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Russian State Duma To Debate National Gay 'Propaganda' Ban

MoscowSnowConservative lawmakers in Russia are preparing the paperwork to introduce a bill prohibiting the "propaganda of homosexualism" across the nation. The debate will reportedly begin on December 19th.

Igor Kochetkov from the Russian LGBT Network told Russian lawmakers not to "discredit" themselves and the nation ad a whole by buying into the senseless, hateful law. Referring to similar bans in Russian cities, like St. Petersburg, Kochetkov said, "One year of application of such laws in the regions have shown that, in practice, they are used to persecute dissidents, not to protect the children."

From the press release:

...The laws passed to ban so-called "propaganda of homosexualism" will cause the increase of aggression towards the LGBT community. This law lets off the leash for nationalistic and ultra-right organizations. This is confirmed by a series of attacks against participants of peaceful events and meetings.

In St. Petersburg, unknown men attacked the exhibition of LGBT artists on March 12th, 2012. Also LGBT activists were attacked after the finish of approved meeting on June 12th, 2012. Night clubs in Tyumen and in Moscow were attacked on August 4th, 2012 and October 11th, 2012.

"Under the pretext of protecting the family the author of the bill actually destroy it, identifying a family as 'biological union of a man and a woman,'" Kochetkov said. "In reality this 'farm' approach to people shows how some deputies look to us, their constituents."

Posted Nov. 29,2012 at 3:44 PM EST by in Discrimination, News, Russia | Permalink | Comments (8)

Anti-Gay Islamic Party To Protest Elton John's Malaysia Concert


The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party certainly won't be honoring World AIDS Day December 1. Quite the opposite: they'll be dishonoring it by picketing against one of the world's most generous HIV/AIDS activists, Elton John.

According to the Malaysian party, John promotes "hedonism" and they must "continually remind all Muslims, particularly youths, not to get involved in matters that can drag them into vice."

In addition to calling on the government to stop the concert, the party is also planning a street protest. RT notes that John performed a sold out show in Malaysia last year.

Posted Nov. 29,2012 at 3:11 PM EST by in Elton John, Malaysia, News, Religion | Permalink | Comments (7)

Hillary Clinton Celebrates State Department's LGBT Employees: VIDEO


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stopped by the Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies' 20th anniversary party last night to praise the State Department's LGBT employees and also to reflect on the tremendous progress made over the past two decades, and the past four years as well.

...We have seen milestones along that journey over the last 20 years.  I remember that I think on my husband’s first day in office back in ’93, he announced that gays and lesbians working in the federal government would receive equal treatment under the Civil Service Reform Act. Two years later, Secretary Warren Christopher made clear those rules would be enforced within the halls of the State Department when he issued a statement that explicitly prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Now over the past four years, we’ve built on those and other steps to really acknowledge and welcome LGBT people into the State Department family and other agencies.

She went on, "Together we have worked to make something very simple and right come true. Our people should not have to choose between serving the country they love and sharing a life with the people they love." But, of course, the fight goes on, she said.

I want you to leave this celebration thinking about what more each and every one of you can do – those who are currently serving in our government, those who have served in the past, and those who I hope will decide to serve – to make not only the agencies of our government but our world more just and free for all people.

Watch video of Secretary Clinton's remarks and read the full transcript AFTER THE JUMP.



Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
At the 20th Anniversary of GLIFAA
November 28, 2012
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, D.C.
SECRETARY CLINTON:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you all, very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Laughter.)  Thank you, all.  Thank you.
Yeah, that’s good.  (Laughter.)  Wow.  Well, welcome to the Ben Franklin Room.  (Laughter.)  And congratulations on your 20th anniversary.  I am so pleased to be here and to have this chance to join this celebration.  Ken, thank you for your kind words and your efforts here to make this day possible.  I am extremely pleased that Cheryl Mills, my friend as well as Chief of Staff and Counselor is here, so that those of you who may not have met her or even seen her, given how shy and retiring she is – (laughter) – can express your appreciation to her for her tireless efforts.
I’m delighted that Deputy Secretary Tom Nides is here.  Tom, who some of you know, who you’ve had a chance to work with him, has been just an extraordinary deputy.  Also let me recognize USAID Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg.  He’s been an unyielding advocate for the LGBT community at USAID.  We also have a number of ambassadors and deputy chiefs of mission, both past and present, some of whom have literally traveled from the other side of the world to be here.  David, I’m talking about you.  And we have Michael Guest with us, our country’s first out ambassador to be confirmed by the Senate and someone who’s remained an outspoken champion for LGBT rights, despite having to endure countless attacks and threats.  Michael, why don’t you stand up so that you can be recognized?  (Applause.)
Also let me thank the GLIFAA board and members.  I just had a chance to meet the board and former presidents.  I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room with so many former presidents.  (Laughter.)  The last count was maybe five.  (Laughter.)  But it’s really due to their leadership over 20 years that GLIFAA has reached this milestone, and it will be up to all of you and those who come after you to keep the work going for the next 20 and the 20 after that.
Now, it wasn’t really that long ago since this organization was created, but in many ways it was a completely different world.  As we heard, in 1992 you could be fired for being gay.  Just think about all of the exceptional public servants, the brilliant strategists, the linguists, the experts fired for no reason other than their sexual orientation.  Think of what our country lost because we were unable to take advantage of their hard work, expertise, and experience.  And the policy forced people to make terrible choices, to hide who they were from friends and colleagues, to lie or mislead, to give up their dreams of serving their country altogether.
That began to change, in part because of the brave employees here at State, who decided that it was time for the bigotry, the ignorance, the lying, and discrimination to end.  The LGBT community deserve the same chance as anyone else to serve.  And indeed, as we all know, many had for many years, just without acknowledgment of who they were.  So enough was enough, and that’s how GLIFAA was formed.  And thank goodness it was.
We’ve come a long way since then, and we have seen milestones along that journey over the last 20 years.  I remember that I think on my husband’s first day in office back in ’93, he announced that gays and lesbians working in the federal government would receive equal treatment under the Civil Service Reform Act.  Two years later, Secretary Warren Christopher made clear those rules would be enforced within the halls of the State Department when he issued a statement that explicitly prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Now over the past four years, we’ve built on those and other steps to really acknowledge and welcome LGBT people into the State Department family and other agencies.  We’ve extended benefits to same-sex domestic partners of State and USAID employees, Foreign Service officers, personal service contractors, third country nationals at missions overseas.  We’ve institutionalized these changes by creating a classification for same-sex domestic partners in the Foreign Affairs manual.  We’ve also made it clear in our Equal Opportunity Employment statement that the Department doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression.
We’ve helped to make it easier for transgender Americans to change the gender listed on their passports, because our mission is not only to protect the rights and dignity of our colleagues, but also of the American people we serve.
And we’ve taken this message all over the world, including the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where we worked to pass the first ever UN resolution affirming the human rights of LGBT people.
Now, together we have worked to make something very simple and right come true.  Our people should not have to choose between serving the country they love and sharing a life with the people they love.  And I want to say a few words about why this work is so important.
Now, leaders of all kinds will stand in front of audiences like this and tell you that our most important asset is our people.  And of course, that’s especially true in diplomacy, where we try to be very diplomatic all the time.  But what our success truly depends on is our ability to forge strong relationships and relate to people of all backgrounds.  And what that means for me, as your Secretary, is that creating an LGBT-welcoming workplace is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do.
In part, that’s because the nature of diplomacy has changed, and we should and need to keep up.  Today we expect our diplomats to build relationships not just with their counterparts in foreign governments, but with people from every continent and every walk of life.  And in order to do that, we need a diplomatic corps that is as diverse as the world we work in.
It’s also smart because it makes us better advocates for the values that we hold dear.  Because when anyone is persecuted anywhere, and that includes when LGBT people are persecuted or kept from fully participating in their societies, they suffer, but so do we.  We’re not only robbed of their talents and ideas, we are diminished, because our commitment to the human rights of all people has to be a continuing obligation and mission of everyone who serves in the Government of the United States.  So this is a mission that I gladly assume.  We have to set the example and we have to live up to our own values.
And finally, we are simply more effective when we create an environment that encourages people to bring their whole selves to work, when they don’t have to hide a core part of who they are, when we recognize and reward people for the quality of their work instead of dismissing their contributions because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
So really, I’m here today to say thank you to all of you.  Thank you for your courage and resolve, for your willingness to keep going despite the obstacles – and for many of you, there were and are many.  Thank you for pushing your government to do what you know was right, not just for yourselves but for all who come after you.
I want to mention one person in particular who was a key part of this fight, Tom Gallagher.  I met Tom earlier.  Where is Tom?  There you are, Tom.  Tom joined the Foreign Service in 1965 and in the early 1970s he risked his career when he came out and became the first openly gay Foreign Service officer.  He served in the face of criticism and threats, but that did not stop him from serving.  I wanted to take this moment just to recognize him, but also to put into context what this journey has meant for people of Tom’s and my vintage, because I don’t want any of you who are a lot younger ever to take for granted what it took for people like Tom Gallagher to pave the way for all of you.  It’s not a moment for us to be nostalgic.  It is a moment for us to remember and to know that all of the employees who sacrificed their right to be who they were were really defending your rights and the rights and freedoms of others at home and abroad.
And I want to say a special word about why we are working so hard to protect the rights of LGBT people around the world.  And Dan Baer, who works on this along with Mike Posner and Maria Otero, have been great champions of standing up for the rights of LGBT communities and individuals.
We have come such a long way in the United States.  Tom Gallagher is living proof of that.  And think about what it now means to be a member of a community in this country that is finally being recognized and accepted far beyond what anyone could have imagined just 20 years ago.  And remind yourself, as I do every day, what it must be like for a young boy or a young girl in some other part of the world who could literally be killed, and often has been and still will be, who will be shunned, who will be put in danger every day of his or her life.
And so when I gave that speech in Geneva and said that we were going to make this a priority of American foreign policy, I didn’t see it as something special, something that was added on to everything else we do, but something that was integral to who we are and what we stand for.  And so those who serve today in the State Department have a new challenge to do everything you can at State and AID and the other foreign affairs agencies to help keep widening that circle of opportunity and acceptance for all those millions of men and women who may never know your name or mine, but who because of our work together will live lives of not only greater safety but integrity.
So this is not the end of the story.  There’s always more we can do to live our values and tap the talents of our people.  It’s going to be an ongoing task for future Secretaries of State and Administrators at AID and for people at every level of our government.  So even as we celebrate 20 years with Ben Franklin looking down at us, I want you to leave this celebration thinking about what more each and every one of you can do – those who are currently serving in our government, those who have served in the past, and those who I hope will decide to serve – to make not only the agencies of our government but our world more just and free for all people.
Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Posted Nov. 29,2012 at 2:00 PM EST by in Discrimination, Hillary Clinton, News | Permalink | Comments (19)

Judge Accepts Language Of Bradley Manning's Proposed Plea

ManningCol. Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over Bradley Manning's Wikileaks pre-trial, this morning accepted the language of the six charges to which Manning plans to plead guilty.

These pleas have not formally been accepted, but here's a breakdown:

Under the proposal, Manning would admit to willfully sending the following material: a battlefield video file, some classified memos, more than 20 Iraq war logs, more than 20 Afghanistan war logs and other classified materials. He would also plead guilty to wrongfully storing classified information.

The government is still considering how to move forward on the 15 other charges against Manning, including aiding the enemy by revealing classified information.

Posted Nov. 29,2012 at 1:45 PM EST by in Bradley Manning, Crime, News, Wikileaks | Permalink | Comments (19)

What Is Happening at the Supreme Court Tomorrow?


Supreme_Court_US_2010This term at the Supreme Court will decide what gay rights law will look like for a decade. But, before we get to the substance, we have to deal with some procedure: On Friday, November 30, the justices will meet to decide which of the several cases they will take in order to answer basic questions about the Equal Protection Clause, due process, levels of scrutiny, and the future of marriage. 

As many of you know, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is up for review after both the First and Second Circuits -- not to mention a California district court and several other courts -- declared it unconstitutional. There is also California's Proposition 8, that state's constitutional ban on the freedom to marry, which the Ninth Circuit declared unconstitutional in a groundbreaking, but narrow decision. Also, Arizona is trying to take away domestic partner benefits while leaving state benefits to married couples in place. Though a lower federal court stopped Governor Jan Brewer from implementing her latest antigay rule, the Supreme Court is being asked to step in and decide the matter.

These cases are different: The DOMA cases challenge the federal definition of marriage and the benefits associated thereof. And, there are several DOMA cases -- Gill, Massachusetts, Windsor, Pedersen, and Golinski; some of these cases put the level of scrutiny of antigay discrimination front and center, while others would not require the Supreme Court to decide the issue. Nor do these cases say anything about the constitutionality of state bans on marriage recognition. That is what the Prop 8 case is about, but it is itself unique, referring to the specific situation in which California granted marriage rights only to take them away months later. The Arizona case concerns a state that not only bans its gays from marrying, but wants to further burden them by denying them -- but not opposite-sex married couples -- the state benefits of marriage.

Collectively, the Court's decisions in these cases will change the legal landscape for gay persons and gay couples. They will decide if we are equal or relegated to second class status. They will change how we think about and argue gay rights cases in the future. They will change what it means to be gay in America. And, in all likelihood, it will change for the better.

AFTER THE JUMP, I discuss what will happen to tomorrow, offer what I think are the most likely outcomes, and suggest what the next steps going forward will be.

