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6.12.14 - HOLDER HOLDING IT DOWN!
by: Memo Menos

 

Attorney General ERIC HOLDER has been the left hook to President OBAMA'S continual jabs on GLBT issues throughout this administration. He was quick to step up on issues related to same-sex marriage, not enforcing laws in some districts, arguing with our rights in others, issuing edicts that married same-sex couples would receive federal benefits, even if they reside in states outlawing their unions, and so on.

So now the Attorney General is taking a stab at The Boy Scouts of America. On Tuesday in a speech before Lambda Legal in Washington, HOLDER lambasted the organization, and more particularly, it's new leader, former Defense Secretary ROBERT M. GATES, for the practice of not allowing gays and lesbians to serve as leaders. This policy was a compromise of sorts, after the Scouts were pressured to rescind it's policy of kicking out openly gay scouts. That evolution came painfully for the organization last year, and in the process they imposed a sort of "don't ask-don't tell" rule, whereby a gay leader could keep his or her position as long as they don't come out in public about it.

But HOLDER knows this policy is masked discrimination, and is out to rid The Boy Scouts of it. "The continuation of a policy that discriminates against gay adult leaders-by an iconic American institution-only preserves the worst kind of stereotypes...Today, courageous lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals routinely put their lives on the line as members of America's armed services. They inspire us, they protect us, and they defend us. And if these men and women are fit for military service, then surely they are fit to mentor, to teach, and to serve as role models for the leaders of future generations."

The Attorney General did not announce any new legal action against the Boy Scouts, and they are shielded by a Supreme Court decision from 2000 which ruled that as a private entity, the Scouts could discriminate against gays and lesbians. But clearly HOLDER was calling out GATES, who helped rid the military of the arcane policy, to do the same for the Boy Scouts of America.

Definitely change we can believe in!


 



5.20.14 - AND THEN CAME OREGON AND PENNSYLVANIA
by: Memo Menos

 

A federal judge yesterday struck down Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage, and today a federal judge did the same in Pennsylvania. That makes 19 states where gays and lesbians can marry and leaves nearly 50% of the people in the United States living in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is now the law.

In Oregon, Federal District Judge MICHAEL McSHANE had promised to have his opinion filed by noon, and 1 minute later, couples were being wed, having lined up since 5 in the morning to do so. The scene was particularly meaningful in Portland, Oregon's largest city, where thousands of marriage licenses were issued back in 2004, when San Francisco Mayor GAVIN NEWSOME launched the revolution that blossomed after California's Prop 8 decision in the 2008 election. This progressive city saw the courts at the time void the licenses, and later in 2004 saw the state pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Those days are now gone.

As for Pennsylvania, today's decision by Federal Judge JOHN JONES III came 9 months after the Attorney General in that state, KATLEEN KANE announced she would not defend the law banning same-sex marriages, calling it "Wholly unconstitutional." Judge JONES agreed, ""The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional."

The ruling is a blow to Republican Governor TOM CORBETT, whose office took up the defense of the ban on same-sex marriage, which came about in Pennsylvania by way of a state law passed in 1996.


 



5.14.14 - SAME-SEX MARRIAGE COMES TO IDAHO
by: Memo Menos


The advance of same-sex marriage continues it's breakneck march to national acceptance. Yesterday a federal judge in Idaho declared that state's ban unconstitutional. "Marriage is a fundamental right of all citizens, which neither tradition nor the majority may deny," Judge CANDY WAGAHOFF DALE declared. The opinion was not stayed pending an appeal, meaning marriages could go forth in Idaho this week.

Also this week, same-sex couples in Arkansas were rushing to the altar to get married, pending an appeal of a Arkansas Supreme Court decision striking down that state's ban. The voters there overwhelmingly approved the ban in a referendum in 2004, but the Supreme Court in Arkansas on Friday struck it down.

Meanwhile this issue continues to percolate up through the federal courts, with several Appeals Courts weighing the issue, which would then leave it ripe for the Supreme Court to take up. In Denver, several cases are awaiting decision by the Federal Appeals Court there, affecting cases in Utah and Oklahoma.

In Virginia, a 3-judge appellate panel heard arguments in a same-sex marriage case there, following a ruling by a federal district judge there that struck down the voter approved amendments to the Virginia constitution restricting marriage to a man and a woman. It would appear that in 2015 the Supremes are going to have to deal with this issue, and render an opinion that will have nationwide consequences.

But progress on other fronts is moving just as fast. Over the weekend, the National Football League drafted the first openly gay player, MICHAEL SAMS. He was drafted 249th by the St. Louis Rams, out of 259 players selected. If he makes the team he will be the first openly gay player in the league. Look for others to join him.

But the real shocker was the video feed, presumably from SAM'S living room, waiting breathlessly on a phone call to indicate he had been chosen. That call finally did come from Rams head coach JEFF FISHER, and SMA'S along with some friends celebrated, with the highlight, a kiss on the lips between SAMS and his partner. Now that's progress!

That, and the boycott of the Beverly Hills and Bel Air Hotels in Los Angeles because they are owned by the Sultan of Brunei, who is a homophobe, having instituted laws in his kingdom calling for the death penalty for gay people. There is still quite a bit of progress yet to come.

But things are clearly on the right track. You needn't look any further than CHER'S 100th farewell tour, which kicked off in Brooklyn at the Barclay's Center Friday night last. The icon called herself a drag queen, and quipped, "What is your granny doing this evening?" Of course the audience knew the answer, having seen the opening act CYNDI LAUPER, who sang "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" with ROSIE O'DONNELL and LIZA MINELLI as backup singers.

Pinch me, am I dreaming?



 



4.10.14 - GAY HAS BECOME PASSE


On this the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, where gay rights are being discussed as the new phase of this important movement, it is a testament to just how far the GLBT community has come, and just how much President BARACK OBAMA has done, that coming out gay has now become passe.

Take the case of DERRICK GORDON, 22-year old shooting guard for the University of Massachusetts. Yesterday, on ESPN, and on ANDREA MITCHELL LIVE, the young man became the first open gay male athlete in Division I college basketball to declare that he is gay, and his parents and teammates support him. It was a rousing, thoughtful statement, one that revealed a remarkable intelligence and presence for a man in the spotlight at 22 years old.

"My time was just now. I was comfortable with who I am, and I didn't want to keep hiding. I was hiding for four years. And that takes a toll when you have to be somebody who you are not."

But there it was, kind of ho hum, uneventful, almost out of place on a hard news story, at a time when nations around the globe are still desperately struggling to find a downed airliner; Russia is fomenting civil war in Ukraine as a pretense to taking over the satellite country; thousands are suffering and dying in the Central African Republic as a result of religious strife which has left vast numbers of people refugees and orphans; and Secretary of State JOHN KERRY is taking a beating from colleagues in the Senate and Congress for his attempts to re-ignite the peace talks between Israel and Palestine. The sexual preferences of a college kid in the Northeast hardly seems up to snuff with the rest of these crises.

But not so long ago, it was. Then came JASON COLLINS, the NBA player, who got support from so many, including President OBAMA when he came out nearly a year ago. In February University of Missouri linebacker MICHAEL SAM came out of the closet, just in time to be drafted by the NFL, which will have at least 1 openly gay player on it's rosters when the season opens later in the year.

On April Fools Day, MITCH EBY, a defensive lineman for Chapman University, a small private Christian College, in all places, Orange County, California, decided to come out of the closet, to help others like him. And, this wasn't an April Fool's gag!

"I didn't expect it would be on this level. But everything's been really, really positive. I definitely feel more comfortable now. I can actually go around and be around who I want, do what I want to do without having to worry about someone's reaction or someone judging me."

That's pretty amazing, from behind the "orange Curtain", on the campus of a small Christian college. And yet, this story was barely picked up nationally. It was no big deal, and that's how it should be!

Just as the decisions by Federal judges in recent weeks, in Oklahoma, and Utah, and Ohio, and Indiana, and you name the other conservative state. They are all falling, soon to join the ranks of the 18 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is now legal. Have you seen the video by former republican Senator ALAN SPSON of Utah, where he calmly speaks of the right to marry who you love. It's almost surreal how fast, and how far the tables have turned.

Being gay is blasse, passe, and that's quite okay.



 



1.16.14 - LOOSE CHANGE


Like coins you scatter across the counter as you empty your pockets, the federal court decisions are beginning to trickle in on the gay marriage issue. Last month a federal judge in Utah shook things up with his ruling that banning same-sex marriage in that state was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court eventually put a stay on marriages in Utah pending the full appeal of the case, but not until hundreds of same-sex couples were married. The Justice Department announced last Friday that those who did marry in the short window in Utah, would get federal recognition of their marriages, a huge step given the short shrift state officials have dealt them.

"I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages," Attorney General ERIC HOLDER said in a video message.

The move angered National Organization for Marriage president BRIAN BROWN, who issued a reply, "It is outrageous that the Justice Department would move so brazenly and publicly to undermine Utah's standing constitutional provision regulating marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

Yesterday, a federal judge in Oklahoma arrived at the same conclusion as the judge in Utah. U.S District Judge TERRENCE KERN struck down Oklahoma's state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, finding that the ban violated the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

"Moral disapproval of homosexuals as a class, or same-sex marriage as a practice, is not a permissible justification for a law," KERN ruled. In 2004, voters in Oklahoma passed the ban with 76% of the vote.

The judge stayed his decision pending an appeal, which also will go to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. And while there will be no marriages in Oklahoma in the interim, the writing is clearly on the wall. The loose change is beginning to add up.

Meanwhile, in a flurry of other gay news over the holidays, Pasadena was named the 2nd "Gayest City in America" by The Advocate. The survey was based on a number of obscure factors, so as to make it newsworthy and interesting, including GLBT elected officials, lesbian based households, gay rodeos and women's bars. Pasadena's two openly gay judges in the Superior Court is said to be a major factor. San Francisco, by comparison, was ranked 11th, and Palm Springs wasn't even ranked.

But it's interesting that in the Rose Parade, which runs through downtown Pasadena, a couple was married on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float. Too bad none of the broadcast channels paid any attention. ABC cut to a commercial and NBC didn't even reference the event, while showing the float and commenting on it's flowers.
Apparently the big buck networks don't give a dam about loose change.

That's why it must have rocked the higher-ups when ROBYN ROBERTS, ABC's high-profile morning anchor, announced over the Christmas break that she was a lesbian. She did make the announcement on her Facebook page, while on vacation, so it's not like KATHY LEE and HOUDA had a little wine party over the deal, but, it's another quarter in the pot.

As was the news that over the holiday LILY TOMLIN married her partner of 42 years, JANE WAGNER. They tied the knot New Year's Eve in Los Angeles. That's like a dime on the pile, as LILY isn't quite as visible as she was on Laugh-In years ago.

Nor is British scientist ALAN TURING very visible any longer, having died more than 60 years ago. But the English government decided on Christmas Eve to grant him a royal pardon from the crime of "gross indecency", a label the hero was branded with back in 1952 when he was convicted of having sex with another man.

TURING was largely responsible in cracking the Nazis' Enigma code, which brought an end to World War II. After his conviction, he was chemically castrated and stripped of his government security clearance. The humiliation was too much for TURING, who killed himself several years later. Thanks for the few sense, Great Britain, even if way too late.

Over the break, LA Galaxy soccer player ROBBIE ROGERS launched his website, beyondit.com, which seeks to bring about equality for athletes in sports and overcome the homophobia that remains in macho circles. ROGERS came out in 2013, becoming the first gay male athlete to play in a major American sport. :We're trying to make a statement for people to be themselves," ROGERS told the Daily Breeze. "It's all about equality. It's not about homophobia or sports. It's been inspiring."

Well that's a roll of quarters, isn't it. Here's to a bankroll in 2014.


 



1.06.14 - CHANGE IS HARD IN UTAH

 

 

The holiday euphoria over gay marriage in Utah has come to a cold, abrupt end, at least for now. The Supreme Court today granted a stay over a District Court ruling that has seen the gates blown open wide in the Mormon state, allowing hundreds of gays and lesbians get married there over the last few weeks.

It has been like a dream, a Christmas miracle, for residents of perhaps the most conservative state in the country to see their lives acknowledged, and respected, with the availability of marriage.

The state appealed the District Courts opinion, allbeit without seeking a stay prior to the ruling. They were blindsided, both by the surprise announcement from District Court judge, ROBERT J. SHELBY, and by the sweeping pronouncements made by the republican appointee. Requests for a stay were denied by SHELBY, and the 10th Circuit Appeals Court in Denver, before todays announcement by the SUPREMES.

The case is on a fast track at the high court, who will decide whether marriages can continue, pending a decision on the merits of the appeal by the 10th circuit.

Haven't we been here before? Change keeps on ooozing out in 2014.


 



12.21.13 - CHANGE COMES TO, UTAH?

 

Yesterday, then unthinkable happened. To many, it was like a dream, one they never thought could happen. But like a Christmas gift delivered by Santa Claus himself, a federal district judge in Utah unexpectedly ruled that denying same-sex marriages in that state had "no rational basis", a term of art in legalese, and hence it was unconstitutional.

The ruling was several weeks early, not being expected until the first week of January, and it caught the state with it's pants down, without a stay of marriages pending appeal. And so, 1 hour after the ruling, same-sex marriages were being performed at city hall in Salt Lake City, among other venues. It was an astonishing development, coming a day after the Supreme Court in New Mexico struck down that states ban on gay nuptials.

In a sweeping 53-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby, the court said that a 2004 ban passed by the state's voters, as well as two separate laws passed by Utah's legislature violate the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason," wrote U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby in the 53-page decision. "Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional."

The sate is filing an appeal today, but the cat is now out of the bag in Utah. There are a number of same-sex couples there who have now legally married under the laws of that state. It won't be long before Utah officially becomes the 18th state where gay marriage is legal, if it is not there already.


 



12.21.13 - TEAM CHANGE

 

So here is another example of just how much life has changed for GLBT team members. Two days after the President announced the official delegation for the Sochi Olympic Games in February, and media outlets touted the two openly gay athletes, both lesbians, BILLIE JEAN KING and CAITLIN CACHOW, another member of that delegation came out of the closet to declare, that he, too, was gay.

In a statement from Europe, the 1988 gold medalist, BRIAN BOITANO declared,

“I am currently skating in Europe but want to provide a statement regarding my appointment to the Olympic delegation. I have been fortunate to represent the United States of America in three different Olympics and now I am honored to be part of the presidential delegation to the Olympics in Sochi. It has been my experience from competing around the world and in Russia that Olympic athletes can come together in friendship, peace and mutual respect regardless of their individual country’s practices.

It is my desire to be defined by my achievements and my contributions. While I am proud to play a public role in representing the American Olympic delegation as a former Olympic athlete, I have always reserved my private life for my family and friends and will continue to do so. I am many things: a son, a brother and uncle, an athlete, a cook, an author and being gay is just one part of who I am. First and foremost I am an American athlete and I am proud to live in a country that encourages diversity, openness and tolerance. I hope we can remain focused on the Olympic spirit which celebrates achievement in sport by peoples of all nations.”

So, there you have it. Athletes, even those who had previously denied in their memoirs to being gay, are knocking others down to get to the podium and proclaim their sexuality. Changing teams right before our eyes.
If that ain't change you can believe in, then I don't know what is.

And then there were three openly gay athletes on the official US delegation for the Olympic Games in Sochi. Any more takers?

I'll bet Vlad is pumped.


 



12.18.13 - AND THEN THERE WERE 17

 

New Mexico's Supreme Court has issued a ruling declaring it unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, making it the 17th state, plus the District of Columbia where gays are now allowed the right to marry. A handful of counties in the state had begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in that state late this summer, necessitating the Supreme Court to intervene.


 



12.18.13 - DUCKING CHANGE


Could it really be true that Duck Dynasty is "America's favorite TV Family"? Seriously?
I mean, what could be more Americana than a family of hillbillies who become rich making duck calls, and growing beards like they are members of the Taliban. We've seen this television "vision" before, only the Clampetts had the decency to move to Beverly, Hills that is, swimming pools and movie stars.

Now comes born again patriarch PHIL ROBERTSON of the Duck pack, in an interview with GQ Magazine for their January issue, with these choice words of wisdom,

"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there — bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men, don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right. It seems to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man's anus," he explained. "That's just me. I'm just thinking, 'There's more there! She's got more to offer.' I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."

Despite the historic change this country has experienced, there exist pockets of attitudes like this one that are resistant to change, never mind the misogyny or the ignorance, or even the lack of basic hygiene.

Likewise across the world, as India, and Australia saw same-sex rights revoked last week, much like in California, after Proposition 8. A week ago India's Supreme Court restored a ban on gay sex, reversing a 2009 ruling that struck down a centuries-old law that criminalized sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. India's Congress is currently weighing options to have the law overturned legislatively.

Meanwhile in Australia, the high court there rejected laws allowing same-sex marriage in the nation's capitol of Canberra, on the basis that to allow gay marriage on one region of the country would be inconsistent with the law of the land for the rest of Australia. That law, The Marriage Act, is strikingly similar to DOMA, and was amended in 2004 to define marriage as between a man and a woman. DOMA was struck down by our Supreme Court last June.

The Australian high court essentially ruled that any laws regarding same-sex marriage could not be passed piecemeal throughout the country, but rather, the federal government is the body which has jurisdiction over such legislation. Not a bad idea, given the patchwork of laws defining this issue currently in the United States. But there's just one problem for Australian GLBT's who wish to marry, Prime Minister TONY ABBOTT is opposed to such legislation, and his conservative allies in congress have rejected two prior bills that would have made Australia the 16th nation in the world to allow such unions. Neighboring New Zealand is one such nation. There is still work to do in 2014.

But on a positive note, President OBAMA today announced the representatives who will be going to the Sochi Olympics in February on behalf of the United States, and the group includes two openly gay athletes, a direct affront to the Russian nation which has taken great public steps to criminalize and persecute members of the GLBT community in recent months. Tennis legend BILLIE JEAN KING, and hockey player CAITLIN CAHOW will represent, no doubt much to the ire of Russian President PUTIN.

To rub salt in the wounds, President OBAMA in remarks on the naming of this delegation, suggested that perhaps even some American GLBT athletes might bring home some medals, and that the Russian team, without GLBT athletes, might not be as strong as those with gay performers. Talk about getting your ducks in a row.


 



12.3.13 - CHANGE COMES TO CROATIA, SORT OF

 

 

On the day before gay marriages began in Hawaii, the country of Croatia, in a nationwide referendum, voted with a strong majority to ban same-sex unions. The move, similar to the actions taken by this country in passing DOMA back in 1996, will amend Croatia's constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, making it difficult for gay marriage to ever have it's day in that nation.

The vote was relatively low, just 38% of the 4.5 million eligible voters cast ballots. But 66% of them voted yes to the question "Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?"

It was a major victory for conservatives, namely the Catholic church, which has strong influence in this country. But it also reflects an electorate reeling from the effects of nearly 20% unemployment, and an uneasy assimilation into a European Union where same-sex marriage is gaining in popularity.

A day after the election results were announced, the more liberal government suggested it would pursue civil unions, which would allow same-sex couples in Croatia many of the rights and benefits as married couples, and would blunt the negative connotations of a nation trying to come into the modern world, and attract tourism to bolster a flagging economy. Gay pride this year in Zagreb saw some 10,000 participants, in its 11th year. There was no reported violence.

Meanwhile, in Hawaii, where same-sex couples can get wedding licenses online and be married the same day, tourism officials estimate that the newly passed legislation there, as well as across the country, where 16 states and DC allow gay marriage, will help the nation's number 1 wedding destination to the tune of some additional $200 million each year. I bet they could use those kuna in Croatia.


 



11.16.13 - LOVE IS LOVE, AND IT'S CHANGING THE WORLD

 

Change that is driving the gay marriage revolution came full circle Tuesday, as the Hawaiian Senate voted 19-4 to allow same sex couples to marry in the Aloha state, sending the bill to Governor NEIL AMBERCROMBIE, who has vowed to sign it. Last week, Hawaii's House of Representative's passed the bill 30-19, after opening up a session to hear citizen's input on the matter, which ended up lasting more than 56 hours. Some 1,000 people testified for their maximum of 2 minutes, in exhausting hearings that started on Halloween, and ended last Friday. At times the chamber was rocked with supporters on both sides of the issue, but chants of "Love is love" won the day.

The move marks a complete circle on the issue, as Hawaii's Supreme Court in 1993 ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry was a violation of the rights of 3 same-sex couples who sought a marriage license. That ruling seemed to open the gates for gay marriages in that state, but a backlash quickly closed that matter off in Hawaii. Voters overruled the court decision. And the Defense of Marriage Act was passed by the United States congress and signed into law by a harangued President BILL CLINTON who was drowning in a morals scandal at the time.

Couples will be able to wed as soon as December 2nd in Hawaii, where, suddenly, after 20 years, all seems right with the world again.

Meanwhile in Illinois, Governor PAT QUINN has set November 20th for a signing ceremony to enact law there to allow same-sex marriage. Illinois would then become the 16th state, plus the District of Columbia where gays can marry legally.

On election day, change came to Seattle as that city elected that city's first openly gay mayor, ED MURRAY, who as it turns out, spearheaded Washington State's drive for same-sex marriage. MURRAY follows ANNISE PARKER who in 2009 was elected openly as Houston's mayor.

In Maine, Congressman MICHAEL H. MICHAUD announced he is gay. The move came in that state's governor race, which comes up for a vote next November. MICHAUD'S opponent was threatening to "break the news" so the congressman beat him to the punch, and will wear it as a badge of honor in the campaign. "Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple honest answer:'Yes I am. But why should it matter?'"

MICHAUD'S announcement makes him the 7th openly serving member of congress, where change comes slowly. There are no openly gay governors. But who knows, this coming out thing seems to be contagious.

Love is love, and it really is changing the world.


 



11.8.13 - CHANGE GOES REPUBLICAN?


It was an off-year election, so the results of last night's polling must be tempered. Yet, a republican, a conservative republican won the governor's race in New Jersey by historic margins. In Virginia, that state for the first time in modern memory elected a governor of the same party as the president. Indeed, all statewide offices in Virginia could end up in the democrats hands. And in the bellwether race in Alabama, a run-off for a republican congressional seat, the Tea Party candidate lost to a more moderate republican.

Could this mean doom for the Tea Party? Are moderate conservatives winning the day, and finally turning the republicans away from the "over the cliff" kamikaze tactics that have driven Tea Party fervor to date?

Doubtful. First of all, the so-called moderate who had the biggest win last night, Governor CHRIS CHRISTIE, is really no moderate at all. He is pro-life; opposes abortion rights for women. He is anti-gay; opposes even civil unions for same-sex couples. He has some interesting ties to BERNIE MADOFF, which his political opponents have failed to bring to light. And, he has anger issues, which have reared their head in his dealings with the media, and constituents, all to no great effect thus far. But those sorts of misgivings are magnified in national elections, to which CHRISTIE is certainly headed.

Second, KEN CUCCINELLI, the ultra-conservative lost his bid for governor of Virginia by a smaller margin, 3%, than expected, and that with a libertarian siphoning off some 6% of mostly republican votes, and republicans being vastly overspent by democrats. That's even as he espoused his draconian policy values which were anti-women, anti-gay, and anti-human. The guy makes the Taliban look reasonable. Yet, his last ditch effort to make the campaign a referendum about Obamacare nearly worked. Don't look for Tea Party crazies to take any heed from this result.

And while we are on the topic of Obamacare, republicans are completely unified in attacking the law, and it will continue without so much as a delay after this election. If we step back and think about it for a minute. President OBAMA is trying to secure health insurance, essentially for the poor. It's an admirable thing, even with the sales tactics that led to puffing, even with the incompetent rollout of the website. The cause is right.

And the efforts to deny people, especially poor people, affordable health care are despicable. Plain and simple. It is evil to say to the poor, too bad, your on your own. I've got mine. Yet, that's exactly what republicans, to a man and woman, are doing. Add to that the fraudulent stories of people losing their policies, without completing the report with news that those same people can get better, cheaper policies under Obamacare, is flat out criminal. As are the efforts by insurance companies, in sending out cancellation notices to policy holders, luring them into more expensive coverage, when they know those same people could get better health care through Obamacare. That's after democrats compromised on this legislation by rejecting a single-payor approach as a handout to those same insurance companies. It is outrageous! The whole thing just points to one sobering conclusion;

Republicans have not changed, and will not change. They still are the party that stands up for big interests, like insurance companies. And they still are the party that will do everything to keep the neediest, the most vulnerable in our society from access to a basic wages, and health care. They have opposed legislation that would provide jobs to these people. They have opposed increases to the minimum wage. They would like to eliminate social security and medicaid. And now they want to keep them from getting health care. The republicans are the same, whether it is tea, or kool-aid that they are drinking, and this off-year election won't do much to change that.

But change does still flow to democrats, and all those enlightened folks who support them.

In Illinois yesterday, the legislature there voted to allow same-sex marriage. The action sends the legislation back to the Illinois senate for some tinkering, but the bill originated there. And it will no doubt soon end up on Governor PAT QUINN'S desk, where he will sign it, making Illinois the 15th state, along with the District of Columbia, where gays and lesbians can be married.

Change, it seems, is still on the march, republicans and off-year elections notwithstanding.


 



11.5.13 - ENDA Round

 

The United States Senate yesterday, in a bit of a flea-flicker, got the Employment Non-Discrimination Act past the filibuster line of defense, leaving the field wide open for a vote on the merits later this week. That means, for this bill to get to the endzone, it won't need 60 votes.

But the real surprise is, it might just get more than 60 votes. The bill had the support of all 55 democrats, along with a few republicans. But as the vote neared yesterday, one of those democrats, Senator CLAIRE McCASKILL of Missouri, and one of those republicans, Senator LISA MURKOWSKI of Alaska, were in transit having difficulty of making the vote. Senator HARRY REID went ahead with the vote, and with the drama and excitement of a BCS title game, supporters of the bill rallied support and squeezed some extra yardage out of republicansm snaring yes votes from Senator KELLY AYOTTE of New Hampshire, Senator ROB PORTMAN from Ohio, and DEAN HELLER of Nevada, Senator ORRIN HATCH of Utah and Senator PAT TOOMEY of Pennsylvania. Republican Senator SUSAN COLLINS of Maine is a co-sponsor of the bill, and has been rallying republican support. In all, 7 republicans now have voiced support, with the vote yesterday 61-30 to advance the bill.

ENDA would make it a federal crime to fire someone on the basis of his or her sexual orientation. With all the progress surrounding gay rights in the last few years, it is still possible to be fired from your job if you are gay, or even if your boss thinks you are gay in 29 states. That's despite polling showing 80% of Americans feel it would be illegal to do so.

Similar legislation has been kicked around congress for some 39 years, with the first bill dealing with hiring and firing and sexual orientation coming in 1974 from the late Congresswoman BELLA ABZUG. For all of those who think gay rights has come overnight, welcome to the big game. This scoring drive has been 40 years in the making. And we are in the red zone, but there is no certainty of scoring.

House Speaker JOHN BOEHNER through a spokesman yesterday, indicated the House would not take up the bill. He feels there are laws currently on the books that sufficiently deal with the situation, which is patently false. And he also feels that new legislation "will increase frivolous litigation and cost Americans jobs, especially small business jobs." Now that's gotta be a penalty for unsportsmanlike behavior. Speaking out of both sides of ones headset. And, how in the world would legislation making it illegal to fire someone, result in a loss of jobs?

