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Idaho House Committee Holds Historic Hearing On 'Add The Words' Bill Seeking LGBT Protections

Idaho

Add the Words, Idaho. 

That will again be the simple message from LGBT advocates to state lawmakers as an Idaho House Committee holds the first-ever hearing on a proposal to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's Human Rights Act. 

Hundreds are expected to testify at the hearing, which begins this morning but could last for up to three days.

The hearing comes nine years after the legislation was first introduced and is a major milestone for the colorful Add the Words, Idaho campaign, which last year staged a demonstration at the Capitol leading to dozens of arrests. 

KTVB-TV reports: 

This weekend training was offered at the Democratic Party headquarters to people who wish to testify at the hearing. They learned about the legislative process and what they can expect if they approach the microphone.

"A lot of people have concerns and they have questions," said Evangeline Beechler, who is the state chair of the LGBTA Democratic Caucus and helped organize the training. "We want to make sure they feel OK going in. You know this is people's livelihood, housing, employment, and it can be very scary because at this point without the 'Add the Words' bill they could lose their job." ... 

Chair of Add the Words Idaho, Cindy Gross, says this year it's more important then even to have their voices heard.

"Now that Idaho has marriage equality there will be more gay and transgender people going to work with a ring on their finger, and it will be more likely that they'll be discriminated against," said Gross. "It is now more important we add the words sexual orientation and gender identity to the Human Rights Act."

The hearing before the House Committee on State Affairs begins at 8 a.m. Mountain time. Watch it live here

Watch KTVB's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

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Founder Of Russian LGBT Teen Support Group Fined For Violating 'Gay Propaganda' Law

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The founder of Russia's version of the "It Gets Better" campaign has been fined 50,000 rubles for violating the country's "gay propaganda" law.

Journalist Elena Klimova (above), founder of the Children 440 group on the Russian social network VKontakte, was fined the equivalent of $775, BuzzFeed reports

Klimova launched the group shortly before Russia passed its anti-gay law in 2013. The name Children 404 is a reference to the “Page Not Found” online server error.

Most users who post photos on the site obscure their faces and include the message, "We exist." They also share stories and can interact with volunteer psychologists who offer counseling.

BuzzFeed reports on Thursday's hearing: 

LGBT activists said that Klimova’s lawyer could not attend today’s hearing for medical reasons and she was left without counsel when the judge declined to postpone the proceedings.

“Today the court has violated the article 48 of the Russian Constitution, according to which everyone shall be guaranteed the right to qualified legal assistance,” Maria Kozlovskaya, a lawyer with the Russian LGBT Network, said in a statement. “We are going to challenge this decision at all levels including the European Court on Human Rights.”

View photos from Children 404's Facebook page and watch a trailer for the film about the campaign, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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As Michigan's Republican Governor Plugs Gay Rights, GOP Lawmaker Reintroduces 'License To Discriminate' Bill

If you need evidence of the growing divide on LGBT issues within the Republican Party, look no further than Michigan. 

On the same day that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder (top right) made headlines by calling for more dialogue on LGBT protections, a GOP state lawmaker reintroduced a "license to discriminate" bill that would take the state in the opposite direction. 

From The Huffington Post

SnyderDuring a State of the State address marking his fifth year as governor, Snyder called for legislators to continue discussions on amending Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The law prohibits discrimination based on race, age, sex, religion and more, but does not offer protections based on sexual orientation.

"Let's keep up that dialogue and let's show that we can deal with issues of discrimination in our state," he said.

Perhaps Snyder should have delivered an advance copy of his speech to Republican Sen. Mike Shirkey (bottom right), who earlier in the day reintroduced the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, according to Mlive.com:  

ShirkeyThe state RFRA, modeled after a federal version, would allow individuals or businesses to seek exemptions to government regulations they feel may substantially burden their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Critics who opposed the bill last year called it a “license to discriminate” against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals, a charge that supporters denied before a straight party-line vote in the House.

Former House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, introduced RFRA legislation last year alongside a separate bill that would have expanded the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Bolger said at the time that he wanted to “strike a balance” between protecting individual rights and defending religious liberty, but the non-discrimination bill stalled in committee due to a dispute over protecting transgender residents.

Meanwhile, the "license to discriminate" bill passed the House but died in the Senate — which is where Shirkey has reintroduced it. 

The Michigan bill joins a wave of anti-LGBT state legislation across the nation, and the Associated Press took a look at the trend on Saturday:   

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in April and could decide by June whether gay couples can marry, and national opinion polls show U.S. voters increasingly unopposed to gay rights. Yet lawmakers in a handful of states are backing longshot legislation targeting gay rights, doubling down on the culture wars. Most, if not all, of the efforts are led by Republicans. ... 

