? Well, hit up the Strip tonight as it gets a touch of Latin flair for the holiday. From Sue Ellen’s to TMC: The Mining Company, the celebration highlights the block tonight.

DEETS: Blockwide Fiesta at Sue Ellen’s, TMC: The Mining Company, S4 and JR.’s Bar & Grill. Cedar Springs Road and Throckmorton Street. 8 p.m. PartyAtTheBlock.com.

 

—  Rich Lopez

Check out this butt sex travel reference guide

Following up on the magazine’s insightful story about efforts to remove Texas’ “homosexual conduct” law from the books, Mother Jones put together this handy-dandy map that can easily be printed out and used as a reference source as you travel around the country.

It turns out that a total of 14 states still have sodomy statutes on the books, despite the fact that these laws can’t be enforced because they were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas:

Since Lawrence, efforts to formally repeal laws in Montana, Kansas, Utah, Louisiana, North Carolina, and, most notably, Texas have all faced resistance before fizzling out in their respective state legislatures. Conservatives in those states know they can’t enforce the laws, but by keeping them in the code, they can send a message that homosexuality is officially condemned by the government.

As you can see, most of the 14 states with statutes still on the books — 10 to be exact — ban sodomy regardless of whether it’s homosexual or heterosexual. In other words, before Lawrence, butt sex was illegal in these states for mom and dad, too!

Texas, meanwhile, is one of only four states where sodomy is illegal — or was illegal — only for gay people. The others are Oklahoma, Kansas and Montana. Which is strange because if there’s any place where cornholeing should be legal, if not encouraged, it’s Kansas.

—  John Wright

WARNING: Anti-Gay States May Be Hazardous To Your Health

A new study proves what common sense has been telling us all these years. Lisa Keen reports:

Same-sex couples with adopted children living in states with anti-gay adoption laws and attitudes had more mental health issues in their first year of parenthood than couples with adopted children living in more accepting states, a new study has found. In addition, same-sex couples with adopted children who perceived higher support from their family and workplace and lived in more gay-friendly neighborhoods reported better mental health than those who did not.

Dr. Goldberg obviously knows what she is talking about:

Dr. Abbie Goldberg, assistant professor of Psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, co-authored the work with JuliAnna Smith at the Center for Research on Families of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Their report appears in the in February 2011 issue of the Journal of Counseling Psychology, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Psychological Association.

Bigoted legislators need to stop hurting our children.

While studies show that many people, including straight ones, show an increase in depressive or anxious symptoms in early parenthood, Goldberg explained, most recover later. But, she added, higher levels of depression or anxiety “could have negative effects beyond the individual,” including among their children, especially if the factors causing them—unsupportive workplaces, families, neighborhoods, or laws—don’t change.

I recommend reading the entire article to arm yourself with the facts the next time some Neanderthal conservative claims that they are “doing this for the children.” Although the point can always be made, “When have facts stopped conservatives from passing bad or injurious legislation?”




AMERICAblog Gay

—  David Taffet

The Daily Beast ranks the 20 Most Tolerant States – does the list make sense to you?

As the country commemorates Martin Luther King Day and reflects on Tucson, The Daily Beast crunches the numbers to rank the tolerances of every state across America. How did yours stack up?

In the four-plus decades since Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, America has surely moved closer to a country where people are judged more by content of their character than the color of their skin-or their gender, religion or sexual orientation. In honor of today’s national holiday, and mindful of the debate fostered by the massacre in Tucson nine days ago, The Daily Beast sought to examine which states are the most tolerant, devising a thorough point system that measures each state’s residents based on their actions and opinions, as well the scope of state laws guaranteeing equal rights and protections, which reflects the broader political will.

When you surf over to look at these rankings by The Daily Beast as described above, a state’s tolerance ranking takes into account this criteria:

1. Tolerance score: __ out of 100

2. Hate crime score: __ out of 40

3. Discrimination score: __ out of 40

4. Gay rights score: __ out of 10

5. Religious Tolerance Score: __ out of 10

6. Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: __ (+ ranking out of 50 states)

7. Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: __ (+ ranking out of 50 states)

8. Population in support of same-sex marriage: __

9. Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: __%

Now with that in mind, take a look at the top 20, without the benefit of seeing their scores on the above criteria; some of the ranking seems quite bizarre from a LGBT perspective.

The Daily Beast’s List of the 20 Most Tolerant States

1. Wisconsin

2. Maryland

3. Illinois

4. Pennsylvania

5. Hawaii

6. California

7. Minnesota

8. New Jersey

9. New Hampshire

10. New Mexico

11. Virginia

12. Iowa

13. North Carolina

14. Connecticut

15. Florida

16. Louisiana

17. New York

18. Massachusetts

19. West Virginia

20. Nevada

#1 Wisconsin actually has a marriage amendment in place.

For the life of me I cannot understand how holy-rolling Virginia and West Virginia even made it into the top 20, or for that matter, Louisiana. And what is Massachusetts doing bringing up the rear at #18? New Jersey surely should be in the top 10, but behind Pennsylvania?

And if we’re strictly going on institutionalized equality advances, California should be near or at the top because aside from Prop 8, LGBTs have parity in protections at almost every level.

I’ll share the stats for my state, NC, which is at #13. Surf back to The Daily Beast to see the other states for comparison.

13. North Carolina

Tolerance score: 63 out of 100

Hate crime score: 25 out of 40

Discrimination score: 30 out of 40

Gay rights score: 2 out of 10

Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10

Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.1 (11 out of 50 states) Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 11.5 (10 out of 50 states)

Population in support of same-sex marriage: 36%

Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 62%

Since I can speak to the anecdotal issue of tolerance in the state, there are a couple of facts to put on the table:

* We don’t have a marriage amendment (yet; that is now in sight after the midterms, with GOP rule of the Gen Assembly for the first time since Reconstruction).

* More of the population is urban/suburban than rural now, but there is a downside. What that means is more people live near centers of business, education, techonology and medicine, which draw highly educated transplants from around the world. The problem here is that the conservative, more exurban/rural areas are hardcore conservative, and more progressive transplants/transient families don’t necessarily consistently vote. Prime example – the Wake County School Board debacle, where fundies packed the board taking control because lazy progressives didn’t bother to go out and vote to prevent the resegregation of the school system.

* Day to day life in the city centers is tolerant: I’ve encountered more overt and passive-aggressive race-based and LGBT-based discrimination  in NYC than I do here in NC. Neighborhoods tend to be more racially diverse, with the main division socioeconomic.

* Re: being out of the closet — people generally just don’t think about it, care about it, and take it in stride. Now if you drive far enough out into the stix and see trucks with Stars & Bars stickers and a gun rack, you may want to keep driving. We’re not stupid.

* Equality: um, there really is little to report when it comes to LGBT rights, but what we can report is significant. NC was the first Southern state to pass a trans-inclusive anti-bullying bill, and had equal hospital visitation rights long before the federal advance that went into effect this year. Other than that, you can be fired for being LGBT if you are a state worker or work for a private business where there is not an anti-discrimination policy. The only mitigating factor is the wealth of private corporations and universities employing many LGBTs have not only trans-inclusive anti-discrimination policies, but offer partner benefits.

All that said, a ranking of #13 seems high to me. If one of those states is your own, how do you think it should rank?
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin