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Wednesday Speed Read: Houston, Maine and NOM, Wisconsin, Pope Francis, World LGBT Rights

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

ParkerHOUSTON COUNCIL VOTES TODAY:

The Houston City Council is scheduled to vote today on an ordinance proposed by lesbian Mayor Annise Parker, to adopt a policy that prohibits discrimination based on a number of categories, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

MAINE LIKELY TO PENALIZE NOM:

A Maine election ethics commission will vote today on whether to fine the National Organization for Marriage for failing to register as a ballot question committee in a 2009 anti-gay referendum. The staff of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices issued a 37-page report April 9, recommending the commission fine NOM more than $50,000 for its failure to register as a committee and file campaign finance reports that disclosed its donors. The report notes that NOM spent $3 million in Maine in 2009 to encourage voter passage of a repeal a law allowing same-sex couples to marry, most of it funneled into a group called Stand for Marriage Maine. “NOM intentionally set up its fundraising strategy to avoid donor disclosure,” states the staff letter. In a May 6 letter responding to the recommendation, a legal group called “Act Right” asserts that NOM “made no expenditures”’ under Maine law.

WalkerWISCONSIN BRACING FOR THE FALL:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, through his attorney general, filed a motion Friday asking U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb to stay her decision in a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban if that decision finds the ban unconstitutional. Crabb (a Carter appointee) last month denied Walker’s request to dismiss an ACLU-led lawsuit, Wolf v. Walker. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also reported Friday that Walker has begun to express his own doubts about the ban’s constitutionality. “I'm not going to pretend to tell a federal judge in that regard what he or she should do about it," Walker told the paper. "...I don't know what (allowing gay marriage) means. Voters don't talk to me about that.” But the Sentinel noted that Republican Attorney General  J.B. Van Hollen has made clear he intends to appeal a losing ruling to the Seventh Circuit.

FrancisHRC ASKS POPE TO MEET WITH TEACHERS:

The Human Rights Campaign announced Tuesday that it has sent a letter to Pope Francis on behalf of nine teachers who have lost their jobs at Catholic schools either because they are gay or because they support a gay family member. The letter states that the teachers hope the pope’s "messages of acceptance” and “pastoral leadership” will enable him to “correct these hurtful injustices.” The letter was prompted in part by new policies being adopted by some dioceses, including Cincinnati, that call for firing any employee who even speaks in favor of the “homosexual lifestyle.” “We ask for a Papal audience with our families,” states the letter, “so that you may hear our personal stories firsthand and see the impact the Church's actions have had on us all."

RollercoasterGLOBAL ‘ROLLER COASTER’:

The Human Rights Campaign on May 15 released its inaugural issue of a report monitoring LGBT equal rights globally, and it characterized 2013 as a “proverbial roller coaster.” Six nations began allowing same-sex couples to marry, but Russia passed its harsh laws against “promoting” anything gay. Activism emerged in such countries as Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Iran, and yet Uganda and Nigeria cracked down with new laws criminalizing same-sex relations and imposing draconian penalties. Equality Rising notes: “Change is happening at a rapid rate. As some LGBT people are nearing legal equality, we must work together to ensure that others are not left behind.”

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Houston Anti-gay Activists Threaten to Recall Mayor Annise Parker Over LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill

ParkerNext Wednesday, Houston’s city council is set to vote on a proposed ordinance to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity – an ordinance that already has opponents vowing to recall mayor Annise Parker and any city council members who support the non-discrimination policy.

KHOU reports:

Parker’s proposal has stirred up an unlikely coalition of conservative whites who never cared much for the mayor anyway and African-American ministers offended by the notion that sexual orientation is a civil right. Church leaders have rallied outside City Hall in opposition to the ordinance, focusing largely on the idea that it would allow transgendered people to decide whether to use men’s or women’s restrooms.

Watch a news report on the recall efforts, AFTER THE JUMP...

Among opponents of the ordinance is Houston Community College Board of Trustees member and longtime anti-gay activist Dave Wilson (R) who was behind the homophobic flyer campaign against Houston Mayor Annise Parker during her campaign for mayor a few years ago. 