Tomorrow's conference is a private meeting in which the nine justices get together and decide which cases to hear. They do not really argue about the substance of the case. To the extent that legal issues have to be discussed, they are raised to determine if the Court can or should hear the case. So, tomorrow's discussion is not about what the Court thinks about DOMA's or Prop 8's constitutionality; rather, it is about whether the justices should think about DOMA's and Prop 8's constitutionality (after briefing and oral argument). 

To get a hearing, you need a minority of 4 justices, though you more often get more. Judges who disagree vehemently about the end result, can still agree to want to hear the case. But, getting a hearing at the Supreme Court is rare. Four votes is hard to come by and according to the Chief Justice's year-end report for 2010, the Court received 8,159 petitions for writ of certiorari (formal request for review) for the 2009-2010 Term. Of these, only 87, or 1.005%, were accepted on appeal.

In some form, DOMA will get a hearing. It has to. Two federal appellate courts have already struck down an Act of Congress. The Supreme Court cannot let DOMA be the law in one part of the country and have it not be the law from Maine to Pennsylvania. But, there are a few options for what the grant will look like. (For now, let's exclude the option that the Court takes none of the cases.).

First, the DOMA cases.

1. The Court combines all the DOMA cases into one. The Supreme Court does this when two or several cases come to it at the same time and ask the same issues. The Court's recent decision declaring President Obama's Affordable Care Act constitutional did just that. 

This has a theoretical efficiency benefit, but is not clear to me that it is a real efficiency benefit. If the Court takes all of the DOMA cases and puts them into one, it is likely that Justice Kagan would have to recuse herself because she was President Obama's Solicitor General when some of those cases were going through the pipeline. Despite the intense politics surrounding recusals, the generally collegial Court does not want that to happen if it can avoid it. Plus, combining them does not add any efficiency: the Court can take one and simply hold the others in abeyance until there is a result. It would take the same amount of time. Finally, these cases raises slightly different issues. Most notably, the Second Circuit case (Windsor) is more likely to nudge the Court to say something about levels of scrutiny than the First Circuit case (Gill/Massachusetts). 

So, the Court has another option:

2. Take one DOMA case and hold all others pending the result. This is a likely scenario because it would avoid Justice Kagan's recusal. It also could be a strategically important decision: If the Court takes the First Circuit's Gill or Massachusetts, it will deal with a "rational basis with bite" or "rational basis plus" level of scrutiny and have no occasion to say anything about heightened scrutiny. This would be a safe choice if some of the justices don't want to fracture a majority over the issue. 

But, then again, the Second Circuit's case (Windsor) would not necessarily require the Court to make a definitive statement about the level of scrutiny even if the Obama Administration and the ACLU are united on that front. The Windsor Court said heightened scrutiny was applicable regardless of the complicated mess other courts had been using. (Thanks to Lambda Legal's Jon Davidson for catching a mistake in an earlier version.). But, while this circuit split on scrutiny certainly encourages the Court to make a clear statement of law for the lower courts to use, we know that the Court -- even pro-heightened scrutiny liberal justices -- could elect to muddle along if they could not be sure of the votes.

In other words, any DOMA case should allow the Court the opportunity to, at a minimum, clarify what it thinks the level of scrutiny should be for antigay discrimination. Therefore, the choice of which may hinge on Justice Kagan's recusal policy and which case is the most appropriate venue for a strategic compromise.

Next, allow me to complicate the picture by adding the American Foundation for Equal Rights and its Prop 8 case, now titled, Hollingsworth v. Perry. Combining this case with the two options above, we have these three alternatives:

1. Take either all or one of the DOMA cases and take the Prop 8 case. This would be indicative of an ambitious Court that feels it -- and the public -- are ready to make a decision on marriage. There could be a lot of strategy that goes into this: if a conservative justice feels that his best chance to uphold Prop 8 is to take it now, he might want to do, or he might want to take it and lose now just to encourage a public backlash, assuming the public isn't ready for marriage freedom. A more liberal justices might want a clean, favorable DOMA ruling without a complicating factor. Plus, not taking the Prop 8 case lets the Ninth Circuit's decision stand, which would bring marriage back to California; taking the case would delay marriage.

I don't see this as a likely option for legal reasons. The Court has no substantive reason to take the Prop 8 case: it is specific to one state and could not affect any other pending state marriage law given the unique chronology of marriage in California. Therefore, I can't imagine any of the more moderate justices seeing the Prop 8 case as a good venue for a national decision in favor of the freedom to marry.