In any event, does anyone really think the Tea Party led House would ever pass such legislation.

Not without a hail Mary pass. But the way this game is going, anything is possible. Go team!


 



10.22.13 - A CHANGE OF HEART


New Jersey's Governor CHRIS CHRISTIE made a stunning reversal of policy yesterday, abandoning his administration's appeal of lower court rulings in that state allowing same-sex marriage. The move effectively makes New Jersey the 14th state to allow gays to marry, along with the District of Columbia, and continues the momentum for the right to go nationwide. Battles in Hawaii, New Mexico and Illinois could come this year, says EVAN WOLFSON, founder and president of Freedom to Marry.

But the decision by Governor CHRISTIE, who heretofore was adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage, having vetoed a bill pass by New Jersey's legislature, and previously vowing to fight to the US Supreme Court the September ruling of Judge MARY C. JACOBSON of New Jersey's Superior Court allowing gay marriage, was another indication of the sea change that this issue has experienced in the last few years.

In a statement through a surrogate the governor said, "Although the governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law." Ding dong the witch is dead, which old witch, the wicked witch, ding dong the wicked witch is dead!

The decision came only after Governor CHRISITIE'S request of the state Supreme Court to stay the marriages pending a time to appeal, which was denied. As of midnight Sunday, same-sex couples were being married, some by newly elected Senator COREY BOOKER, and Governor CHRISITE was overrun.

Conservative groups like the National Organization for Marriage immediately lambasted CHRISTIE for not having the courage to stand up for conservative values, and withdrew their support for him in the 2016 presidential race.

"An activist judiciary has once again ignored the rights of voters. Regrettably, Governor Christie's decision to surrender on marriage reveals him to be a man who lacks the courage of his supposed convictions, NOM President Brian S. Brown said yesterday in his own statement."

Ironically, it was CHRISITE who stood by those convictions in the face of a state and its elected representatives, who were in favor of making same-sex marriage legal in New Jersey. But for whatever reason, he has had a change of heart, and change is just so delicious, isn't it? Perhaps the writing on the wall is that for the presidential campaign in 2016, a candidate opposing same-sex marriage, and swimming against the tide of 14 states, or 24 states, or who knows how many states, would be a dinosaur with little hope of competing.


 


President Obama

9.4.13 - "WE MAKE DECISIONS EVEN WHEN THEY'RE DIFFICULT"

 

Over the past few days, if one were inclined to watch the pundits, across all spectrums of the political landscape, you might have come to the conclusion that President BARACK OBAMA was desperate, or floundering, or feckless. His lack of a coherent policy in the Middle East, his inconsistency on consulting congress before going to war, his inability to act, his rush to action, his impotence on the world stage, all sounded believable listening to the host of mouthpieces paid to handicap the political play by play that unfolds each day in this complicated world.

But after hearing the President's news conference from Sweden, in which he dealt calmly, and intelligently with all of the issues swirling about with regard to the current Middle East crisis, Syria, it is such a joy to have a President about whom Americans can feel proud. To have a President who clearly has grappled with this situation in a most thoughtful and reasoned way is an experience this country had been devoid of during the 8 years of the Bush presidency. To have a President who can defend his actions, without looking defensive, and support his actions with rationale, that when explained without the hysteria of the talking heads psychobabble is a reassuring moment that is simply priceless. Anyone who doesn't share this reality is not living in reality.

President OBAMA dissected the questions from the assembled media in Sweden, and dealt with each and every point, not avoiding the hard questions, not sidestepping the thorny areas. Once again, he was masterful.

He defended the "red line" making it a line the world community drew, not him personally. He defended the decision to go to congress, even managing to throw in a dig, calling them "snipers from the sidelines", in a backhanded way that encourages them to step up to the plate and join him in this tough decision. Is there anyone who doesn't believe that the United States should be unified if we are to go forward with this risky action? What happened to the addage that politics ends at the border?

And he defended the policy, making it clear that diplomacy, and the seeking of international support were all tried, with little success. He lobbed a few zingers to Russian President PUTIN, with whom he will meet in a few days, without laying blame squarely on his shoulders. He was deep in the weeds on this issue, yet above the fray, if that were somehow possible. And with President OBAMA, it is very possible.

Let's be real for a moment. Can anyone really outline a policy that would reap better results in the Middle East? The pundits speak as if American action can somehow influence matters in Iraq, or Iran, or Egypt(remember Egypt, the other crisis du jour), or Libya, or Syria. Would GEORGE BUSH have handled things any better? Could anyone?

Of course not. Yet President OBAMA has embarked on a strategy of unravelling the mess republicans have created in the region, at the same time dealing with unfolding new crises in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria. So far so good, as far as I'm concerned. He is deliberative, and smart in steering our country, and the world through this quagmire. And he is doing it while his republican colleagues in this country continue to tie one hand behind his back, and make him walk the plank blindfolded. No problem. This President accepts his position, and continues to make the difficult decisions. And as far as this citizen is concerned, he is doing so in a way that makes me proud to be an American.

Bravo!

 


 


The Supreme Court today, in a landmark decision, ruled DOMA

6.26.13 - DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD
   DOMA & PROP 8 GO DOWN

 

The Supreme Court today, in a landmark decision, ruled DOMA to be unconstitutionaL Importantly, they did soon the grounds of the equal protections clause of the constitution, and not one of a myriad of technical or limited tentpoles available to them. Indeed, the case could have been resolved by finding a lack of standing, alleviating the Court from rreaching any meaningful conclusions on the constitutionality of the law, just as they did on the Prop8 case, punting that issue down the line for future litigants.

No, the DOMA case was a broad legal precedent, after which it seems hard to imagine that gay marriage, employment discrimination, or any of the other lacking rights for gays and lesbians will not soon be laws of the land. DOMA is dead, and equality will not be far behind.

The Court could have really fast-forwarded to the real world, and ruled in the California case, that same-sex marriage, in California and everywhere else, is a fundamental right which cannot be denied, but that would be hoping for too much from this conservative, activist Court. Nevertheless, Prop 8 is also dead, albeit on a benign standing issue, rather than a meritorious decree on equal rights.

As for activism, one need only look to the decision rendered yesterday, on civil rights law, tossing out Section 4 of that law, the map from which jurisdictions where historical discrimination existed had to get pre-clearance before making any changes to their voting procedures. The Voting Rights Act, solid law since 1965, and most recently renewed in 2006 by a nearly unanamous republican congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush, was gutted yesterday by a Court, which today whines of the overreach of the majority opinion in Windsor.

To be clear, Chief Justice Roberts has been gunning for repeal of the VRA since the early '80's when he worked for President Reagan. He finally got his way. And it's clear that the rationale behind invalidating the map and hence removing the teeth of the legislation, was that African American and Latino voters were turning out in high percentages to vote. Higher than white voters. It's a litlle like republicans being opposed to a path to citizenship in the immigration reform bill being crafted, because the result would be 11 million more democratic voters nationwide. No matter the morality of the issue. It's purely self-serving politics.

Likewise this conservative Supreme Court. Why reach into a well settled area of law, the Voting Rights Act, one which was endorsed by a republican government just 7 years ago, but for to inject their own conservative interests, in limiting minority voting. Why throw our the old remedy, without a new one in place?

And so today's babble in the dissenting opinions, particularly from Justice Antonin Scalia, is just so rich.

""That is jaw-dropping. It is an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people's Representatives in Congress and the Executive. It envisions a Supreme Court standing (or rather enthroned) at the apex of government, empowered to decide all constitutional questions, always and everywhere 'primary' in its role," Scalia fumed.

Really? Where was the outrage when the copnservative majority overruled the people's houses of governement with regard to voting rights? It's absurd. This Court is activist when it wants to be-in the furtherance of the rich and powerful. And it is bitter when the liberal coalition, dependent on the whims of Justice Anthony Kennedy, springs to life, in this instance, for gay and lesbian rights.

Scalia is no friend of the homosexual lifestyle. He has mocked, ridiculed and demeaned homosesxuals for decades. ""Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children's schools, or as boarders in their home," he wrote in the LAWRENCE opinion 10 years ago. "They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive."

He has compared homosexual behavior to murder, child pornography, bestiality, incest, and yesterday threw in polygamy for good measure. "It is enough to say that the Constitution neither requires nor forbids our society to approve of same-sex marriage, much as it neither requires nor forbids us to approve of no-fault divorce, polygamy, or the consumption of alcohol," Scalia wrote in his dissent.

Well, that all has changed. And Scalia must be steaming mad about it. That, perhaps is the best thing about the majority opinion, that it beat down this ideological bully, and he is helpless to do anything about it.

It is because of bigots like Scalia that same-sex relationships require equal treatment before the law. In his dissent in Romer, invalidatin Amendment 2 passed by voters in Colorado, which had the effect of making gays and lesbians second class citizens. In that 1996 case Scalia wrote, "[Colorado's ban] prohibits special treatment of homosexuals, and nothing more. [I]t would prevent the State or any municipality from making death benefit payments to the 'life partner' of a homosexual when it does not make such payments to the long time roommate of a nonhomosexual employee."

Roommates-that's what gay marriage means to Scalia. And that will now all change.

Justice Kennedy said it all, "DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state- sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The prin- cipal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency. Responsibilities, as well as rights, enhance the dignity and integrity of the person. And DOMA contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not other couples, of both rights and responsibilities. By creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State, DOMA forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect. By this dynamic DOMA undermines both the public and private significance of state- sanctioned same-sex marriages; for it tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition. This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage. The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify. And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives."

Well said.

In what I'm sure he thought was a wry bit of humor, Justice Scalia sparred with lawyers arguing the Lawrence case about flagpole sitting, belittling the importance of the pursuit of gay relationships as a fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

"[S]uppose all the States had laws against flagpole sitting at one time, you know, there was a time when it was a popular thing and probably annoyed a lot of communities, and then almost all of them repealed those laws," Scalia quipped. "Does that make flagpole sitting a fundamental right?"

Hey Scalia, sit on this!


 


François Hollande

6.14.13 - BIG CHANGE COMING


As we await two major decisions from the Supreme Court, one on Prop 8 in California, and the other on DOMA, change continues to percolate around the world. French President FRANCOIS HOLLANDS signed same-sex marriage into law amidst violent, and heavily attended demonstrations against the legislation.

At the French Open, a protestor burst onto the court whilst the finals match between RAPHAEL NADAL and DAVID FERER were playing, startling the players for a moment, as the man waved a burning flare before being subdued. Both palyers hail from Spain where similar legislation failed to creat such a stir.

In England, the Conservative Party of Prime Minister DAVID CAMERON agreed to concessions allowing a bill there to proceed, which would allow same-sex marriage in Britain. CAMERON's efforts are an attempt to bring the conservative party more in line with mainstream society there, similar to the half-hearted efforts of republicans in this country. The very fact that conservatives, around the world are having to alter their policies to account for the growing popular acceptance of gays and lesbians is a roaring testament to the progress that has been achieved on this issue thus far.

But with every 3 steps forward, come a step or two back. In Russia, the pro gay movement is in its infancy, and is taking some hits. In Tibisi, Georgia, a gay rights march was met with resistance by some 20,000 opposed to the rally. The angry mob attacked marchers, and even attacked buses trying to get the GLBT activists to safety. Police were reported to have joined the angry mob, and the result was some 20 people hospitalized. The anti-gay group was organized by a bishop of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Police there have made no arrests.

In Moscow, Russia's lower House of Parliament just yesterday, passed a bill that makes illegal the promotion of any homosexual "propaganda", including imposing fines and jail sentences on those who engage in such behavior. Presumably that means gay pride marches, festivals, and perhaps even any writings in support of GLBT rights. The vote was a unanimous 436-0. The bill now goes to the upper house for a vote.

Homosexuality itself had been illegal in Russia until 1993 when the laws were repealed. But President VLADIMIR PUTIN has been playing to his conservative base, and gay pride events in Russia have been met with fierce opposition, both from the government and from the public. This recent law is an attempt to protect religious intitutions, preventing any language or activity from "insulting" them.

And that is from where nearly all of the push back is coming-churches. REligious institutions are fomenting hate on this issue, once again.

At the Vatican this week, Pope FRANCIS is said to have condemned the gay lobby" that exists in the enclave there. While written about in the local papers, no Pope has ever acknowledged the existence of a "gay lobby" within the Vatican, and no Pope has ever publicly condemned such. FRANCIS is reported to have mentioned the words "gay lobby", and in referring to them said,

"In the Curia, there are also holy people, really there are holy people. But there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true. We need to see what we can do."

Now that is rich. Being called corrupt by the Catholic Church.

And it's not just the Catholics. After the Boy Scouts split the difference and voted to allow gay scouts, but no gay scout leaders, a number of churches in the United States announced they were pulling their support from the organization. Churches sponsor as many as 75% of the scout troups in this country.

Yesterday, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to boycott Boy Scouts of America. "Nothing can be politically right if it's biblically wrong," newly re-elected prsident FRED LUTER announced. "I have no doubt most of the churches in the Southern Baptist Convention that have Boy Scouts in them will pull out."

And three guesses what you think the Catholic Church will do?

When did the Boys Scouts become a biblical organization anyway? I was an eagle scout; I sure don't remember the bible studies merit badge. That's what church is for. Keep it in the cathedrals please.

Meanwhile, in New York City's Greenich Village, once a bastion for gay acceptance, reports are that hate crimes against gays and lesbians are on the rise. On May 17th MARK CARSON was gunned down there in a point blank shooting that police labeled an "anti-gay hate crime. The shooting occured as CARSON was just blocks away from The Stonewall Inn where the gay rights movement is said to have begun, after some drag queens were harrassed by New York City police.

"Things seem a little more hostile in the Village lately," Executive Director GLENDA TESTONE, of the LGBT Community Center told the New York Times. "Perhaps what we're seeing is that the growing approval of the LGBT community and the increasing equality isn't reaching to every street."

Or maybe it is, and that is the problem. Change is not easily won.

Let's see what the Supreme Court cooks up.



 




5.15.13 - CHANGE AND THE SECOND TERM CURSE

 

Change keeps moving forward, even as the frenzy of a second term scandal swirls about Washington D.C. Three scandals have engulfed The White House, and President OBAMA, and the drama threatens to throw a monkey wrench into the OBAMA presidency.

Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage yesterday, with larger than expected margins in both the house and senate there. Governor MARK DAYTON held a grand signing ceremony, televised to the masses, with an emotional flourish,

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness certainly includes the right to marry the person you love," the governor pronounced, before signing the historic legislation. Opponents reacted as if they had witnessed a state funeral, holding a candlelight vigil Tuesday night.

In Rio De Janeiro, Brazil's judiciary council ruled that notary publics cannot refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. That move is heralded as a precursor for gays and lesbians to get married in Latin America's most populous country. While the council's ruling can be appealed, most local scholars saw this move as an indication that same-sex marriage was now legal in Brazil.

But back here at home, President OBAMA'S second term, and the ambitious legislative agenda he has still ahead of him, including continued legal rights for gays and lesbians, seems in serious jeopardy as a result of three growing scandals. Benghazi, the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups, and the Justice Department's monitoring of the Associated Press' phone records exploded in the span of a week, leaving President OBAMA reeling to try and get a handle on things before his remaining three years in office turn into a legislative witch hunt.

There is no doubt that republicans have been gunning for him since he first took office, refusing to cooperate for the good of the countries economic future, and denying him credit for the numerous disasters his leadership has rescued or prevented. They now have the amunition, and the standing to tie his remaining term up in investigative hearings, and public allegations that will keep them from achieving anything further legislatively, at least until the 2014 elections.

The second term curse, as it is known, is more like a legislative strategy for republicans. And they are energized now, with nearly a third of houise committees planning hearings on these matters. Some legislators, both representatives and senators have already brandished the "I" word, in a clear misunderstanding of the law or history on this subject.

Immigration reform, including the passage of the right to nationalize immigrant spouses for gays and lesbians, as well as a retry of gun control seem in serious jeaopardy. Ironically, news broke yesterday with little or no notice at all, that the deficit, the bugaboo of election season, and the cornerstone upon which republicans anchored their obfuscation of OBAMA'S policies to date, seems to have been solved, at least in the short term.

Projections for this year's deficit have been revised drastically downward, from nearly a trillion to now just $640 billion, which is a significant difference. That essentially removes the urgency of any further drastic budget cuts, and puts the economy on course for a robust recovery. The deficits are projected to continue going down for the remainder of OBAMA'S term in office.

So, at a time when the government could get back to the business of jobs, and immigration, and gun control, and the continued advancement of civil rights, instead republicans will be talking RICHARD NIXON, and impeachment.

And change, as well as the American people, will be the ones to suffer. Curses.



 




5.8.13 - CHANGE AT BREAKNECK SPEED

 

It continues to amaze, the pace at which civil rights issues evolve for the GLBT community. Two more states have approved same-sex marriage, a major sports league has seen one of it's active players come out of the closet, and legislation is being considered in conjunction with immigration reform that would allow same-sex couples to nationalize a partner who is an immigrant. It is truly astonishing.

Nearly the entire Northeast is now same-sex marriage country, as Rhode Island and Delaware have signed into law legislation allowing same-sex couples to wed. Delaware did it yesterday, with Governor JACK MARKELL signing it the very same day it passed the Delaware Senate by a vote of 12-9. Rhode Island joined the ranks of the civilized last week.

That leaves just Pennsylvania and New Jersey as the holdouts for the entire region. Governor CHRIS CHRISTIE has vetoed legislation in the garden state, and vows to oppose it still. But if he is serious about running for president in 2016, that stance will change. It has too if he hopes to lure young voters to his campaign.

Meanwhile, JASON COLLINS, a journeyman center in the NBA, came out of the closet to much fanfare, and none of it bad. President OBAMA, and former President CLINTON both sprang to his defense. As did a congressman from the dynasty Kennedy family, and the NBA, KOBE BRYANT, KEVIN DURRANT, and nearly everyone else who had something to say. The paucity, and the timidity of the negative reaction was telling indeed. How much things have changed.

On the women's side, perhaps the best women's college player ever, BRITTANY GRINER came out to a reporter's question last month on draft day, to little fanfare at all. And we must remind ourselves, it was an astonishing 34 years ago that MARTINA NAVRATILOVA, the women's best tennis player of all time, at the time, came out of the closet. Change is happening fast, but it didn't happen in a vacuum.

Earlier this year the National Hockey League signed a pact with it's players to fight homophobia in their sport. They formed a partnership with the organziation You Can Play, which fights homophobia in professional sports, to specifically outline inclusion in the league. It was a first for professional sports, and by the way, the most physical and most macho sport of them all.

The real shocker is that Senator PATRICK LEAHY is planning today to introduce several amendments to the very sensitive immigration reform legislation, that would allow same-sex couples to nationalize an immigrant spouse. Straight men or women can do so numerous, perhaps limitless times, but gays and lesbians face the prospect of their foreign partner being deported, even today. While nearly no one holds out hope that the republicans in the Senate or the House would pass such an amendment, the mere fact that the issue is being recognized, and advanced at this critical juncture, is proof positive that change is coming at us faster that a speeding hockey puck.

And that is exciting.



 




4.21.13 - CHANGE ASIAN PACIFIC AND SOUTH AMERICAN STYLE


New Zealand's parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve same-sex marriage on Wednesday, and Prime Minister JOHN KEY is expected to sign the legislation into law. It will make New Zealand the 13th nation on the planet to recognize the right to marry for gays and lesbians.

The law also allows New Zealand's same-sex couples to adopt children. It is the first such law on same-sex marriage in the Asian Pacific region.

Meanwhile in Paraguay, a leading candidate for president there, HORACIO CARTES made extreme and disparaging remarks on the subject during the course of his campaign, calling support of same-sex marriage "the end of the world." He went on to describe gay people as monkeys, and threatened to cut off his balls if his son were to seek marriage to another man. That might not be a bad idea, anyway.

Polls indicate his comments may have blunted the momentum of his campaign. It is presumed the subject came up because of a recent vote in Uruguay's legislature to legalize same-sex marriage. If signed into law as expected, Uruguay would join Argentina, as the only two countries in South America to grant those rights to gays and lesbians.


 


ROB PORTMAN

3.19.13 - The Changlings, Medieval Times and Troglodytes


Support for gay and lesbian rights has done an about face in recent years, and even in recent months. On Friday, while CPAC, the annual conservative circus was uderway, GOP Senator ROB PORTMAN announced he had flip-flopped on the issue of gay marriage.

In an editorial in the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio's Senator wrote on Friday, "I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn't deny them the opportunity to get married."

PORTMAN revealved the impetus for this metamorphasis was his son's coming out to him 2 years prior. Afterwards the senator met with Vice President DICK CHENEY, that renowned champion of GLBT rights, who reluctantly has come out in support of gay marriage as a result of his gay daughter. Apparently CHENEY counseled him on tolerance and acceptance. Wouldn't you have loved to be a fly on that wall?

Two other currently serving republican members of congress have publicly shown support for gay marriage-Representative RICHARD HANNA of New York and Representative ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN from Miami. No coicedence on the geopgraphy.

PORTMAN'S evolving views are reflected by the country as a whole in a newly released Washington Post-ABC News poll today showing 58% of Americans now support gay marriage while 36% oppose. Just a decade ago those numbers were near mirrors of each other, with 37% in favor and 55% opposed.

Meanwhile, we are reminded that with 2 steps forward, there are occasional steps back. Last week Polish liberation legend LECH WALESA stirred up the waters in Poland with his comments that gays should have no right to a prominent role in politics and that they need to "adjust to smaller things" in their role as a minority. The Nobel Peace Prize winner who championed Polish democracy in the face of communism said gays should essentially sit at the back of parliament, "and even behind a wall." LECH must not know the story of ROSA PARKS. A current member of pthe Polish parliament, commenting on the offensive statements by WALESA referred to him as a "troglodyte."

Finally, with the election of a new pope, the Catholic Church is once again front and center on the issue of gay rights. When Pope FRANCIS I was Archbishop BERGOGLIO in Argentina, he railed against the KIRCHNER government, as they sought to, and did codify gay marriage in the largely Catholic country of Argentina. President CHRISTINA FERNANDEZ de KIRCHNER in 2010 referred to BERGOGLIO as medieval in clashes that were public and dramatic. KIRCHNER fired back even more, saying she wished she could be archbishop in the church so she could run for his job.

Don't look for any big change in doctrine from Rome. After all, BERGOGLIO was the runner-up in the conclave 8 years ago. The church pushes ahead with blinders on, as if nothing new has happened in the world in nearly a decade.

But we know differently!


 



ANGELA MERKEL

2.26.13 - ANOTHER WEEK, MORE CHANGE


 

Momentum on GLBT rights just keeps on coming worldwide. In Germany, the conservative government of ANGELA MERKEL made hints over the weekend that they are moving towards equalizing rights for gays and lesbians.

""We must be more flexible when it comes to equal rights," MICHAEL GROSSE-BROMER, the chief parliamentary whip said, of rights for GLBT members. He is of the conservative party, which to know espoused traditional family values and did not support gay rights.

But Germany's courts recently ruled that gays should be allowed to adopt children already adopted by their partners. The ruling signaled a shifting landscaped for gays and lesbians, where under current law, gays can only adopt a partner's biological children.

MERKEL'S finance minister has said he is looking at whether to give same-sex couples the same tax perks as heterosexual married couples. Germany recognizes same-sex civil unions, but couples under those unions do not have the same rights as married straight couples. That scenario could be changing, as MERKEL looks to get ahead of the issue and neutralize her liberal challengers.

Meanwhile, in California, State Senator RICARDO LARA has introduced a bill that would strip the tax-exempt status of the Boy Scouts of America because of their discrimination against gays and lesbians. "We're not saying you have to let folks in, but if you choose to discriminate against somebody for being GLBT, we shouldn't be giving you the privilege of a tax exemption that is supported by all California," LARA said.

In the Supreme Court, it is briefing time in the case against Prop 8, the California initiative that banned gay marriage. A decision is expected in June, but expectations are on the rise, as attorney TED OLSEN filed a brief which urged the court to go long and make a ruling which would have impact for the entire country regarding the rights of gays and lesbians to marry. That's just how far this issue has come. When the court took the case last year, it was anticipated the ruling would have limited impact on California alone.

President OBAMA and the Justice Department have not files an amicus brief, but they are considering it.

But the real stunner is that a large group of republicans, many of whom have long been opposed to same-sex marriage, and gay rights in general, have signed onto another amicus brief, looking to sway the courts decision, get this, in favor of granting such rights. They say the time has come, and that same-sex marriage is in keeping with conservative values. And now we have heard everything, haven't we.

The brief, expected to be filed this week, includes support from former GOP presidential candidate JON HUNTSMAN, former GOP California gubernatorial candidate MEG WHITMAN; ILEANA ROZ-LEHTINEN, republican representative from Florida; a number of former President GEORGE W. BUSH's cabinet members; CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, former republican governor of New Jersey, and many more. That, piggybacking on the ad which ran last week on television touting support from former First Lady LAURA BUSH, DICK CHENEY and COLIN POWELL, and you'd think you went to sleep and woke up in Oz. Where's the yellow brick road. We want to follow.

But wait, LAURA BUSH wants her image stricken from the ad campaign. Wicked witches and flying monkeys still abound in this climate of change. But make no mistake, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore Toto!


 



VD

2.6.13 - CHANGE THIS WEEK


Change just keeps on coming, with the Illinois Senate approving a measure allowing same-sex marriage in that state by a relatively comfortable margin on Valentine's Day. The House in Illinois is expected to take up the matter next, where passage is expected, perhaps though by a closer margin. Illinois' democratic governor, PAT QUINN is expected to sign the legislation if passed, which would make Illinois the second midwest state, along with Iowa, where same-sex marraige would be legal. Washington is the only other state out of the Northeast where gays and lesbians can marry.

If passed in Illinois, it would make 10 states and the District of Columbia legalizing marraiges for GLBT members.
No one could have imagined such a tally just a few short years ago.


 


Prime Minister DAVID CAMERON


2.6.13 - CHANGE AROUND THE WORLD


As France wrestles with the gay marriage issue, Great Britain's House of Commons voted to approve same-sex marriage. Civil unions are currently the law there, but Prime Minister DAVID CAMERON, and public opinion are of the mind that different is not equal.

"A legal partnership is not perceived in the same way, and does not have the same promises of responsibility and commitment as marriage," government minister MARIA MILLER said. miller, who introduced the legislation continued, "All couples who enter a lifelong commitment together should be able to call it marriage."

Cheerio, I say.

The legislation, having passed the more conservative branch of the British government, is expected to pass the House of Lords next, with an eventual signing by Prime Minister CAMERON.

Meanwhile, legislation in France is expected to come up for vote this week.

Amsterdam was the first country to allow same-sex marriage, in 2001. In the past 3 years, Denmark, Protugal, Iceland, Argentina, Sweden and Norway have passed laws allowing GLBT members the right to marry same-sex partners.

Can the United States be far behind?


 

President Obama


1.28.13 - CHANGE, THIS WEEK.

 

Life under OBAMA is chock full of change. Change is rich, and percolating. The innaugural speech was historic.
And now this week, a fresh set of advances.

First, the Boy Scouts of America have floated a trial balloon that next week it would consider a new policy eliminating the long held, and controversial ban on homosexuals in the organization. The move would allow gay scouts, as well as gay leaders. This from an organization that has flouted recent advances in tolerance of GLBT individuals, and is based in, Irving, Texas. Yes, Texas, the state that wants to secede from the union.

The pressure on the organziation is coming from grassroots petition drives, and from big corporate sponsors. The momentum is really on the side of GLBT causes, and it is not a coincedence it is happening on this President's watch. Remember when big corporations were the reason organizations were afraid of tolerance policies. The tables have really been flipped.

In a development even more stunning, a Wyoming subcommittee voted 7-2 to move legislation giving same-sex couples nearly all of the rights as heterosexual married couples to a vote before the full House in that state. The bill is sponsored by Wyoming's first openly gay representative, CATHY CONNOLLY, who said, "We passed the first step, but it's a big step. In the past, this bill has met failure even at the subcommittee level."

The committee did defeat, on the very same day, a measure that would have allowed same-sex marriage in the extremely conservative state, by a 5-4 margin. But the closeness of that vote has liberals in Wyoming excited about future prospects. DICK CHENEY must be getting nervous.

Last week six openly GLBT members were sworn into the United States House of Representatives. On Saturday, the New York Times ran a photo of Speaker JOHN BOEHNER posing at one of the swearing in cermonies with SEAN PATRICK MALONEY, his partner, and their two adopted children. BOEHNER had a priceless, and pained grin on his face. Of course, TAMMY BALDWIN was sworn into the Senate, as it's first ever openly gay member. Where is the similar picture with MITCH McCONNELL? Talk about prrof that elections have consequences!

Thousands rallied in Paris over the weekend, in support of same-sex marraige there. Oooh, la la.

And finally, the New York Times today ran a story about a small coal mining town in Kentucky. The town of Vicco, with it's 4 member City Commission voted this week to ban discrimination against anyone based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Even in backwoods Appalachia, change is coming.

Wake up and smell the change! It is invigorating, and it is coming in waves.


 


Susan E. Rice

12.10.12 - Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2012.


On Human Rights Day, we celebrate a simple but powerful declaration that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Adopted 64 years ago today, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stands as a monument to the courage of its founders and to freedoms longed for by every human being. But the fight for these freedoms—from demagogues and from tyrants, from the shackles of slavery and from the censor’s pen—did not end with the historic adoption of the Universal Declaration on December 10, 1948. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, success in the struggle “is a question of actually living and working in our countries for freedom and justice for each human being.”

Today, we pledge to live up to Eleanor Roosevelt’s inspirational example, for in far too many places human freedoms are still denied. As long as a family anywhere is tormented by a state-sanctioned killer; a peaceful agitator is hounded by a violent brigade; an artist is locked away for expressing what she thinks; an LGBT individual is harassed because of whom he or she loves; a community is beleaguered because of how it worships; a person with a disability is marginalized by those who ignore plain injustice; or a girl is threatened for having the audacity to pick up a book; all of our rights have been violated.

The United States is relentless in pursuit of a world that protects these rights. We fight for them at the United Nations, where we have made important strides, because we know that American leadership in the world can bring action against oppressors and hope to the oppressed. Our job is not done and the path ahead is fraught. But may we work together every day for the cause of human rights, so that our efforts can forge a world that respects our differences, protects our dignity, gives our children opportunities to pursue their dreams, and ensures that freedoms we have pledged to protect are universally enjoyed.

 

Jany Lynch

10.18.12 - Obama Pride: LGBT Americans for Obama - Jane Lynch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Billie Jean King, George Takei, Wanda Sykes, Zachary Quinto, and Chaz Bono share why they're supporting.

 


8.29.12 -
Today the Republican Party approved a platform that The New York Times called "more aggressive in its opposition ... to gay rights than any in memory."

The intolerant document calls for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. It condemns President Obama for not defending the Defense of Marriage Act. The platform fails to recognize civil unions for gay couples, and it rejects the "use of the military as a platform for social experimentation" -- a veiled dig at the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

This platform, which was written at the direction of Mitt Romney's campaign, defines the Republican Party today.

It's a sharp reminder of what we stand to lose if Romney and Ryan take the White House this November. One party supports our right to be equals in the eyes of the law, the other rejects it.

There is a clear choice in this election for the LGBT community and allies.

We've got to fight for the only candidate who has our back. Join Obama Pride on Dashboard, the campaign's online field office, and stay informed about campaign news, events, and opportunities to volunteer:

http://my.barackobama.com/Join-Obama-Pride-on-Dashboard

Thanks,

Jamie

Jamie Citron
National LGBT Vote Director
Obama for America

 




6.19.12
-
The Obama Administration Honors LGBT Pride Month

Earlier this month, President Obama released the 2012 LGBT Pride Month Proclamation as well as a video message. And on Friday, the President delivered remarks to hundreds of advocates and community leaders, students and faith leaders at the White House LGBT Pride Month Reception. In his remarks, the President described some of the significant steps his Administration has taken over the last few years, including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:
And, of course, last year we finally put an end to “don’t ask, don’t tell” -- so that nobody would ever have to ever again hide who they love in order to serve the country they love. And I know we've got some military members who are here today. I'm happy to see you with your partners here. We thank you for your service. We thank your families for their service, and we share your joy at being able to come with your spouses or partners here to the White House with your Commander-in-Chief.
Over the last few weeks, members of the President’s Cabinet have also released their own statements and video messages.
Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius released a statement in which she reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s “commitment to addressing the special health needs of LGBT Americans and reducing health disparities for them and members of other vulnerable communities.” In the statement, Secretary Sebelius also emphasized the importance of the Affordable Care Act in ensuring that LGBT people have access to coverage when they need it the most, the federal website HealthCare.gov which makes it easy to locate health insurers that cover domestic partners, and ongoing efforts by HHS to incorporate data collection on LGBT populations into national health surveys.
At the Department of Labor, Secretary Hilda Solis also issued a statement on LGBT Pride Month that describes the progress we’ve made over the last few years and specifically mentions guidance from DOL that the Family and Medical Leave Act applies to kids of all families.
In a video message commemorating LGBT Pride Month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s “commitment to making sure that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
And last week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recorded a video message in which he paid tribute to the successful repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” as proof that “just like the country we defend, we share different backgrounds, different values, and different beliefs -- but together, we are the greatest military force in the world.”

 

 

 


pride1

6.4.12
-
HOW GAY CAN WE BE?

 

My how gay pride has evolved. What used to be a day the "freaks" could step out in the sunlight without fear of reproach, is now like Black History Month or Grandparents Day. What used to be an excuse to get naked in the streets and not get arrested, is now like the 4th of July. Networks like Sundance, and even PBS run slates of pride programming. What was once a rallying cry for drag queens and dykes on bikes, is now like Fleet Week in all it's glory. Studios plan feature film launches around pride season. Recording artists release new music, and most certainly book lucrative gigs, during pride month.

 

My how pride has evolved.

President OBAMA evolved for pride this year. This is the first ever pride where we can point to our American President, who supports same-sex marriage. It's in his proclamation:

"Since I took office, my Administration has worked to roaden opportunity, advance equality, and level the playing field for LGBT people and communities. We have fought to secure justice for all under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and we have taken action to end housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender dentity. We expanded hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones, and under the Affordable Care Act, we ensured that insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to someone just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Because we understand that LGBT rights are human rights, we continue to engage with the international community in promoting and protecting the rights of LGBT persons around the world. Because we repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans can serve heir country openly, honestly, and without fear of losing their jobs because of whom they love. And because we must treat others the way we want to be treated, I personally believe in marriage equality for same-sex couples."

pride1
pirde2

And it's not just America that is proud. Do you realize in Argentina, a Catholic stronghold to be sure, recent legislation has made that country the most liberal on the planet for transgender rights. The most recent laws enacted, in a string of favorable legislation for transgendered individuals, requires public, and private medical practicioners to provide free hormone therapy, or gender reassignemnt surgery for those who want it, even those under the age of 18! Now that is proud.

Let's face it, even in this country, transgendered individuals didn't have that much to be proud of, and still don't, even on gay pride. Oh sure, they are out marching front and center at this time, but society here, even gay and lesbian society, is not so quick to embrace them on days other than pride. Thoughtfully President OBAMA made federal discrimination against transgenders illegal early on in his march for gay and lesbian, and transgender civil rights. He evolved about transgenders way before he evolved on gay soldiers and lesbian brides.

Pride really has evolved.

pride1
pirde2

Just last week, an appellate court in New York ruled that the word "gay" is no longer considered slanderous per se. The word, in and of itself, is not derogatory. That is how much gay pride has evolved-it's okay to call someone gay. It's actually a compliment, like saying, "you're so fashionable", or , "you're so stylish". If you do call someone gay, they won't take it in the wrong way, I guess. They will thank you for noticing. And sashay right on by.

Now that really is proud.



 


President Obama

6.4.12
-
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 1, 2012
LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2012


BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION


From generation to generation, ordinary Americans have led a proud and inexorable march toward freedom, fairness, and full equality under the law -- not just for some, but for all. Ours is a heritage forged by those who organized, agitated, and advocated for change; who wielded love stronger than hate and hope more powerful than insult or injury; who fought to build for themselves and their families a Nation where no one is a second-class citizen, no one is denied basic rights, and all of us are free to live and love as we see fit.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has written a proud chapter in this fundamentally American story. From brave men and women who came out and spoke out, to union and faith leaders who rallied for equality, to activists and advocates who challenged unjust laws and marched on Washington, LGBT Americans and allies have achieved what once seemed inconceivable. This month, we reflect on their enduring legacy, celebrate the movement that has made progress possible, and recommit to securing the fullest blessings of freedom for all Americans.
Since I took office, my Administration has worked to broaden opportunity, advance equality, and level the playing field for LGBT people and communities. We have fought to secure justice for all under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and we have taken action to end housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We expanded hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones, and under the Affordable Care Act, we ensured that insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to someone just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Because we understand that LGBT rights are human rights, we continue to engage with the international community in promoting and protecting the rights of LGBT persons around the world. Because we repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans can serve their country openly, honestly, and without fear of losing their jobs because of whom they love. And because we must treat others the way we want to be treated, I personally believe in marriage equality for same-sex couples.
More remains to be done to ensure every single American is treated equally, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Moving forward, my Administration will continue its
2
work to advance the rights of LGBT Americans. This month, as we reflect on how far we have come and how far we have yet to go, let us recall that the progress we have made is built on the words and deeds of ordinary Americans. Let us pay tribute to those who came before us, and those who continue their work today; and let us rededicate ourselves to a task that is unending -- the pursuit of a Nation where all are equal, and all have the full and unfettered opportunity to pursue happiness and live openly and freely.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2012 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.
BARACK OBAMA


 


President Obama

510.12
-
OBAMA SAYS "I DO"

 

No drama OBAMA didn't wait very long after the gentle prodding of Vice President JOE BIDEN'S comments on MEET THE PRESS Sunday. Education Secretary ARNIE DUNCAN upped the ante with his even more direct endorsement of same-sex marriage on MORNING JOE Monday morning. In an exclusive interview with ABC's ROBIN ROBERTS Wednesday, the President put an end to the growing distraction by announcing the completion of his evolution on the subject,

"At a certain point, I've just concluded that-- for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that-- I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. Now-- I have to tell you that part of my hesitation on this has also been I didn't want to nationalize the issue. There's a tendency when I weigh in to think suddenly it becomes political and it becomes polarized."

The President explained his rationale in a cogent and understandable way. The process he has been going through, in fact, is much the same process the country has gone through. Entertainment vehicles, like ELLEN, WILL & GRACE, and MODERN FAMILY have helped to ease the shock of this transformation. But also, the presence of gays and lesbians in the lives of Americans, in the families of Americans, has also shaped the thinking of the public, which now supports by a majority, the right of same-sex couples to marry.

The wedding date is not yet set. The President was careful to couch his decision in personal terms. He also was clear that the matter should be left open to the states to decide, a position that will quickly become untenable. How can a state decide to deprive a gay couple of the right to marry? It certainly can't, no more than a state could decide that interacial couples cannot be married. How can a state deny recogition of a same-sex couple married in one state, when that couple seeks benefits afforded straight married couples in that state. It certainly can't.

But that will all be left to the courts. The issues of equal protection and other contitutional matters are working their way to the Supreme Court, where the matter will ultimately be decided.

Meanwhile, some hiccups remain. Will the President use the powers of his office, by executive order, or other regulations, to advance the concept of same-sex marriage? Or, will he embrace a platform at the Democratic convention, that calls for a national right for same-sex couples to wed? These questions remain to be answered.

But the facts are clear. President BARRACK OBAMA, who has already undertaken historic efforts to advance gaqy and lesbian civil rights, took another historic step yesterday in pronouncing his approval of the issue. It's up to us to insure he gets re-elected so he can make it a reality for the entire country.

In a campaign message after his interview, President OBAMA explained his remarks,

"Today, I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer:

I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

I hope you'll take a moment to watch the conversation, consider it, and weigh in yourself on behalf of marriage equality:

http://my.barackobama.com/Marriage

I've always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. I was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes. And I thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution.

But over the course of several years I've talked to friends and family about this. I've thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships who are raising kids together. Through our efforts to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, I've gotten to know some of the gay and lesbian troops who are serving our country with honor and distinction.

What I've come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.

Even at my own dinner table, when I look at Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples, I know it wouldn't dawn on them that their friends' parents should be treated differently.

So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.

If you agree, you can stand up with me here.

Thank you,

Barack"

The ball is in our court!


 


President Obama

5.9.12
-
Thank You Mr. President.

 

Today, President Obama came out in support of full marriage equality. We've waited a long time to hear those words from our president — the waiting is over.

In an interview this afternoon with ABC's Robin Roberts, President Obama publicly declared his support for marriage equality.

We're glad that the president has finally said unequivocally that he supports marriage equality — so please join us and sign our "thank you" card to the president for supporting LGBT people and our families.

