Despite the recent bipartisan endorsement that the current incarnation of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) received from the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee (HELP), The Washington Blade reports that three key Democratic senators, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.; pictured above left), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.; above center), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.; above right), are still holding out on offering their support for the bill:
"Manchin ignored questions from the Blade on how he’ll vote on the bill. His response to the final question: 'It’s very nice to meet you.'
Pryor was similarly non-committal. Asked whether he was familiar with the legislation, the senator replied, 'I am in concept, but I haven’t seen it or read it yet.'
Asked for a sense of how he’ll vote on ENDA, Pryor said he needed time to review the bill, adding, 'I’ll just have to look at it.”
Nelson couldn’t be reached on Capitol Hill for a comment on how he’ll vote on ENDA. The Florida senator’s office — along with the offices of Pryor and Manchin — hasn’t responded for six weeks to the Blade’s requests for comment on ENDA...
Although the lack of commitment from Pryor and Manchin may not be surprising because they’re among the Democrats who don’t support marriage equality, Nelson’s silence is striking because he supports same-sex marriage. In May 2010, the senator also voted for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee even before the Pentagon report on open service came out later that fall."
Many LGBT advocates have called on Senators Nelson, Pryor and Mancin to announce their support for the bill and join as co-sponsors. Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, told the Blade,
“The three holdout Senate Democrats are alienating themselves further from the Democratic Party and ignoring American values of hard work and success with every passing day that they stubbornly refuse to cosponsor the bipartisan ENDA.”
White House spokesperson Shin Inouye insisted that administration officials are lobbying the Senate to ensure a successful vote in favor of ENDA.
The bill, having advanced out of committee with the support of prominent Republicans such as Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), is widely believed to receive an up or down vote after Congress's August recess, according to HELP chairman Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Meanwhile the Human Rights campaign has begun a $2 million campaign to rally bipartisan support for ENDA, with plans to engage in "grassroots activities to encourage Republican votes for ENDA in Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania." ENDA's proponents are primarily concerned with mustering 60 yes votes in the Senate thus securing a filibuster-proof super-majority in support of the bill, a de-facto requirement for nearly all Democratic legislation in the Senate since President Obama took office in 2009. LGBT advocates of the bill believe they have a strong message they can pitch to a broad swath of American voters about why passing ENDA is crucial: Americans value "hard work," "fairness," and won't stand for discrimination.
However, should ENDA pass the Senate it faces a steeper uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Earlier this month, gay co-author of the McCain-Feingold Act, Trevor Porter, suggested that a discharge petition was the surest solution to passing ENDA in the House where some Republican members are expected to have reservations about approving the bill given the protections it provides to individuals discriminated against based on their gender identity.
Though many, including Sen. Hatch, remain pessimistic about ENDA's chances in the House, LGBT advocacy groups are stressing the importance of focusing on winning senate approval before delving into the myriad of complications that await ENDA in the House. Jeff Cook-McCormac, senior adviser to the newly formed Republican-affiliated American Unity Fund, commented:
“Getting the House to move is going to require initial Senate action...I think that the real critical focus for this coalition of business and labor, of the gay community and employers, is building on the overwhelming vote in the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee to get to floor consideration, to get the majority that we need and then to begin to work in a careful and thoughtful way with House Republicans to think through ways that this important measure can be realized.”
Neil Patrick Harris Tells Conan About The Time He Had His Butt Grabbed By Elton John's Husband - VIDEO
During a recent visit to Conan O'Brien's late night talk show on TBS, Neil Patrick Harris was asked about his and hubby David Burtka's buddy-buddy relationship with Elton John and his partner, David Furnish. According to Harris, the two couples have been friends for years, and bonded thoroughly over the shared experience of having children through surrogacy.
Then the conversation took a turn towards the colorful...
O'Brien then decided to produce a photo that has been making the rounds throughout the web. The photo clearly shows Furnish with his hand on Harris' posterior. "Were you aware that this was taking place at the time?' O'Brien asked, to which co-host Andy Richter quickly added, "or are you dead from the waist down?" O'Brien seemed ready to skirt the issue, if necessary. Luckily, Harris was quick to play it off.
"I liked it! Everyone likes a good goosin'," he shared candidly. "I guess, when you're gay, you get the 'Bum Touching Free' Card..."
Watch the full exchange AFTER THE JUMP...
In a new Gallup opinion poll of Americans released this week, a majority of Americans--52 percent, in fact, say they would vote in favor of a federal law legalizing marriage equality in all 50 states. Forty-three percent said they would vote against the law.
Of course, that's never going to happen--because that's not how marriage law works in the U.S. From the early founding of the country, it's fallen to individual states, rather than the federal government, to decide who can and cannot be married and to issue marriage licenses recognizing such unions. Hence the reason that one of the significant arguments against the Defense of Marriage Law (and one that was cited by the Supreme Court in its decision striking down the 1996 law) was that it intruded improperly on an issue traditionally reserved for state control.
Nevertheless, the new Gallup poll results are important to note, especially the breakdown of support amongst different demographic groups. At the top end, groups such as liberals, those who express no religious affiliation and Democrats supported marriage equality overwhelmingly, with respondents showing 77, 76 and 70 percent support, respectively. Other groups with strong support for equal marriage rights nationwide were 18 to 34 year-olds (69 percent) and moderates (63 percent), as well as respondents in the West and East.
Indepdents, those who attended church at least once a month and respondents in the Midwest demonstrated slim majority support for the hypothetical federal marriage equality law, with margins in the low 50s.
In fact, there were only a few groups for which majorities don't support equal marriage rights, and none of them were surprising. A slight plurality of men support marriage equality, albeit at only 48 percent to 46 percent opposition. Majority opposition to marriage equality was found amongst only six demographic groups: respondents in the South, those 55 and older, Protestants, Republicans, Conservatives and those who attend church weekly (who came in at a whopping 73 percent opposed).
Gallup also found limited evidence for a shift in Americans' opinions towards marriage rights for same-sex couples since the Supreme Court's decision striking down DOMA in June: 53 percent of respondents said in May that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, while 54 percent expressed that view in the new survey.
Clearly, all signs on marriage equality are pointing in one direction--earlier this year, Gallup released another poll showing a majority of Americans favors allowing same-sex couples to marry. Perhaps even more importantly, that survey found the largest gap ever measured between those who think being gay is something people are born with and those who think it is affected by factors such as one's upbringing. Even in the wake of the Supreme Court's historic consideration of same-sex couples' right to marry--and the sharp upswing in media attention on marriage equality--most Americans seem to know where they stand on the issue--at least for the present moment.
The stroke of midnight on Thursday, August 1st, will mark the beginning for marriage equality in two new states: Minnesota and Rhode Island. Now that the time is just hours away, LGBT residents, supporters, and opponents are scrambling in the last few hours to make their goals a reality.
Minnesota Public Radio reports that the City Hall of Minneapolis will be "hosting an extravaganza at City Hall tonight where Mayor R.T. Rybak will officiate at the marriage of 42 same-sex couples." The term "extravaganza" refers not only to the marathon of same-sex marriage, but the lavish celebration afterwards that will reportedly "stretch well into Thursday morning," and include "performances by local musicians, a brass quintet and a reception at the nearby Hotel Minneapolis." Rybak staffer Andy Holmaas told MPR about how the celebration comes partially as the result of an outpouring of generosity from community members and businesses alike. "People have been bending over backwards at the slightest ask -- an unbelievable outpouring," he said. "It's not surprising, but it's still really inspiring to see Minneapolis and the whole region just jump on board to do everything they can."
Midnight ceremonies are also planned at the courthouses of Minnesota's Polk and Clay counties. St. Paul has one scheduled to take place at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. Mall of America will also be hosting its first same-sex wedding celebration at the Chapel of Love at 12:01. More ceremonies are scheduled to take place across the state later on in the morning, with many couples opting to say their vows with the added pleasure of daylight.
As was noted by MPR, Minnesota's ultimate embrace of marriage equality comes riding the tide of a rapid shift in public opinion. Not only did the state ban same-sex unions at one point, but one prior attempt to repeal the ban died when the measure was sent to voters for approval:
"After a divisive campaign that spurred many...to activism, Minnesota voters rejected the measure in November 2012 and gave the DFL control of both houses of the Legislature as well as the governor's office. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved legalizing same-sex marriage, and Gov. Mark Dayton signed the measure into law on May 14."
Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, city and town clerks have already been preparing to issue licenses, and have also fielded a high volume of calls from couples who were either interested in marriage licenses, or simply unsure as to the legal situation regarding their own union. The Providence Journal reports that:
"Providence and Pawtucket appeared to be the busiest as the Aug. 1 date approaches, with at least 7 couples taking advantage of a pre-registration period in Providence and more than 10 people calling with questions in Pawtucket. The questions have dealt with everything from what’s needed to get a marriage license to what a couple with a civil union has to do to marry to whether a couple that married elsewhere can marry here in Rhode Island."
Thanks to the new law, those wishing to apply for a license and get married, be they from inside or out of the state, will be able to do so. Those wishing to go from a civil union to a legal marriage have two options. They can either opt to have another ceremony declaring themselves legally married, or they can have their existing civil union license "merged" into a marriage license, eliminating the need for a ceremony.
One of the first same-sex marriages in Rhode Island will take place in Providence, where State Rep. Frank Ferri, D-Warwick, will wed husband Tony Caparco once again. The two were married in Vancouver in 2006, but opted to have another ceremony to celebrate their legislative victory. Their ceremony will be officiated by House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, who championed the state's new same-sex marriage legislation.