If the bills' backers manage to force a sharp debate in coming weeks, and the Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage a few months later, supporters of the bills would be exposed to criticism that they've been fighting for a fringe issue.

"On no issue during my 40-year career have opinions moved as rapidly as they have on the issue of the morality of gay relationships and ultimately gay marriage," said Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and the National Rifle Association. "When you have conservative organizations like the U.S. military and the Boy Scouts openly accepting gay members, the debate is close to being over."


Gary Bauer Thinks Martin Luther King, Jr. Would be 'Mortified' by Gay Rights: VIDEO

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Politician Gary Bauer appeared via Skype on Hagee Hotline saying the Constitution doesn't guarantee civil rights for gay people or abortion and saying the concept of civil rights is being "hijacked." Bauer makes his case using Martin Luther King, Jr. as an example and that he would be "mortified," on the state of civil rights if he was still alive.

Bauer cites that King being a pastor would've meant that he wouldn't have supported abortion, "understood" the biblical message of marriage and he would've been a supporter of a mother and father-led family. It seems like using the dead and tragedies to back up their claims is conservatives modus operandi in making points and winning arguments.

You can listen to Bauer's nonsense, if you absolutely want to, AFTER THE JUMP...

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California Judges Barred From Joining Boy Scouts Due To Discriminatory Ban on Gay Leaders

State judges in California can no longer be members of the Boy Scouts beginning next year — at least until the Scouts lift a ban on gay adult leaders. 

The California Supreme Court voted unanimously this week to eliminate an exception for youth nonprofits to a rule that prohibits judges from belonging to groups that discriminate based on sexual orientation. 

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: 

Scouts“The people of California have a right to an impartial and unbiased judiciary,” Richard Fybel, a state appeals court justice in Santa Ana and chairman of the high court’s ethics advisory committee, said Friday. “This is important to accomplishing that.” ... 

In a statement that responded to the committee’s proposal last year, Deron Smith, a spokesman at Boy Scouts headquarters in Irving, Texas, said the Scouts “would be disappointed with anything that limits our volunteers’ ability to serve more youth. ... Today, more than ever, youth need the character and leadership programs of Scouting.”

The proposal had drawn a mixed response from judges. In written comments to the court, one opponent said the prohibition would elevate “gay rights above religious freedom rights,” and another said it would interfere with judges’ rights to raise their children as they choose.

California judges have been barred from membership in groups that discriminate based on sexual orientation since 1996 — with the exception of youth nonprofits. In 2003, the state's high court amended the rule to say judges who are members of the Boy Scouts must disclose their affiliation in gay-rights cases and recuse themselves if there's a conflict of interest. 

Last year, the ethics advisory committee recommended eliminating the exception altogether, and the proposal was backed by the California Judges Association, which represents three-quarters of the state's judges.

The Chronicle notes that judges can still be members of religious groups that discriminate, but not groups that discriminate based on religion. The Boy Scouts is not considered a religious group but does discriminate based on religion — barring atheists in addition to gays.

In 2013, the Boy Scouts of America voted to lift a ban on gay youth but continue to bar gay adult leaders. The organization recently reported that membership dropped 7.4 percent in 2014 in the wake of the decision.  


Bipartisan Coalition of Wyoming State Lawmakers Introduce LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill

A bill that would prohibit employment discrimination based on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity has been filed in the Wyoming Senate by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers, the Casper Star-Tribune reports:

WyomingIn addition to employees in the private sector, the Wyoming Human Resources Division would have to consider people seeking employment on the basis of their suitability and qualifications and without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity, the bill states.

Public school teachers would not be discriminated against in compensation on account of sexual orientation or gender identity, according to SF115.

The bill would not apply to employment practices of a religious corporation, association, educational institution or society.

It also would not apply to people who work in ministry. They are currently protected under Wyoming law, and the legislation further articulates the protections, according to a statement by Compete Wyoming, a statewide coalition of business leaders who seek an update in the state’s law to draw more competitive workers to the state.

“This bill is about 9 to 5, 7 to 7 or whatever your workday is,” said Liz Brimmer, of Compete Wyoming. “It is about judging workers on their performance, qualifications and talent.  It’s just bad business to discriminate, and updating this law is important in the Equality State so that workers are productive, taxpaying and safe.”

Senate President Phil Nicholas and House Speaker Kermit Brown, both Republicans from Laramie, have signed on to the bill.

Anti-gay State Rep. Nathan Winters, meanwhile, has introduced a bill that would empower everyone from county clerks to private photographers to discriminate against LGBT citizens if their religious beliefs compel them to. 


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