ThinkProgress reports:

WilsonAccording to KHOU 11 News, Wilson said he and other opponents of LGBT equality might collect signatures to recall anyone who backs the proposal under the city charter’s recall provision to allow removal of officials in cases of “incompetence, misconduct, malfeasance or unfitness for office.” Wilson told the station, “we consider them to be incompetent,” as he believes passage of the law would violate state law. “This is absurd, it’s unheard of,” he said of the proposed protections, adding, “It’s nothing but pure payback for the mayor. She’s paying back her core constituents that supported her.”

Though the threat could scare off some support — just 2,500 signatures would be required to mandate a recall election for a city council member — recall expert Joshua Spivak noted on his Recall Elections Blog Saturday that the claim that this vote shows incompetence would “probably will be extremely difficult to hold up in court.” Indeed Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio all have already passed LGBT non-discrimination ordinances without incident.

Previously, "Mike Huckabee Launches Campaign Against Houston's Proposed LGBT Non-Discrimination Ordinance" [tlrd] 

Continue reading "Houston Anti-gay Activists Threaten to Recall Mayor Annise Parker Over LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill" »


Vote On Houston’s LGBT Rights Ordinance Delayed: VIDEO

Parker

Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (known as HERO) will not come to a vote for at least two more weeks according to GLAAD. The ordinance, proposed by Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city, was introduced back in April and would protect the city’s public and private employees from workplace, housing and public accommodation discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The Houston City Council debated the measure yesterday and was set to vote on it as well. However, the vote was stalled by HERO’s opponents. The Council did manage to pass two amendments to the ordinance, as The Houston Business Journal reports. The most significant amendment, put forth by Council Member Robert Gallegos, changed the definition of an employer from a business having 50 employees to one with 15 employees. That will expand the jurisdiction of the ordinance and is more in line with similar equal rights ordinances in other large cities, according to Gallegos. The other amendment ensured that HERO would not interfere with veteran or senior discounts. 

Some doubt still lingers over a provision of the ordinance that would provide protections for LGBT persons in public restrooms. That amendment, which has not been accepted by the Council, reads:

“It shall be unlawful for any place of public accommodation or any employee or agent thereof to intentionally deny any person entry to any restroom, shower room, or similar facility if that facility is consistent with and appropriate to that person’s expression of gender identity.”

Parker was adamant in her defense of HERO, noting that for her, “this is personal”:

"It is not academic. It is my life that is being discussed," said Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a U.S. city. "It applies to the range of protected groups ... but the debate is about me. It is about two gay men at this table. It is very intensely personal."

You can watch a video of Parker making her impassioned remarks before the council, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Vote On Houston’s LGBT Rights Ordinance Delayed: VIDEO" »


Mike Huckabee Launches Campaign Against Houston’s Proposed LGBT Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Huckabee

Mike Huckabee is launching an attack on Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s proposed non-discrimination ordinance protecting the city’s public and private employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, with Huckabee making the baseless assertion that the proposal is “unsafe for women and children.”

Wrote Huckabee on Facebook:

“Contact, either by email or phone, every council member and the mayor, no matter where you live in Houston or in the greater metropolitan area. Respectfully state that voting for this ordinance will take away your rights to live what you believe, will be unsafe for women and children, will adversely impact local businesses, will clog our courts, and will unnecessarily spend our tax dollars. Tell them as an elected representative of the people, you expect them to vote Against This Ordinance.”

And with the ordinance set to receive a vote by the city council today, Huckabee is also planning a rally and press conference outside city hall at noon so that council members pay attention to those who “believe in God’s definition of human sexuality…male and female, and believe in common moral decency.”

[via Equality Matters]

 

 


Tuesday Speed Read: Houston, Log Cabin Republicans, Harvey Milk, Pennsylvania, David Cicilline, Kyrsten Sinema

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

HOUSTON’S PARKER GOES LONG:

ParkerHouston’s openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker announced Monday that she is introducing a bill to city council that will prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The bill covers housing, city employment and contracts, and private employment for non-religious employers and companies with fewer than 50 employees. Parker had taken some heat recently when LGBT leaders believed she would propose a human rights ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and public accommodations but not in private employment.