Same-sex marriage ceremonies in Rhode Island will begin tomorrow in spite of a legal challenge that was filed yesterday in a Providence Superior Court. The challenge comes via Ronald L’Heureux, a cofounder of the Faith Alliance to Preserve the Sanctity of Marriage as Defined by God. L'Heureux brought with him a petition and complaint in an attempt to obtain a restraining order and stop the marriages. Luckily, Judge Daniel A. Procaccini promptly denied the request, and instead opted to schedule a hearing for August 9th. When asked exactly why he wished to obtain a temporary restraining order against all of the state's same-sex couples, the L'Heureux, who chose to represent himself, argued that same-sex couples would be violating the religious liberties of himself and others by having their unions recognized in the public sphere. “It violates the Constitution and causes irreparable harm, and once it passes they’re going to teach my children and grandchildren conduct that’s reprehensible to my faith,” he said in court.
Towleroad wishes to congratulate those couples who will be tying the knot tomorrow in the two states. 13 down...37 to go.
Controversy surrounding the human rights atrocities is already causing trouble for NBC Universal, who has exclusive broadcasting rights for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. NBC has announced that they will wait until the games draw near before making any decision about whether/how to address the controversy. However, Truth Wins Out has already proposed a solution, and have started a petition on Change.org to gain traction for the idea. Rather than boycott NBC or the games altogether, they wish for NBC to use the Games as an opportunity to shed light on Russia's human rights violations. Executive director Wayne Besen had this to say in the group's official release:
"The spotlight can be harsh, but Russia specifically asked for it when they submitted a bid and agreed to host the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. People around the world want to watch and support the Olympics, but they want to do so with a clear conscience. Make a difference, NBC, by adding Rachel Maddow to the Olympic coverage as a special Human Rights Correspondent."
They argue that coverage of the Olympic Games has always included human-interest pieces, about both athletes and the host nation. The Sochi Games present a rare opportunity to have NBC feature hard-hitting, current journalism to an unprecedented global audience, raising awareness to an entirely new level. They also maintain that Rachel Maddow is the person best suited for such a responsibility. According to the group's Associate Director, Evan Hurst:
"Rachel has the expertise and the instincts to tell this full story to a viewing audience who are appalled by the treatment of their Russian brothers and sisters. Adding her to NBC’s coverage won’t fly in the face of the Olympic spirit, but rather enhance it, as there is nothing in the ethics or the history of the Olympic Games that can coexist peacefully with the war Russia is waging against her own citizens, and the rest of the world needs to know."
She also happens to already belong to NBC's family of networks. Thus, they conclude, the decision is a no-brainer.
The petition currently has 1200 signatures, and wishes to add at least 300 more. You can read and sign the petition, should you so desire, HERE. Meanwhile, sound off in the comments section as to whether you think this would be an acceptable solution for NBC.
American troops in Afghanistan are reportedly using Craigslist to solicit and arrange casual and discreet sexual encounters, according to the Army Times...
"Sexual activities in a war zone are as old as wars themselves, but with the advent of Internet personal ads and social media sites, arranging a sexual encounter can become brazen, public and risky. Warnings from commanders, standard guidance for any unit headed to the war zone, appear to have fallen on deaf ears in many cases."
As a result, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Afghanistan is now having agents monitor such sites, and investigating any potential sexual encounters as violations of conduct. The Times told the story of one soldier:
"One Marine lance corporal...posted an advertisement on Craigslist for a sexual rendezvous. The guy he met at Camp Leatherneck, whom he thought was also looking to hook up, turned out to be an undercover agent with the NCIS."
The report then went on to explain:
"Online sex solicitation is technically not a crime under the UCMJ. However, commanders have the right to enact regulations that make it a punishable offense."
How so? While it may not be against any regulations to post a personal ad, "posting pornographic images on a public web or social media site is a chargeable offense," explained Erin Stattel, a press officer for International Security Assistance Force. "Adultery, pandering, and prostitution" are also on the list of violations. Commanders can also punish soldiers on a case-by-case basis under an article that bans conduct “to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces.” Take the above-mentioned lance corporal for example. Commanders charged him with three violations: "attempting to commit an offense in violation of the UCMJ; failing to obey an order or regulation, and pandering and prostitution." The soldier accepted the punishment gracefully, but did express some resentment to the Army Times:
"It was against the rules set forth by the base general, ... so they were doing their job, but what I don’t agree with is how they were pretty much searching for people to arrest."
As the report indicates, a majority of the Craigslist ads investigated by the NCIS are by men seeking other men. That does not necessarily mean that the agency is targeting gay soldiers. Retired Col. Dr. Elspeth Cameron “Cam” Ritchie, Army psychiatrist and chief clinical officer for the District of Columbia’s Department of Mental Health in Washington, offered a different explanation. She told the Army Times:
“When detached from home, without the ability to openly exercise relationships in a combat environment and with a fatalistic attitude, military members would be inclined to embrace risk-taking. These young men have high testosterone and, with the inability to quietly have a relationship, it is not surprising that they are willing to put themselves into that situation.”
UK's Daily Mail took it upon themselves to peruse many of the Craigslist pages in question, posting many racy screencaps on their site. The images depicted standard fare for any casual-sex-soliciting social network pages...disembodied torsos, genitals, and an overabundance of words such as "looking" and "discreet". Naturally, upon discovering news of these casual sexual encounters, conservative activists did not approve.