Oregon is on its way to join California and Washington in bringing marriage equality to the entire West Coast, with a petition campaign in support of a 2014 ballot initiative set to kick off tomorrow, The Huffington Post reports:
According to Petition Director Ryan Brown, the campaign will kick off on Friday, July 26 in cities all across the state. Brown says organizers are hoping to gather 116,284 signatures by July 3, 2014 -- "a signature every 4 and 1/4 minutes."
"Together, we can make it possible for every Oregonian to have the freedom to marry the person they love," he concluded in an email statement. At least 116,000 valid signatures are necessary for the initiative to make the November 2014 ballot.
The campaign, known as Oregon Says I Do, will seek to gather the 116,284 valid signatures needed to put a pro-marriage equality constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot.
If the amendment qualifies for the election and is approved next November, Oregon would become the first state in which voters repealed a marriage equality ban that was established by an earlier ballot initiative--Measure 36, which Oregonians approved in 2004 by a 57-43 percent margin.
Polls have shown plurality support for amending the Oregon Constitution in favor of marriage equality, and opponents of the effort in April lost a legal battle in which they challenged the language of the proposed amendment.
This is not the first time a marriage equality campaign has been launched in Oregon: in 2009, the state's largest LGBT rights organization, Basic Rights Oregon, began an education campaign with the goal of repealing Measure 36 during the 2012 election. In late 2011, The Statesmen Journal reported (erroneously) that the group would collect signatures for a 2012 repeal; Basic Rights later announced that it had determined that 2012 was the wrong time for a marriage equality campaign. This February, however, the group unveiled plans to push for a ballot initiative in 2014.
Many probably still remember the ensuing controversy when it was revealed in 2010 that Target Corporation donated $150,000 to a PAC that supported homophobic Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. The company subsequently revised its corporate giving policies, and even launched a series of Gay Pride shirts in an attempt to restore its gay-friendly reputation. Unfortunately, it looks as though the company will have to conduct more damage-control, since Right Wing Watch is reporting that the company "contributed $50,000 to the Republican Governors Association, which so far this year has spent nearly $3 million on behalf of [Ken] Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign." Towleroad readers may remember Cuccinelli as the homophobic attorney general from Virginia with an extensive history of homophobic remarks, and who wishes to reinstate a "Crimes Against Nature Law" in the state.
It is worth noting that Target Corp. also made the same donation to the Democratic Governors Association, which is throwing its weight behind Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. Right Wing Watch referred to the move as "equal opportunity influence-buy[ing]." Nevertheless, this indirect support of such a fiercely anti-gay candidate does call into question a previous promise by CEO Gregg Steinhafel to promote “a dialogue focused on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including GLBT issues," or a statement made last year by the company that it is “100 percent committed to the goal of families being respected in all communities including parents who happen to be LGBT."
This year, Target Corp. scored a perfect 100 on the HRC's Corporate Equality Index, a grade that will almost certainly suffer as a result of this donation. Thus far, the retail giant has yet to release a statement or comment addressing this most recent controversial donation.
The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education reached a settlement agreement Wednesday, and trans students across the nation can enjoy greater protection as a result. The agreement comes after a trans male middle school student brought a discrimination complaint against the Arcadia Unified School District in California after being barred from using the boys restrooms and locker rooms. They also barred the student from bunking in the boys cabin during a district-sponsored class trip. The district will have to make "system-wide changes" as a result of the settlement.
"The agreement is the latest mark of a growing legal and administrative trend to interpret bans on sex discrimination as including discrimination based on gender identity and transgender status, and Wednesday’s settlement applied that definition to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the law that bans sex discrimination in education."
As a result of DOJ and DOE's decision, no school district will be able to discriminate against a transgender student without violating federal law. In their own words, "[a]ll students, including transgender students and students who do not conform to sex stereotypes, are protected from sex-based discrimination under Title IX." They explained the decision by saying...
“In the employment context, federal courts and administrative agencies have applied Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination, to discrimination against transgender individuals based on sex, including nonconformity with sex stereotypes and gender identity.”
Thus, this is certainly not the first time that federal agencies have interpreted prior bans on sex discrimination to include protection of trans people. As was explained by Asaf Orr, the National Center for Lesbian Rights staff attorney who represented the student...
“This is a natural extension of the way courts and administrative agencies are interpreting sex-stereotyping. This resolution shows the federal government is continuing to import the sex-stereotyping definition as applied elsewhere, specifically Title VII, into the Title IX context.”
Officials from both agencies did note that “[t]his letter is not a formal statement of [the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights’s] policy and should not be relied upon, cited, or construed as such." Rather, they maintain that this decision is merely an extension of prior ones made by other federal entities. Buzzfeed referred to it as "an expansion of the terminology, if not reasoning".
You can read the full resolution agreement HERE.
You can read the letter closing the complaint HERE.
Russia's newly-adopted anti-gay laws are already the subject of worldwide controversy. The laws have already been used to justify police brutality against Russian LGBT activists, as well as the imprisonment of advocates from inside their borders and beyond. LGBT advocates have called for the boycott of many Russian goods as a result. Many others have turned their sights to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which will be taking place in the Russian city of Sochi.