LOG CABIN GETS MAJOR BOOST:

LogcabinA trade group that represents such consumer technology giants as Google, Apple, and Microsoft announced Monday it will provide “financial support” to the national Log Cabin Republicans. Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) President Gary Shapiro said he was “very proud of CEA’s groundbreaking financial support” for Log Cabin. “Our visible announcement,” said Shapiro, “proves that trade associations want lawmakers and policies that recognize the economic value of hiring the best and brightest minds, regardless of sexual orientation.” Shapiro did not disclose how much financial support CEA is giving Log Cabin or for how long. Log Cabin Executive Director Gregory Angelo said it was “great news” for his group, but he declined to discuss the numbers.

MILK STAMP UNVEILED:

MilkThe U.S. Postal Service revealed its design for the “forever” stamp honoring openly gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk Monday. The stamp includes a familiar close-up photo of Milk with a strip of rainbow colors in the top left-hand corner, along with his name across the top. The stamp will be officially recognized in a first-day-of-issue ceremony at the White House May 22.

PENNSYLVANIA RUSHING ALONG:

Lawyers pressing one of five lawsuits against Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex couples marrying has asked a federal judge in Harrisburg to forego a trial and, instead, make a decision based on briefs. TheACLU organized the lawsuit Whitewood v. Wolf on behalf of 11 couples who want to marry in Pennsylvania or have their marriage licenses from another state accepted by Pennsylvania. The ACLU said a trial became unnecessary after the state indicated it would call no witnesses to defend the ban. The state is not contesting the request for a decision based on the briefs and final briefs are due May 12, says the ACLU.

WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL STEPPING DOWN:

RuemmlerThe White House Monday announced President Obama has hired a new White House counsel: a former Clinton White House attorney, W. Neil Eggleston. Eggleston, whose focus has been primarily on Congressional investigations and corporate issues, will likely be a step down on LGBT issues. A New York Times profile April 6, credited Kathryn Ruemmler, the outgoing White House counsel, with having “helped develop an administration legal analysis about discrimination against gay people that was highly sympathetic to their rights.” The Times said Ruemmler’s analysis “formed the basis for Mr. Obama’s increasingly assertive backing or same-sex marriage rights.”

CicillineCICILLINE MEETS IN UKRAINE:

Openly gay U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.Is.) is one of eight members of the House Foreign Relations Committee in Ukraine to show U.S. support for Ukraine’s effort to remain independent of Russia. Cicilline and the others met with Vice President Joe Biden last night to discuss unrest in the region.

SINEMA FINISHES BOSTON IN 4:32: Openly bisexual U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) finished the Boston Marathon yesterday with a time of 4:32:32.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Houston Mayor Annise Parker Introduces Ordinance Protecting LGBT City Workers From Discrimination

Today, Houston mayor Annise Parker introduced an Equal Rights Ordinance that would protect the city’s public and private employees from workplace, housing and public accommodation discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Anisse_parkerNews 92 FM reports that “Religious organizations would be exempt in order to avoid First Amendment issues," and that "Parker plans to present the draft ordinance to the Houston City Council Quality of Life Committee on April 30. Consideration by the full council is scheduled for May 7.”

John Wright at Lone Star Q adds that, “Parker previously indicated that an earlier draft of the proposed ordinance didn’t include citywide employment protections, leading to a major push by LGBT advocates to have the provision added.”

Wright also adds that Houston was “the only major city in Texas, and one of the few in the nation, that lacks citywide LGBT protections,” and that “Mayor Parker has exempted companies with fewer than 50 employees… three times higher than under the Austin or Dallas [non-discrimination ordinances], or under the federal [Employment Non-Discrimination Act].” Wright surmises that Parker may have had to do this in order to earn votes for the ordinance’s passage.

The Human Rights Campaign’s National Field Director Marty Rouse thanked Mayor Parker for leading on the issue:

“It is far past time to protect the citizens of Houston from all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As the nation’s fourth largest city, Houston is an epicenter for business and culture. Cities thrive when all citizens feel welcome and part of the cultural fabric. Today, Mayor Parker told every Houstonian that they are a valued part of the city’s future."


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