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GetEQUAL Throws NOM President Brian Brown a Retirement Party: VIDEO

Brianbrown

It’s perhaps a tad early to pop the celebratory champagne for Brian Brown’s retirement from his anti-gay crusade, but with only 2000 bigots out of a promised 20,000 showing up to NOM’s March for Marriage rally last week at the U.S. Capitol, now might be the time for Brown to begin planning for that next stage of his life.

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 3.11.27 PMAnd to help ease the transition, GetEqual grassroots activists stood outside NOM’s very first (and perhaps last?) anti-gay gala and asked attendees to sign a card wishing Brown a happy, inevitable retirement.

Surprisingly, some attendees were more than happy to do so. Others, not so much…

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP

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Friday Speed Read: LGBT History, GetEQUAL, Wisconsin, Mark Herring, Hawaii, HIV, Trans Soldiers

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

StonewallPRESERVING HISTORY:

Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is scheduled to announce this morning a new National Park Service study to identify places and events associated with the LGBT civil rights struggle movement “and ensure that the agency is telling a complete story of America’s heritage and history.” Currently, only New York City’s Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 riots against police harassment, has the designation as a national historic landmark by the National Park Service. Jewell will make the announcement at the Stonewall Inn, accompanied by gay philanthropist Tim Gill and New York City Councilman Corey Johnson.

DEMANDING MORE:

The LGBT activist group GetEQUAL said it will stage a demonstration outside today’s event at the Stonewall “to demand more from the White House than simply a study of our history.”

HATE VIOLENCE STEADY:

An annual report on LGBT-related hate violence, released Thursday, indicates the number of incidents reported in 2013 “stayed relatively consistent” with the number reported in 2012. Only 45 percent of survivors reported the attacks to police, notes the report, published by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

WisconsinDEMANDING SHORTCUT FAILS:

A lesbian couple who took their challenge to Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex couples marrying directly to the state supreme court, without first going through lower courts, got an answer last week: The court won’t take the case.

IMPEACH HERRING EFFORT OFF:

A resolution seeking to impeach Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring because he refused to defend the state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying was killed within minutes of its introduction, according to an NBC affiliate in Richmond. According to the station, a spokesperson for House Speaker Bill Howell said late last week that Howell “does not believe impeachment is an appropriate or practical recourse at the moment.”

AbercrombieHAWAII FIGHT HANGS ON:

The Hawaii Family Forum filed a brief with the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday seeking to keep alive a case, Jackson v. Abercrombie, testing the constitutionality of that state’s former ban on same-sex couples marrying. Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie and same-sex couple plaintiffs have argued the Ninth Circuit should dismiss the appeal because the Hawaiian legislature passed a law last year allowing same-sex couples to marry. The Forum, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, says new lawsuits challenging the new marriage equality law could succeed. If they do, says the Forum, then the plaintiffs in Jackson would almost certainly want to re-litigate the issue.

15,500 TRANS SOLDIERS:

The Williams Institute, an LGBT-oriented think tank, issued a report this month estimating there are 15,500 transgender or non-gender conforming people serving in active duty and another 134,300 retired from the U.S. military.  Current military medical policy prohibits transgender people from serving in the military. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told ABC’s This Week program Sunday that he is open to having DOD review its policy banning transgender people from the military, but that it’s a “bit more complicated” than gays because of special medical needs.

TalkingGETTING BEYOND ‘AWKWARD’:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a new website last week to give gay men some tips on how and when to talk with their sexual partners about their HIV status. Among other things, the campaign suggests it’s better to talk “early” –early in the relationship and early in the evening. The talk about HIV status doesn’t have to be face to face; it can also take place through texting or email. The bottom line is to talk about HIV status so both parties can take precautions to avoid the spread of the virus.

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


FL Senator Bill Nelson Co-Sponsors ENDA; Advocates Pressure Final Two Dem Holdouts

6a00d8341c730253ef017c385d242b970b-800wiYesterday, after facing considerable pressure from both the LGBT rights movement nationally and advocates in his home state of Florida, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson announced his support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, according to the Washington Blade:

The senator’s name is listed as among the sponsors of ENDA on “Thomas,” the website for the Library of Congress that monitors legislation. According to the website, Nelson signed on as a supporter Monday, the same day Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that a Senate vote on ENDA would take place before Thanksgiving.