The International Olympic Committee has already told press that it will "work to ensure" that LGBT athletes from around the globe will be able to compete freely in the games without fear of any legal trouble. Many LGBT athletes have expressed their apprehension anyway. Other athletes and advocates have called for a boycott of the games by the United States and the IOC, including the likes of Harvey Fierstein and Dan Savage.
All of this controversy is creating headaches for NBC Universal, who will be broadcasting across the U.S. and beyond. Comcast forked over $4.38 billion to secure that privilege through 2020. As a result, many advocates are turning their sights in NBC's direction, such as HRC President Chad Griffin, who wrote a letter to NBC Universal CEO Stephen Burke saying that the network has a "responsibility to expose" the atrocities committed by Russia towards LGBT people. According to Buzzfeed, HRC hasn't yet taken a formal position on a potential boycott. Rather, Griffin states that...
"NBCUniversal … has a unique opportunity — and a responsibility — to expose this inhumane and unjust law to the millions of American viewers who will tune in to watch the Games."
He also added:
"You no doubt agree that it wouldn’t be right to air the opening ceremonies, which is an hours-long advertisement for the host country, without acknowledging that a whole segment of the Russian population — not to mention foreign athletes and visitors — can be jailed for an immutable aspect of their identity."
Neither NBC nor Comcast have issued any comments on the Sochi Olympics controversy. As it stands, NBC Universal currently scores a perfect 100 on the HRC's annual "Corporate Equality Index", which grades various companies on their commitment to equality on a scale of 0 to 100. As was noted by Griffin in his letter, that perfect score could potentially be at risk should NBC choose to sweep this issue under the rug.
Should NBC eventually decide to boycott the games, as was noted by Variety, it would not be a first.
"The mere mention of a boycott evokes memories of the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow, which the United States boycotted in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. NBC had paid $85 million for the rights but cancelled its live coverage."
Variety also pointed out that there was no boycott of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, which took place under the watch of the Hitler regime. Similar controversy also surrounded the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, which even resulted in the resignation of Steven Spielberg as a creative consultant. As was noted by Harvey Fierstein in his recent New York Times op-ed, "There is a price for tolerating intolerance." Chad Griffin echoed this sentiment to Variety, saying that “there is a skunk at the garden party that can’t be ignored.”
Read Griffin's full letter to NBC HERE...
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs advanced a new package of bills recently that would effectively ensure full benefits go to gay troops and their spouses. The package, collectively known as the Charlie Morgan Act, would change the existing definitions of spouse in U.S. code concerning benefits for troops. The portion in question is known as Title 38, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman independently of the mostly-defunct "Defense of Marriage Act".
According to the Washington Blade, the bills carry the name of Charlie Morgan, a guardsman from New Hampshire who was a plaintiff against DOMA on behalf of herself and other gay troops. She did so while battling terminal breast cancer, and sought to secure benefits for her spouse before succumbing to the disease. Unfortunately, Morgan passed just months before the death of DOMA, but her name lives on with the newly-advanced bill. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), chief sponsor of the bill, told the press:
"Every individual who serves in uniform should have access to the benefits they’ve earned. Charlie served on the front lines for our country, but because of her sexual orientation her family has been wrongfully being denied many of the same benefits given to those who stood beside her."
The Charlie Morgan Act also comes, in part, from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's promise to deliver full benefits to gay troops and their spouses after the Supreme Court gutted DOMA. Benefits in question include compensation for disability and the right to be buried in a military cemetery. With Title 38 in place, it is unclear as to whether such benefits can be extended to same-sex spouses. If passed, the Charlie Morgan Act would effectively put all doubts to rest. According to Shaheen, it is not so much a new piece of legislation so much as an extension of the decision handed down by the Supreme Court last month.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA was a victory for the belief that all Americans are to be treated equally under the law, and I am pleased the Veteran’s Committee has built on the landmark progress we’ve seen for marriage equality. I hope the full Senate will move forward on the Charlie Morgan Act so that finally no spouse, child or family is denied benefits they have earned and deserve.”
At a special reception for the LGBT community at 10 Downing Street celebrating the marriage equality victory, Cameron remarked that the United Kingdom is "the best place to be gay, lesbian or transgender anywhere in Europe." Unless perhaps you have a serious porn addiction. Despite the jubilant and congratulatory atmosphere, Cameron did not seem content to rest on his laurels. After thanking the ministers and civil servants who helped push the marriage equality bill through, the Prime Minister shared his plans for the future:
"I’ve told the Bill team I’m now going to reassign them because, of course, all over the world people would have been watching this piece of legislation and we’ve set something, I think, of an example of how to pass good legislation in good time. Many other countries are going to want to copy this. And, as you know, I talk about the global race, about how we’ve got to export more and sell more so I’m going to export the bill team. I think they can be part of this global race and take it around the world.”
Indeed, Cameron did pass legislation in the UK in good time, much sooner than 2015, the date by which he originally promised to pass make marriage equality a reality. Though the path to equality in Britain was far from smooth, it remains unclear how the Prime Minister plans to take any lessons learned in the UK and apply them internationally.