2. Take one DOMA case and hold pending the other DOMA cases the Prop 8 case. Or, much less likely, take all the DOMA cases and hold pending the Prop 8 case. This option implies that the Court thinks that its substantive holding on DOMA will affect the underlying decision on Hollingsworth. I have spoken before about how any decision in one gay rights case affects the substantive outcome and interpretation of the next gay rights case, so if the Court does this, it might signal its real willingness to tackle the level of scrutiny question and have it applied to the Prop 8 case and the other DOMA cases in a systematized way.

It's a clever option, but I just don't see it happening. There would be no need to hold pending the Prop 8 case in order to deal with the level of scrutiny in Hollingsworth because Judge Walker's district court decision declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional offers the Court a heightened scrutiny model already. The Court would not need to send Prop 8 back down in order to make the level of scrutiny a part of the case for adequate review. Plus, as I noted above, there is still no substantive reason to even think Hollingsworth merits review at any stage as long as the Ninth Circuit's decision about taking away rights is the analytical framework.

3. Take either all or one of the DOMA cases and deny the Prop 8 case. This is the most likely outcome. As a matter of law, the DOMA cases have to be reviewed and both liberals and conservatives can unite to declare it unconstitutional. Moderate and liberal justices are also likely to think that the country is not quite ready for a substantive decision on a marriage ban, even if it does only focus on California. 

The Court following option 3 is probably the best possible outcome for gay rights. The DOMA cases have the potential to be groundbreaking on substantive issues like the dignity of gay couples, equal protection, and levels of scrutiny. Even if the Court continues its muddling standard of something-sorta-like-but-maybe-a-bit-more-than-rational-basis, we will still be having scrutiny arguments, but the Court would still strike down DOMA's odious discrimination. That is itself a victory. And, the final opinion may offer future gay rights attorneys the necessary language for the next win, whether in marriage, employment discrimination, immigration, or surrogacy and adoption.

A notable result of the a favorable decision will be its expressive effect. Once we have a positive decision about the dignity of gay couples, we can include in our political mobilization efforts the lofty rhetoric from a body no less august and honored than the Supreme Court. Homages to marriage, the greatness of gay parents, and the final debunking of quack science will be good for law and politics, especially as we take the next steps to win the freedom to marry in 2013 and 2014 in places like Rhode Island, Delaware, Oregon, and Illinois.

The conference happens tomorrow and though we could know as early as tomorrow afternoon (sometimes, the Court notifies us of its grants immediately), it is more likely that the Court releases its grants on Monday, starting at 9:30 AM. After that, the briefing clock begins. The normal procedure -- 45 days for the party seeking reversal of the lower court decision, 30 days for the respondent to respond, and 30 days for the response to the response -- may be altered, but it will generally look something like that. This puts briefing done by the middle of March. A hearing will be scheduled for shortly thereafter. And, we should expect a decision by the very end of the term. 

But, don't forget, if the Court denies a hearing on the Prop 8 case, marriages in California can begin almost immediately. 


Ari Ezra Waldman teaches at Brooklyn Law School and is concurrently getting his PhD at Columbia University in New York City. He is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. His research focuses on technology, privacy, speech, and gay rights. Ari will be writing weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues. 

Follow Ari on Twitter at @ariezrawaldman.



Posted Nov. 29,2012 at 1:10 PM EST by in Ari Ezra Waldman, DOMA, Edie Windsor, Gay Marriage, Karen Golinski, Law - Gay, LGBT, Proposition 8, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (39)

Michigan School Suspends Teacher For Playing Pro-Gay 'Same Love': VIDEO


South Lyon's Centennial Middle School in Michigan suspended performing arts teacher Susan Johnson for letting a student play Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' pro-marriage equality song "Same Love."

Even though the song is about celebrating everyone, the school sided with an offended student and told Johnson to take three-days off, two of which were without pay.

"I was paralyzed. I really didn't understand why I was being suspended," she told the local Fox News affiliate. "I'm very disappointed in the bias, the bigotry that I feel that they're really hiding behind."

"I really love my kids and I never want to hurt them, but I also know that there's a lot of bullying and there's a lot of gay bashing and racial issues going on in our country and I want the kids to feel comfortable in my class no matter who they are," said the teacher, who has contacted the ACLU about the matter.

The school wouldn't comment on the situation, saying, "We don't go on camera here in South Lyon." Alrighty, then.

Watch the news report and the "Same Love" video AFTER THE JUMP.

[via Gawker]

Posted Nov. 29,2012 at 12:45 PM EST by in Education, Macklemore, Michigan, News | Permalink | Comments (32)


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