The news was first reported via Twitter by the New York Times’ Jeremy Peters.

The Florida Democrat’s office didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on why the senator had come to support ENDA. In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times in July, Nelson had expressed concerns about the transgender protections in the bill.

ENDA, which would ban employers from making hiring and firing decisions based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, now has 54 sponsors in the Senate, and will gain a 55th when Senator-elect Cory Booker joins the chamber to represent New Jersey.

Nelson's announcement came just one day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada promised that ENDA will receive a vote on the Senate floor before Thanksgiving, and possibly within the next week or so.

This summer, ENDA was reported out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee on a bipartisan 15-7 vote, with Republican Senators Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Orrin Hatch of Utah joining the committee's 12 Democrats to advance the bill.  If those three senators support ENDA on the Senate floor, it will be just three votes shy of overcoming a Republican filibuster.

6a00d8341c730253ef01630442fff6970d-800wiWith only two Democratic senators holding out on endorsing ENDA--which would put the bill just one vote away from a filibuster-proof majority--LGBT advocates are ramping up the political pressure directed at the reluctant lawmakers.  As Tico Almeida, founder and President of Freedom to Work put it in a statement following Nelson's announcement, proponents of ENDA expect a unified Democratic caucus to put its support behind the bill:

“Senators Manchin and Pryor are now the only two Democrats playing coy about whether they will stand on the right side of history. ENDA simply says a corporation can’t fire you just because of who you are or who you love, and Americans want a country where people are  judged for the job they do based on their skills and hard work, not  their sexual orientation or gender identity.  We urge Sen. Manchin and Sen. Pryor to stand with the majority of Americans, and the majority of people in their states and support the LGBT freedom to work.”

Despite the LGBT movement's push for the passage of ENDA, some in the community have expressed reservations about the bill's religious exemptions.  In a statement issued today, the LGBT organization GetEQUAL said that the exemptions written into ENDA could set a "dangerous, unnecessary, and un-American precedent":

“While we are glad that ENDA will receive a vote in the Senate for the first time in almost 20 years, we are dismayed that the bill continues to excuse religious bigotry as acceptable under the law. Broad religious exemptions in the bill actually make it possible that institutions such as schools, hospitals, and universities can continue discriminating against LGBT employees and prospective employees.

We’re calling on progressive champions in the Senate — including Senators Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Sherrod Brown — to speak out against these exemptions, establishing a clear record that these exemptions are not necessary and are not acceptable in 2013.”


Republican Senators Burr and Portman Targeted On Eve Of ENDA Vote

Richard_BurrThe Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee is set to consider the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) tomorrow, July 10. While the bill already has the support of senate Democrats, LGBT activists today set their sights on GOP senators who have previously expressed support for LGBT rights, such as marriage equality or the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". 

The group Freedom to Work targeted Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), a GOP member of the committee who previously voted for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". The group enlisted the help of LGBT activist Dan Gurley to assist with their efforts. Gurley believed that Sen. Burr's background as a former business owner should have allowed him to better understand the benefits of legislation like ENDA: 

“There’s a lot of transition still taking place in our economy here, but the growth areas, many of them are the creative fields of employment and white-collar growth...We strongly feel, and believes that there’s evidence to prove that having non-discrimination laws in place would serve as an important recruitment tool for business, and that’s why it’s an important thing to do for North Carolina and the country.”

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, also noted that many prominent North Carolina companies have already adopted non-discrimination policies.

“It’s long past time for our politicians to follow the good example set by companies with a strong North Carolina presence ranging from American Eagle Outfitters to BP gasoline to Coca-Cola, all of which have endorsed the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”

Unfortunately, in a statement released late today to the Washington Blade, Burr announced that he will be opposing ENDA:

“Like most Americans, I strongly oppose and condemn unjust discrimination,” Burr said. “It is my hope that our society can be tolerant of different people and ideas. That said, whenever we consider new legislation we must always consider the interplay of new laws with existing rights. I am concerned that the ENDA bill would go beyond our existing laws protecting individuals’ employment rights and would impose new burdens and legal uncertainties regarding the exercise of religious liberties. Therefore, I plan to oppose the bill.”