Up until today, all he would say about marriage equality for same-sex couples is that his position was "evolving" over time. That stand didn't make us happy, but today President Obama did the right thing, and the fair thing, by becoming the first sitting president to explicity support marriage for same-sex couples.

This is a milestone for the LGBT community and for our country. Millions of families now know their country's leader believes in fairness for all.

We applaud the president for taking this step in an extremely charged climate that just this week saw the passage of a constitutional amendment in North Carolina limiting legal unions to marriage between a man and woman, and the legislative gridlock in Colorado that blocked movement on a civil unions bill.

So we know there is much more to do. And the Task Force, with you by our side, will continue the fight for full equality, economic security and justice.

But today, we're celebrating. Please join me in showing your appreciation for President Obama. Sign the thank you card now!

Sincerely,

Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force


 


4.10.12
-
OBAMA BALKS ON EMPLOYMENT NON-DISCRIMINATION ORDER

 

You can really tell it is an election year. President OBAMA, who has championed GLBT civil rights throughout his first term as president, released through a spokeman yesterday, that he will not sign an executive order making it illegal for companies doing business with the federal governmant to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

The order would have accomplished by executive fiat what legislation known as ENDA would do with the endorsement of congress. Republicans have stymied the legislation, which is supported by the OBAMA administration, and it is not expected to get a vote anytime soon, much less pass both the House and the Senate.

President OBAMA signed by executive order anti-discrimination measures which make it illegal to discriminate against employees for the federla government on the basis of sexual orientation, which even included protections for transgenders. But that was early on in his term, and with the election looming, gthe prospect of handing over a hot-button issue to the republicans, as MITT ROMNEY has finally emerged as OBAMA's opponent for the fall.

It is widely believed that if the president wins re-election he would most certainly sign an executive order soon after, early into his second term. OBAMA would no doubt prefer a wide, bi-partisan footprint on this issue, or at least solid democratic support for the proposition, but with elections looming later this year, that scenario will not be forthcoming.

The President has other issues with regard to the GLBT community which he may not be able to put off until after the election. The legality of gay marriage may have further decisions in the federal court system before the election, and more importantly, the democratic party may in its convention in August, place the issue in it's platform. That would force the President, whose feelings on the matter are still "evolving", to own it, one way or the other, for the 2012 election. The chairman of the convention, Los Angeles Mayor ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, has been coy when asked if it will be an agenda item for the convention.

But he has also been clear that he is a supporter, and has been for a long time, on the issue of same-sex marriage. With a solidly catholic constituencey, that is not an easy position for VILLARAIGOSA to take, but give him credit-he has been out front and openly supportive og GLBR rights, including the right to marry for quite some time.

If only President OBAMA were so bold.

But the GLBT community should be mindful. The President has done extraordinary work in advancing GLBT civil rights in his first term. And, just think what good he can do if re-elected!


 


Antonin scalia

4.10.12
-
ANTONIN SCALIA @ USC
by: Msmo Menos


Having graduated from USC Law School, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my alma mater would be hosting Associate Chief Justice ANTONIN SCALIA to be the speaker at the annual Justice Lester Roth Lecture on April 10, 2012. Each year this lecture series, endowed by a former Trojan, and Court of Appeals jurist, features some of the brightest legal minds in the country, including the Honorable RUTH BADER GINSBERG in 1986, the Honorabler nSTEPHEN BREYER in 1991 and the Honorable ANTHONY KENNEDY in 1998, to name a few.

 

Antonin Scalia

Having just come off his high profile "brocolli" argument in the just heard case on The Afffordable Care Act, and flush with a boisterous reputation for argumentative, if not obnoxious debate, how could I miss this one. Not being a fan of the conservative, almost bullying Justice, I was curious to see what the man was like in person. He has gotten some bad press for having cameras confiscated from those who take unconsented pictures, and for ridiculing questioners, both in his courtroom and on his lecture circuit. So I had to see for myself.

Upon arrival I was not asked for my ID, not searched or led through a metal detector. I freely strode into the room, unassaulted, and unintruded, as it used to be when entering a public space in the justice system's domain. You can't even go pay a parking ticket in such a manner these days.

I was even more surprised to find that for a scheduled 4:00pm start, Justice SCALIA was speaking by 4:15, and he got up from the front row, where he apparently had been waiting patiently as the audience took their seats. He was not led in from the wings under heavy escort, and there were no visible secret service to be found.

Continuing on this journey of enlightenment, I found Justice SCALIA to be very down to earth, a charming, and engaging speaker. Unlike other judges, or even professors, he was current and contemporary. He went out of his way to joke, and make the audience feel at home, quipping about the death penalty, "that's why we have Westerns." Apparently Justice SCALIA found the whole hanging of horse thieves "a very efficient system."

His disarming demeanor was in direct contrast to his bio in the printed materials I was reading before he started to speak. Born March 11, 1936, he served under the NIXON and FORD administrations before being appointed to the Supreme Court after 4 years on the Court of Appeals in DC by President REAGAN in 1986. SCALIA is the longest currently serving Justice, having sat on the Supreme Court for nearly 26 years now.

The one item that jumped off the page in his bio was the fact that he has nine children. Now, I wonder where he might come down on this whole war on women/contraception thing? Do you think Justice SCALIA would overturn a law that required a woman in Arizona to get permission from her employer before using birth control? I think not.

Antonin Scalia

But that depends on how the law was written. SCALIA you see, is an "originalist." That is a subset of the group of legal followers who are textualists-meaning they rely on the text of the legislation to make a ruling on a particular law. An originalist takes it one step further, relying on the original meaning, at the time it was written, of the actual words in a law that comes before the court. SCALIA has no interest in the legislative intent, or the legislative history behind a statute. "Frankly I could care less about the original intent."

Now for me, I can hardly imagine a more activist jurist than one who doesn't even care about what the legislators intended in drafting a law. It seems completely backasswards to ignore the intent of the law and rule exclusively on the meaning of the words written. But that is what this Justice believes.

And what flows from that belief is a complete disdain for what is called "the living constitution"-the concept that our constitution is a flexible, evolving document that foresaw so many of the rights that we hold so dear, and accomodates those rights for everytone, even as technology and the circumstances of time, test the limits of what those words meant when they were written hundreds of years ago. SCALIA mocks the concept of a "living contitution.

Instead, he believes that if society needs an adaptive justice system, then that adaptation must come from the passage of new laws, and the election of new representatives. If the people don't like the rigidity of the constitution or the rulings of an "originalist" court, then the people should convince their fellow citizens, or elect representatives to pass legislation to reflect the new circumstances in society.

This approach has its merits. Judges are left with much less leeway to interpret laws, and hence, may not stray from the status quo. This on its face sounds very conservative. Even ultra-conservative. But it presumes that everyone in society has the same influence, social standing, good fortune, or just plain luck that Justice SCALIA nad his like might have. Minorities, the poor, or otherwise disadvantaged might not be able to influence their fellow community members to support legislation, or represntatives who will accomplish the realization of their rights. Not to mention it takes a super majority and ratification by many states to change the consitution.

It was alarming to me, the callous disregard Justice SCALIA had for the downtrodden, the powerless. Indeed, it was these very people that the highest court in the land was designed to protest. A last chance at justice.

Not once, but twice in the span of 25 minutes SCALIA, trying to make a point that originalism was not partisan, made reference to "homosexual sodomy" when he could have just as easily said gay rights. I was stunned. There was no need to refer to it in such derogatory terms. Would straight people feel offended by the reference "heterosexual sodomy"? And didn't his use of the term point out the inherent problem with originalism itself? What straight people like SCALIA call sodomy, some gay people might consider sexual relations. One might agree with outlawing sodomy, but not sexual relations. Hence it could all hinge on who writes what words, rather than the intent and effect on society those words were meant to have. That sounds random. That sounds like gamesmanship. And that sure sounds like an activist judge to me.

More disturbing was the obvious insensitivity by Associate Justice ANTONIN SCALIA to a vulnerable, and disciminated against minority, gays and lesbians. To refer to the pending issues before the Supreme Court, which are the makings of the last great civil rights movement in this country, in such perjorative and vulgar language, demonstrates how out of touch this man is with this burgeoning movement towards equality and acceptance.

Antonin Scalia

All the while keeping the audience in chuckles. SCALIA was self-depracating, teasing that he didn't think he would be confirmed by Congress today, having been confirmed in 1986 by a 98-0 vote, with the two outstanding votes being Senators BARRY GOLDWATER and JAKE GARN, both conservatives. He thought of himself as Frodo in The Lord of The Rings, isolated and somewhat pitiful. "I'm afraid to ask what the evolving standards of decency in this society are" holed up in the marble confines of the Supreme Court. "I can't even do crossword puzzles" for lack of knowledge about the celebrities in today's culture.

In the end, after his intellectual argument was presented, his image enhanced by a cordial, "humorous" presentation, the Justice chatted with those who stayed behind, allowed a few cell phone photographs of himself, and even signed an autograph or two.

The man then went about his way, to eventually interpret the original meaning of "mandate" and "marriage."
God help us.


 


4.10.12
-
U.S. AND BRAZIL PROMOTE GLBT RIGHTS.


President OBAMA invited Brazil's President, DILMA rousseff to discuss their two countries relationship on a braod levels of items, including everything from economics, education, develpoment, global warming, travel and tourism, science and technology, space exploration, worldwide stability and dispute resolution, the war on drugs, nuclear non-proliferation and defense and security. Included in their joint statement after the official visit was the following language:

"The Presidents praised the cooperation fostered under the Joint Action Plan To Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and Promote Equality in the areas of health, environmental justice, access to justice, education, and entrepreneurship in sports megaevents. They noted that as their economies grow, it is important that the benefits accrue to all sectors, including children and aged people and historically marginalized sectors such as women, people of African descent, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and LGBT people. They welcomed additional collaboration on LGBT issues in human rights multilateral fora. They also highlighted progress in bilateral cooperation for gender equality and advancement in the status of women, including efforts aimed at increasing women´s political and economic participation in the fields of science and technology; as well as the prioritization of prevention and response to gender-based violence globally."

Meanwhile, in preparation for the upcoming Pride season, The White House announced a video competition aimed at honoring the unsung heroes in the GLBT community who are doing "extraordinary things" to improve the lives of gay, lesbain and trangendered people.

Here's how it works. You have until Friday, May 4 to submit video entries online. A panel will review submissions and select a group of semi-finalists. Then, in early June, the public will have a chance to weigh in and help identify finalists that will be featured as Champions of Change at an event at the White House.
Each video should fit one or more of the following categories, some of which may be used to organize semi-finalists and finalists:
Storytelling (stories of coming out or overcoming adversity)
Culture & Identity (interesting intersections with race, national origin, religion, and disability)
Unsung Heroes (individuals and organizations that haven’t been recognized for their contributions)
The Arts (music, art, photography, poetry, and prose that inspire courage and acceptance)
Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation (individuals and organizations that are testing new approaches and demonstrating results)
Community Solutions (local initiatives that are solving local challenges)
Friends & Allies (family members, teachers, faith leaders, and other allies in the fight for equality)
Videos will be accepted in any form (including music video, PSA, short film, video blog, and interview) but must be no longer than 3 minutes. Essays no longer than 750 words will also be accepted if video production is not possible. Submissions should be creative, innovative, and inspiring and must be submitted by Friday, May 4, 2012.
Submit your video today!

And finalyy, for all you garden enthusiasts, The White House will open it's gardens this spring, with access free on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Visitors can view the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden and the South Lawn of the White House. Additionally, the White House Kitchen Garden – the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden – will be accessible to tour guests.

These Garden Tours are free and open to the public; however, a ticket is required for all attendees (including small children). The National Park Service will distribute free, timed tickets at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion located at 15th and E Streets on each tour day beginning at 8:00AM. If you go, please be sure to leave the following in the car:

Aerosols of any kind
Animals (except guide dogs)
Backpacks (oversized)
Balloons
Beverages of any kind
Duffle bags/suitcases
Any pointed object
Electric stun guns
Fireworks/firecrackers
Food of any kind
Guns/ammunition
Knives of any kind
Mace
Cigarettes


 


4.10.12
-
Announcing the LGBT Pride Month Champions of Change Video Challenge


Posted by Gautam Raghavan on April 09, 2012 at 01:03 PM EDT
Across the country, ordinary people are doing extraordinary things to improve the lives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. They are parents and students, neighborhood and business leaders, artists and advocates, all united in the fight for equality.
We know that the American people are the source of some of the best ideas and most innovative solutions. That’s why the White House Champions of Change series spotlights everyday heroes who are demonstrating commitment to improving their own communities, their country, or the lives of their fellow citizens. And in that spirit, we are launching the LGBT Pride Month Champions of Change Video Challenge to explore the stories of unsung heroes and local leaders who are leading our march towards a more perfect union.
If that sounds like you or someone you know, then we want to hear from you – and we want to see you in action!
Here's how it works. You have until Friday, May 4 to submit video entries online. A panel will review submissions and select a group of semi-finalists. Then, in early June, the public will have a chance to weigh in and help identify finalists that will be featured as Champions of Change at an event at the White House.
Each video should fit one or more of the following categories, some of which may be used to organize semi-finalists and finalists:
Storytelling (stories of coming out or overcoming adversity)
Culture & Identity (interesting intersections with race, national origin, religion, and disability)
Unsung Heroes (individuals and organizations that haven’t been recognized for their contributions)
The Arts (music, art, photography, poetry, and prose that inspire courage and acceptance)
Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation (individuals and organizations that are testing new approaches and demonstrating results)
Community Solutions (local initiatives that are solving local challenges)
Friends & Allies (family members, teachers, faith leaders, and other allies in the fight for equality)
Videos will be accepted in any form (including music video, PSA, short film, video blog, and interview) but must be no longer than 3 minutes. Essays no longer than 750 words will also be accepted if video production is not possible. Submissions should be creative, innovative, and inspiring and must be submitted by Friday, May 4, 2012.
Submit your video today!