Rob_PortmanMeanwhile, in Ohio, GetEQUAL scheduled a news conference today with hopes of grabbing the attention of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Towleroad readers may recognize Portman as the senator who came out in support of marriage equality after learning that his son is gay. GetEQUAL's press conference plans to appeal to those sentiments by showcasing the stories of two mothers, both of whom have children who have suffered at the hands of workplace discrimination. Heather Cronk, managing director for the group, had this to say:

“We’re calling on Senator Portman to ‘evolve’ on workplace discrimination in the same way that he ‘evolved’ on marriage equality — by seeing this issue as one of fundamental fairness and equal opportunity.” 

Jeffrey Sadosky, a spokesperson for Sen. Portman, did release a prior statement last month, which was less than committal. 

“Sen. Portman is strongly opposed to discrimination and is looking at proposals to address it,” Sadosky said. “He is concerned about excessive reliance on litigation as a tool for social change, and will continue to review the most recent version of ENDA.”

Since the bill is co-sponsored by all 12 Democratic members of the The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, it is expected to be advanced. If so, the legislation faces an uphill battle, especially in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. 


GetEQUAL Stages Sit-In at Senator Rubio's Florida Office

Rubio_getequal

The LGBT rights group GetEQUAL--best known for its sometimes confrontational protests of Don't Ask, Don't Tell--today staged a sit-in at Florida Senator Marco Rubio's office in Tampa.  From the organization's press release on the demonstration:

606px-Marco_Rubio,_Official_Portrait,_112th_CongressThe U.S. Supreme Court continues to deliberate over whether LGBT Americans have the constitutional right to marry via cases involving California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. However, despite poll after poll indicating that a majority of Americans support marriage equality, politicians like Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) continue to stand in the way of LGBT equality.

Senator Rubio has recently attempted to hijack the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill moving through the Senate (S. 744) in order to keep binational same-sex couples out of the bill, and has also recently come out against the common-sense Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) -- showing that he dead-set on taking the country backward, not forward. Activists with GetEQUAL are pushing back on these attempts by taking action in Rubio's office today.

2_getequalAfter the three activists were led out of the office in handcuffs and given notices to appear in court, a Rubio staffer attempted to have one of the protestors--an undocumented DREAMer--arrested by a police offer.  

A statement issued by GetEQUAL after the protest has more details:

As these activists were being led away from Sen. Rubio's office for drawing attention to these regressive views and to call on Sen. Rubio to "evolve" his views on immigration and employment discrimination, a Rubio staffer told the police officers in the room that one of the people in the room -- GetEQUAL Co-Director Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez -- "is here illegally."

Despite the fact that Felipe was serving in a support role and was not risking arrest or otherwise breaking any laws, the officer proceeded to ask Felipe whether he has papers, and asked to see his drivers license.

Under the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program Secure Communities (S-COMM), law enforcement officers are not permitted to ask about an individual's immigration status unless a law has been broken (http://www.ice.gov/secure_communities/). Even if an undocumented immigrant breaks the law and is arrested, ICE policies still do not require the individual to answer questions about her or his immigration status.

Two weeks ago, Rubio told a conservative radio host that he would blow up the comprehensive immigration reform he has helped to fashion if it included protections for same-sex couples, saying, "If this bill has in it something that gives gay couples immigration rights and so forth, it kills the bill.  I'm gone, I'm off it."  That same week, when asked by ThinkProgress if he supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Rubio said, "I’m not for any special protections based on orientation."


Arrests Made at John Boehner's Office as GetEQUAL Protests Lack of Movement on ENDA

Geidner_enda

Arrests are being made at a GetEQUAL protest over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) at House Speaker John Boehner's office, according to Buzzfeed reporter Chris Geidner, who tweets these photos.

Watch videos, AFTER THE JUMP...

UPDATE: More from Geidner at Buzzfeed...

After several of the GetEqual activists told their stories of discrimination — or, in one case, a mother’s story about discrimination faced by her daughter — they then demanded that Boehner commit to holding a vote on ENDA in 2013. When told that their message would be taken to Boehner but no commitment was given, the activists began a sit-in in Boehner’s office.

After Capitol Police told the protesters that they could not yell or sit in Boehner’s office without the office’s permission, they went into the hallway. At that point, they sat down again and began chanting until officers began making arrests.

Those arrested included Watkins and Corey Phillips of Ohio and mother and daughter Cindy Candia and Kaya Candia-Almanza, Koby Ozias, Carey Dunn and Erin Jennings of Texas.

Geidner2_enda

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