 


4.2.12
-
HUD AWARDS $33 MILLION TO 18 LOCAL HIV-AIDS HOUSING PROGRAMS


WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that more than 1,200 extremely low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS will continue to receive permanent housing as a result of nearly $33 million in grants HUD is awarding. Annually, these grants will provide permanent supportive housing for over 1,200 households so they can manage their health and access needed supportive services such as case management and employment training.

The funding announced today is offered through HUD’s Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program (HOPWA) and will renew HUD’s support of 18 local programs in 17 states (see attached chart and individual project descriptions below).

“These grants offer housing, vital healthcare and hope to hundreds of households that combine to literally save lives,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Having stable housing can make all the difference to the health of someone living with HIV/AIDS who might otherwise be struggling to live on our streets.”

Many of the projects receiving renewed funding provide for specialized models in outreach and service delivery, including efforts that target help to persons who have been homeless or are at extreme risk of becoming homelessness. These grants offer innovations in HIV care to increase job readiness and employment opportunities for persons in stabilized care. The grants announced today also support Opening Doors, the Obama Administration’s strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.

In addressing goals under these strategies, HUD will contribute a variety of housing resources to promote better integration of housing interventions into comprehensive HIV care systems. Housing assistance and related services funded by HOPWA are an essential part of the comprehensive system of care for low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS. A stable home environment is also vital for these households in allowing them to access consistent medical care and maintain their health. Furthermore, secure housing can be a platform for improved quality of life.

Ninety percent of HOPWA funds are distributed by formula to cities and states based on the number of AIDS cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HUD’s formula grants are managed by 135 local and state jurisdictions, which coordinate AIDS housing efforts with other HUD and community resources. Earlier this year, HUD awarded these jurisdictions nearly $300 million in formula grants. This year, HUD had made available a total of $332 million in HOPWA funds to help communities provide housing for this special needs population. Overall, these resources assist over 60,000 households annually to provide stable housing and reduced risks of homelessness for those living with HIV and other challenges.

 


3.14.12
-
BULLYS BEWARE!

by: Msmo Menos


The anti-bullying movement has been pushed in large part by President OBAMA and his administration, evidenced with the appearance of Health and Human Services Secretary KATHLEEN SEBELIUS tomorrow at the launch of a Cartoon Network animation documentary, "Speak Up."

On Wednesday, March 14, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will join Cartoon Network at Stuart-Hobson Middle School in Washington, D.C., for the national premiere of Speak Up, the first documentary from Cartoon Network’s Stop Bullying: Speak Up initiative that seeks to empower all kids to take part in the country’s growing movement to help bring an end to bullying. The screening for the entire student population of Stuart-Hobson Middle School will be followed by a discussion of the documentary by Secretary Sebelius; Cartoon Network President and COO Stuart Snyder; Aaron Cheese, one of the youth featured in Speak Up; Dr. Duane Thomas, a bullying prevention expert; and youth from Project Change in Montgomery County, Md.

In hollywood, there is a buzz surrounding another document, "Bully." The controversy, about a film that doesn't even open until March 30th involves the "R" rating given to it by the MPAA. That rating has members of Congress as well as theater chain operators in a twitter, looking to get the rating reduced so that kids, who need to see the film the most, can actually see it.

On March 20, Meryl Streep and her daughter Mamie Gummer will co-host a screening of the film with and David Boies, one of the two attorneys responsible for overturning Proposition 8 in California, and his daughter, Mary Boies. The screening will be held in New York City.

Johnny Depp has also signed on to lend his support; Ellen DeGeneres has devoted time to the film on her television show; and in the sports arena, Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, has also added his voice to the movement. Kelly Ripa and Anderson Cooper came on board as news anchor partners, hosting a screening in New York City last week, that was presented by Bing, the search engine from Microsoft. In addition to the screening in NYC, Bing will also be supporting the film in a number of ways, including hosting an additional screening in LA.

Iconic American designer Tommy Hilfiger will design an exclusive t-shirt inspired by the Bully movie poster which will be sold in Tommy Hilfiger stores with a portion of proceeds benefiting Facing History and Ourselves (http://www.facing.org/). Mr. Hilfiger is the first of ten designers that The Weinstein Company will ask to donate their services on behalf of the fundraising effort. IMG, renowned global sports, fashion and media agency continues to support the film in a number of ways, and famed photographer David LaChapelle has offered to donate his talents towards an advertising campaign.

Change may be coming, but in so many ways, it is already here!

 


3.1.12
-
AND THEN THERE WERE EIGHT!

by: Msmo Menos

Maryland's Governor MARTIN O'MALLEY signed into law legislation that makes same-sex marriage in that state legal. Maryland becomes the 8th state to snaction such unions, and continues the momentum begun with Mayor GAVIN NEWSOME'S courageous act of allowing gays and lesbians to marry way back in 2004.

That action, which he explained to democrats at California's convention 2 weeks ago, was precipitated by the rumblings of then President GEORGE W. BUSH in threatening to get a constitutional amendment to make same-sex marriages illegal. NEWSOME began a civil rights movement that has seen a hate crimes bill finally passed, same-sex benefits at the federal level, hospital visitation rights, and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

President OBAMA coming into office in 2008 has had a lot to do with these advancements, as did the passage of California's proposition 8, which has backfired on the promoters of the discriminatory referendum, resulting in not only the renewal of a national civil rights movement, but also the ratification by the federal courts of the rights of same-sex couples to marry, and to gain the thousands of benefits that flow from federal recognition of marriage.

The California 9th Circuit of Appeals is set to hear an enbanc appeal of a recent 9th circuit Appeals decision that rules proposition 8 was unconstitutional. It is expected that decision, along with several others winding their way through the federal appeals courts across the country, will be taken to the Supreme Court.

But the news for now is that 8 states have seen the light to humanity and civil rights for gays and lesbians. It can't be long before the rest of the country gets on the right side of history.

video
 


2.17.12
-MARRIAGE EQUALITY ROILLS ALONG


 

Last week it was Washington State, this week New Jersey and Maryland step up to the plate, as marriage equality continues its steady march across the country.

The assembly in New Jersey joined the efforts of that state's senate earlier in the week in passing legislation authorizing same-sex marraige in the garden state. The legislation is now in the hands of Governor CHRIS CHRISTIE who favors that the matter be decided by a referendum in November. He has 45 days to sign or veto the bill.

How politicians at the executive level, or any level, could still believe, in this day and age that matters of civil rights can be up for majority determination is beyond me. It is archaic, and clearly in violation of everything this country stands for. A majority of voters cannot decide the civil rights of a minority class of indiviuals, period. Not in America! Not under our constitution! Governor CHRISTIE knows better than that. He is posing. Dancing for conservatives who see him as their next great hope now that GINGRICH, SANTORUM and ROMNEY have diluted the conservative brand.

Just what is conservatism, other than bigotry and hate. Whether it's agains women, monorities, or gays, conservatives stand for all that is wrong with America, and vetoing this legislation will only doom CHRISTIE to that scrap heap of politicians that is on the wrong side of history.

New Jersey is now in line to be the 8th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Maryland could soon follow, with a governor who vows to sign such legislation. The question there is whether they can get the necessary votes in the legislature. It is close, and there should be a vote next week.

But what is close now, what seems like acceptable maneuvering by conservatives today, will soon be a thing of the past. Attitudes are changing. Gerationally it isn't even close. Young people, the future of this country are already beyond this issue. Governor CHRISTIE, and others like him, ought get on board now.


 


2.9.12
- HUD AWARDS $7.5 MILLION TO FIGHT HOUSING DISCRIMINATION

Funding will help state and local governments enforce fair housing laws,
educate  public about their housing rights   


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it has awarded $7.5 million to state and local government agencies that enforce fair housing laws and help communities and housing providers to better understand their fair housing rights and responsibilities (see attached list).  The funds will also be used to promote the Department’s new Equal Access to Housing regulation, which ensures that HUD housing and programs are open to all families, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.  Read project descriptions for each grant.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates the Obama Administration’s commitment to ending housing discrimination, no matter what form it takes,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.  “With these funds, state and local government agencies on the front line of the fight will be able to continue their efforts to take on today’s many fair housing challenges.”

  In awarding the funds, which are provided through HUD’s Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP), HUD is responding to requests and suggestions from state and local government agencies that are seeking to partner with organizations that will assist in fair housing enforcement and outreach. The funds will help local communities learn more about their fair housing rights and housing providers meet their fair housing obligations, including those related to HUD’s new Equal Access to Housing regulation.

HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and  transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and http://espanol.hud.gov.  You can also follow HUD on twitter@HUDnews, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HUD, or sign up for news alerts on HUD’s News Listserv.

 




2.9.12
- HealthCare.gov helps same-sex couples find coverage by adding new details



Americans are now able to use HealthCare.gov to search specifically for insurance plans that include coverage for domestic partners, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today.
The Health Plan Finder tool on HealthCare.gov allows consumers to compare the cost sharing and benefit choices of health plans and choose the best option to meet their needs. As a part of the plan finder update, domestic partners, including same-sex couples, can now filter plans that offer coverage for all members of their family.
“Last year, as part of our commitment to work with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and be more responsive to the needs of these populations, we promised to improve the Health Plan Finder tool to give these individuals the ability to search for health plans that provide same-sex partner benefits.” said Secretary Sebelius. “Today we have delivered on that promise.”
Consumers looking for information on same-sex partner coverage can also access HealthCare.gov’s regular features, such as sorting based on enrollment, out-of-pocket expenses or other key categories. The same-sex partner filter is also available for small businesses looking for coverage for their employees.
Studies have shown that a portion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is disproportionately uninsured, including those without access to coverage through a spouse, domestic partner or employer. This new filter helps address that issue by linking same-sex couples to carriers that provide benefits for their partners.
“In the past, many same-sex couples have faced challenges searching for health coverage that suited their needs,” said Steve Larsen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. “This tool will eliminate the guesswork, providing an enhanced resource for exploring insurance coverage.”
HealthCare.gov, created by the Affordable Care Act, is the first of its kind to bring information and links to health insurance plans to one place, and to make it easy for consumers to learn about and compare their insurance options. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services worked to define and collect detailed benefits and premium rating information from insurers across the country to develop the site.
New benefit specific information
HealthCare.gov has also expanded its information on plan benefits. Previously, the website gave consumers information on a variety of benefits, including primary care office visits, specialist visits, X-ray/lab work, hospitalization, emergency room visits, prescription coverage, mental health and substance abuse coverage, and maternity coverage.
With this new update, consumers will have access to a more comprehensive list of benefits each plan offers along with the level of coverage provided. The benefits will be listed as covered, not covered, covered with limitations, or available for an additional premium. The new benefits include such things as home health services, in- and out-patient rehabilitation services, skilled nursing facilities, hospice services, dental care, infertility treatments and weight loss programs.
In addition, HealthCare.gov provides extensive information about consumer rights, tips for how to navigate the market’s complexities, and details on how the Affordable Care Act provides new protections for beneficiaries.
To access the Insurance Finder, go to the home page of www.HealthCare.gov and click on the blue tab “Find Insurance Options” at the top of the page.
For more information on how the Affordable Care helps LGBT Americans have better access to stable, affordable health insurance and high quality health care, visit http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/01/new-options-for-lgbt-americans.html



 


Diana Ross

2.8.12
- GRAMMY WEEK SUPREME


by: Memo Menos

 

It's Grammy week in Los Angeles, when the music industry convenes for it's big show. Everyone is here, from RIHANNA to the BEEB. The local sports teams, the LAKERS, CLIPPERS and KINGS have all embarked on their annual 6-game road swings. And, the SUPREMES are dominating the news.

Not DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES, though it's about time, isn't it? No I am referring to the US SUPREME COURT who may finally be looking at taking on a case about same-sex marriage after yesterday's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.

That news was less shocking, on the front page of today's LA Times, as the reference to diva DIANA ROSS, who we learn, has not ever won a Grammy Award. I mean, who didn't think that the notoriously liberal 9th Circuit would uphold a sweeping decision by District Court Judge VAUGHN WALKER invalidating California's anti-gay marriage initiative, that was the rallying point for a revolutionary national movement for same-sex rights of all kinds, back in 2008. It was a CHAIN REACTION actually, that started the push not only for marriage rights, but it has seen "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" fall. And if gays can serve in the military, then surely AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH. Nothing will keep the rights of gays and lesbians from becoming a reality.

But, DIANA ROSS without a Grammy. Are you kidding me? Nominated 12 times, but passed over each time? Sure she'll be getting a lifetime achievement award, but really. It's a travesty. YOU CAN'T HURRY LOVE, but LADY SINGS THE BLUES needs some sugar. It's gotta be LIKE AN ITCHIN IN HER HEART.

No female vocalist has done more to shape the path of music than Miss ROSS. And no event has done more to influence the arc of GLBT rights than Proposition 8.

It was a heady time. BARACK OBAMA was elected president. Democrats controlled all three branches of government. A liberal hero was The Boss. Surely we no longer had to feel I'M LIVING IN SHAME. But there it was. Proposition 8 in California had passed, taking away the right for same-sex couples to marry in California. It was truly a LOVE HANGOVER. They STONED LOVE. Everything was UPSIDE DOWN, and Californians with a flare for decorating, or fixing things, could only lament, WHERE DID OUR LOVE GO? STOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE. It was straight out of the ROSS songbook:

"You think that I don't feel love,
What I feel for you is real love,
In others eyes I see reflected a hurt, scorned, rejected.
Love child, never meant to be
Love child, born in poverty,
Love child, never meant to be,
Love child, take a look at me."

After that fateful, bittersweet result in 2008, California gays and lesbians, and those that love them, took to the streets. This NOTHING BUT HEARTACHES was not going to stand. They stopped traffic. They got people's attention. And, the rest of the country watched and listened. Other states passed the right for same-sex couples to marry. President OBAMA put on a full court press, pushing for GLBT rights for federal employees, getting a hate crimes bill passed, and ending the divisive policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military.

On the legal front, a remarkable thing occurred. The legal dream team of DAVID BOIS and TED OLSON, once diametrically opposed rivals, joined forces to challenge Proposition 8 in the federal court system. They put on a comprehensive trial at the District Court level which resulted in one of the most sweeping decisions gays and lesbians have ever been afforded by the legal system.

Judge VAUGHN WALKER struck down Prop 8 on nearly every concievable ground. He ruled it was unconstitutional as it violated both the equal protection clause and the due process clause. On THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW last night, TED OLSON would have us believe the Court of Appeals decision was just as "sweeping", to use his word, but indeed it was not. And that may be a good thing.

First, no one can fault OLSON for trumpeting the decision, and seeing the most optimistic conclusion from it. Godspeed to that. But, the 9th Circuit has run afoul of the SUPREMES on many an occasion. They are the most liberal of the appellate circuits. Hence, it was no great surprise to see the ruling yesterday, yet it was a shocker to learn DIANA does not have Grammy swag. But I digress.

The ruling by three justices yesterday, split 2-1, was much more narrow. Indeed, the SUPREMES could elect to leave it alone altogether, in that it only applies to the unique set of circumstances in California, those being-the right to marry taken away from a group, after some of that group was able to be married, thus creating a seperate and unequal class. Those facts, coupled with the baseline environment in California, where gays and lesbians can avail themselves of domestic partnerships and can adopt and raise children, could make the precedential value of this ruling quite limited. (As for domestic partnerships and civil unions, let me just say-AIN'T NOTHIN LIKE THE REAL THING!) And hence, ROBERTS, SCALIA, and the like may not want to REACH OUT AND TOUCH it.

Without a doubt, it is a landmark achievement in the rights of the GLBT community to have an appellate court rule so squarely on the topic of equality. But we'll have to see if this one goes UP THE LADDER TO THE ROOF, where we can see Heaven much brighter. There may be other cases, with better facts, for more encompassing precedent, with which to make law.

Proponents of Proposition 8 have two choices, to appeal to an en banc panel of the 9th Circuit, or to go directly to the SUPREMES. If the high court decides to hear the case, there could be a decision as early as next year. As far as bigots go, the sooner the better because, my friend, THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN. (It's Grammy week, give me some leeway here.)

And, the bottom line, DIANA gets her long overdue Grammy this week. And, SOMEDAY, maybe someday soon, WE'LL BE TOGETHER.

Yes we will, yes we will!

 

Diana Ross



 



2.7.12
- Prop 8 Victory!


by: Task Force Act Found

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has just ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional! We knew all along that Prop 8 was wrong, and this ruling affirms what millions of people all across the country already know — loving, committed same-sex couples and their families should be able to share in the celebration and obligations of marriage.

This is a huge victory in the battle for marriage equality, but this fight is far from over.

The federal government still refuses to recognize our families. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act remains the law of the land, and thousands of loving families are denied the protections, rights, and responsibilities that other married couples take for granted.

The Obama Administration has refused to defend DOMA. It’s time for Congress to repeal it.

Take Action now: Tell your senators to pass the Respect for Marriage Act and repeal DOMA.

Let’s use this historic ruling as a catalyst in our fight for equality, and demand that the federal government recognize our relationships.

Repeal DOMA now!



 



2.2.12
- MARRIAGE AGAIN ON THE MARCH


by: Memo Menos


The slow, inevitable advance of GLBT rights continues, despite this being an election year. It used to be that gays and lesbians were punching bags for national elections, with gay marriage the buzz word to rally conservatives and stifle liberals. But BUSH is gone, OBAMA has set a new course, and the inevitable gravitation towards freedom, for all, continues.

New Jersey is poised to pass a law that would force Governor CHRIS CHRISTIE to veto the right for same-sex marriage in the garden state. CHRISTIE, playing from the ARNOLD SCHWARZENNEGAR playbook-talk like a reasonable sane person while forcing a referendum on the issue in hopes of not getting muddied-is still not in favor of gay marriage. But, he recently appointed an openly gay judge to the New Jersey Supreme Court, and his legislature is going to pass the measure.

After the experience of Proposition 8, it is now openly discussed in that state that civil rights cannot be put up for a popular vote. Somehow, that reality never made it into the public discourse in California. And after ARNOLD twice vetoed similar measuresin California, the hyupocrite came out against Proposition 8, which passed and stripped the right for GLBT Californians to marry. That whole mashup is on it's way to the Supremes. Dcoes CHRISTIE really want to retread that old ground?

But now, on the other coast, the state of Washington is ready to breach the subject as well. The state senate passed legislation that will legalize same-sex marriage. The proposed law goes to the house in Washington where it is expected to pass. And, get this, Governor CHRIS GREGOIRE is on record saying she will pass it.

That would make 7 states, including Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticutt, Iowa, New Hampshire and New York, to go along with the District of Columbia, where civilization has evolved. In the words of someone not long ago, they(the Republicans) hate us for our freedom. But freedom will find a way!



 




1.30.12
- HUD SECRETARY DONOVAN ANNOUNCES NEW REGULATIONS TO ENSURE EQUAL ACCESS TO HOUSING FOR ALL AMERICANS REGARDLESS OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION OR GENDER IDENTITY


by: Memo Menos

New regulations, published as final in the Federal Register next week, will go into effect in 30 days

WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced today new regulations intended to ensure that HUD's core housing programs are open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Donovan previewed the announcement at the 24th National Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Equality – Creating Change. View the final rule here.

“The Obama Administration has viewed the fight for equality on behalf of the LGBT community as a priority and I’m proud that HUD has been a leader in that fight,” said Secretary Shaun Donovan. “With this historic rule, the Administration is saying you cannot use taxpayer dollars to prevent Americans from choosing where they want live on the basis sexual orientation or gender identity – ensuring that HUD’s housing programs are open, not to some, not to most, but to all.”

The new regulations, published as final in the Federal Register next week, will go into effect 30 after the rule is published.

U.S. Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) also expressed support for the publishing of final LGBT housing guidelines, “I am grateful to the Obama administration for instituting this important policy.”


 




1.30.12
- White House Office of Public Engagement to Hold LGBT Conferences Around the Country


by: Memo Menos

White House Office of Public Engagement to Hold LGBT Conferences Around the Country

First Event in Philadelphia to Focus on Health Issues, Feature HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE) will partner with key Departments and Agencies to host a series of conferences around the country specifically focused on LGBT Americans. From February to June 2012, OPE will convene these White House LGBT Conferences to provide grassroots leaders, community organizers, advocates, students, and interested citizens an opportunity to hear directly from the Administration on our efforts to ensure health, well-being, security, justice, and equality for LGBT Americans.

The inaugural event, the White House LGBT Conference on Health, will be held in Philadelphia on February 16th, and will feature remarks by Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. Participants will receive important updates from senior Administration officials and have the opportunity to learn about Federal government resources and opportunities through workshop sessions.

Future White House LGBT Conferences will be held in other locations throughout the country and focus on topics such as Housing & Homelessness, Safe Schools & Communities, and HIV/AIDS Prevention.

Additional details, including media access, about the White House LGBT Conference on Health in Philadelphia will be released later.

 


President  Obama

1.10.12
- THE RULE OF LAW


by: Memo Menos

 

America has always prided itself as being a country with a fair, and advanced legal system, a place where the rule of law evokes a certain amount of comfort and relief. I went to law school because of that notion, that with the law on your side, you had right and good, and could not lose.

Years of direct confrontation with the limits of those ideals sobered me to the concepts of fairness, and even goodness when it comes to jurisprudence, but there always was the bottom line defense of the American judicial system, no matter it's faults, it's the best in the world.

That is probably still the case, but recent events erode on that beacon. The court, particularly the Supreme Court, is losing the battle for sanity, leaving in its stead, chaos and uncertainty. The erosion is subtle; it's happening right before our eyes, but little is being done to stop it. It's as if no one cares, or worse, that there is little we can do, and so we just shake our heads, almost laugh at the rediculousness of it. Yet there it is, in the midst of our daily lives, and growing, like a cancer.

It started with the bald power grab in 2000, when in BUSH V GORE, the Supremes stepped into a contested vote count in Florida, and handed the presidency over to the republicans. It was partisan; it was unprecedented; and it was final. Done deal. Game over. And we just took it.

A decade has passed, and the effects of the rule of law in establishing the rule of Bush are disastrous. The country is still digging out of a two-term frat boy who was handed the keys to the family luxury sedan and ran it into a ditch. We may never get the weeds out of the back seat, and the transmission seems permanently damaged.

HARRIET MIERSIn the process, W went about filling the Supreme Court with whatever right hand he had at the time. HARRIET MIERS was nominated and then withdrawn. His former legal counsel, and Attorney General, ALBERTO GONZALES was up for the job, but for his perjury and other high crimes and misdemeanors in office, which saw him exit in disgrace. Eventually, the cronyism approach to filling the Supreme Court with ultra right wing conservatives resulted in President GEORGE W. BUSH appointing JOHN ROBERTS, as Chief Justice, and SAMUEL ALITO, an associate justice. Both men are relatively young, ensuring their conservative influence over the court for years to come.

That influence was deftly wielded in 2010 in the Citizens United case. That gem of wisdom now allows billionaire donors like SHELDON ADELSON to give $5 million to the benefit of campaigns like NEWT GINGRICH. ADELSON is a multi-national businessman who runs casinos. Just for good measure, he agrees with the notion espoused by NEWT that the Palestinians are an "invented people."

Now that seems good for democarcy, right?

But our conservative, if not extremist Supreme Court wanted it that way.

Just how conservative, and extreme is this "BUSH" Court? Well, just this week they ruled that credit repair companies, you know those crooks who take your money, usually a percentage up front, to negotiate with your creditors, usually big banks that are the impetus for so much unrest and foment in our economy, anyway, those repair companies can now take your money, and require you to waive your right to sue them in court, opting out for arbitration, usually in some fine print that you never even saw, much less agreed to. Wow, that's a mouthful!

The bottom line, the Supremes have sided with credit repair companies, and by way of relation, with big banks, in ruling that arbitration provisions, buried deep in some 100-page contract are enforceable to deprive a wronged customer from suing in court. It is the latest in a string of rulings bolstering the binding nature of arbitration proceedings in contracts, a curious result for a court which surely must know the vagaries of such processes.

How can an arbitrator, or even a panel of arbitrators possibly mete out justice like the American court system? Why would judges deprive the right of an aggrieved customer to sue, in lieu of a system no doubt influenced by the forces of money, and greed, and power. It's the banks we're talking about, after all!

Doug Heller"This Supreme Court is just steam-rolling over the American justice system and throwing consumers to the wolves," DOUG HELLER, , Executive Director of Consumer Watchdog recently told the LA Times. Credit card agreements all have the arbitraion clause language buried in their lengthly, illegible contracts. And, if you've ever fought with your credit card company, you know how fruitless going to arbitration is. They win 99% of the time. Worse yet, arbitration clauses prohibit class action lawsuits, and for consumers taking on giants like banks and credit companies, or even credit repair comanies, to take class action lawsuits off the table is a huge victory for the powers that be. The rule of law is no more.

It is against this backdrop that the Supremes considered the issue of censorship on television this week. Talk about the Taliban. The rules in this country on decency and obscenity over the airwaves are rather arcane. They stem from a ruling in 1978, FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, in which the then Supreme Court laid out 7 words that could not be said over the airwaves. A major part of the court's ruling relied on the effects such language would have on children. Really? Language? Words?

However appropriate that may have been in 1978, it certainly doesn't hold the same weight today, with hardcore sexual activity a click away for most youngsters, gun battles to the vivid and realistic bloodyndeath on game consoles, and the reality of life up close and presonal all around. What harm will come if a 7-year old hears the word "shit"?

-" Chief Justice JOHN ROBERTSBut there they were, our mullah justices, debating the effects of profanity on the tender ears of our children. "All we are asking for--" Chief Justice JOHN ROBERTS said, in a blatant faux paus, "What the government is asking for is a few channels where you can say they are not going to hearn the S-word, the F-word. They are not going to see nudity."

It should be noted that ROBERTS is the only justice with small children. It should also be noted that judges, much less Supreme Court Chief Justices, are to show at least the impression of impartiality. Really JOHN?ANTONIN SCALIA

Justice ANTONIN SCALIA, himself a member of the Taliban, didn't limit the necessity of shielding ones ears and eyes to such vile to children, "This has a symbolic value. Just as we require a certain modicum of dress for the people that attend this court. These are public airwaves. I'm not sure it even has to relate to juveniles, to tell you the truth."

What! Is SCALIA saying even adults shouldn't hear the word shit, or fuck? Or see nudity? What about beards ANTONIN, can we shave our beards and go in public? Should women wear veiles? The man is insane! And he is making decisions, along wioth the olther conservative loons that run our lives, for years to come. This court could make rulings that effect many of us for the rest of our lives. Period. Elena Kagan

RUTH BADER GINSBURGJustices RUTH BADER GINSBURG and ELENA KAGAN seemed to breath some sanity ninto the hearing. But make no mistake, they are in the minority on this court, and will be for some time. SCALIA is getting old, but ALITO and ROBERTS, both cut from the same tribal cloth, are youngsters. Their twisted, Amish views will haunt us for some time.

The relevance of all this in an election year must not be lost. The power to appoint replacements to the Supreme Court is immense. That power must not fall into the hands of the likes of NEWT GINGRICH, or MITT ROMENY, the Mormon. OBAMA must be re-elected, and if we are lucky, HILLARY CLINTON for 8 years after that.

The fact is, the Supreme Court in this country over the last decade has been uneasily "active" in influencing day to day life in this country, not unlike the Taliban of Southwest Asia. And the scary thing, a number of those sitting on the court have views no less extreme. We don't need any more like them.



 

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