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Thursday Speed Read: Houston, Anthony Kennedy, NOM, Maine, Orrin Hatch, Caitlin Cahow

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

A_parkerHOUSTON COUNCIL APPROVES LAW:

The Houston City Council heard more than eight hours of public comment Wednesday before voting 11 to 6 in favor of Mayor Annise Parker’s comprehensive law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and other categories. The Houston Chronicle said more than 250 people signed up to offer comments on the bill.

KennedyNOM SEEKS SUPREME INTERVENTION:

Justice Anthony Kennedy on Wednesday asked attorneys for Oregon and same-sex plaintiff couples to respond to a motion from the National Organization for Marriage. NOM filed a motion Tuesday seeking a stay of a May 19 federal district court ruling that allowed the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Prior to that ruling, NOM sought the right to defend the state ban after the governor and attorney general made clear they would not. U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane, an openly gay Obama appointee, ruled the ban unconstitutional on May 19 and couples began obtaining licenses right away. McShane and the Ninth Circuit then denied NOM’s request for a temporary stay in order to appeal the decision concerning intervenor status.

Eastman_brownMAINE IMPOSES RECORD FINE ON NOM: 

The Maine commission for campaign ethics voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a recommendation imposing a record $50,250 fine on the National Organization for Marriage. The staff of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices recommended the fine against NOM because of its failure to register as a ballot question committee and file campaign finance reports that disclosed its donors. The Kennebec Journal reported Commission Chairman Walter McKee as saying NOM’s defense –that it was protecting its donors from harassment— made a “mockery of Maine’s election laws.” NOM says it will appeal the ruling and file its own complaints against the Human Rights Campaign.

HatchHATCH ON INEVITABILITY OF MARRIAGE:

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) had this to say about the inevitability of same-sex couples being able to marry nationwide: "Let’s face it, anybody who does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn’t been observing what’s going on. There is a question whether [the courts] should be able to tell the states what they can or cannot do with something as important as marriage, but the trend right now in the courts is to permit gay marriage and anybody who doesn’t admit that just isn’t living in the real world….I think it’s a portent of the future that sooner or later gay marriage is probably going to be approved by the Supreme Court of the United States, certainly as the people in this country move towards it, especially young people." Hatch made his remarks on KSL-Radio and they were widely reported, including in the Salt Lake City Tribune.

AngelouMAYA ANGELOUS PASSES:

Acclaimed poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou died Wednesday at the age of 86. Angelou served as an important ally to the LGBT community, lobbying legislators in New York to support marriage equality. She was perhaps best known for her autobiographical I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and writing and delivering a poem, “On the Pulse of the Morning,” at President Clinton’s first inauguration. President Obama bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on her in 2011.

CAITLIN CAHOW NAMED TO COUNCIL:

President Obama this month named lesbian hockey player Caitlin Cahow to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. Cahow most recently served on the Presidential Delegation to the Opening Ceremony at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Houston City Council Passes Sweeping LGBT-Inclusive Nondiscrimination Ordinance in 11-6 Vote

After hearing more than 200 speakers testify for more than eight hours today, the Houston City Council, presided over by gay Mayor Annise Parker, passed a sweeping LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance that protects Houston citizens on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, and family, marital or military status.

According to the Houston Chronicle, "the ordinance would apply to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting. Religious institutions would be exempt. Violators could be fined up to $5,000."

A_parker


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" »


Friday Speed Read: Idaho, Maryland, Marriage Anniversary, Houston, Michael Sam

DaleNINTH CIRCUIT STAYS IDAHO:

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Thursday issued a temporary stay preventing Chief Magistrate Judge Candy Dale’s order striking Idaho’s ban on same-sex couples marrying from taking effect today. The stay will remain in place until the panel decides whether the state has state has met the requirements for a permanent stay while Judge Dale’s decision is on appeal to the Ninth. The state’s opening brief on appeal is due August 22. The National Center for Lesbian Rights then has until September 22 to file a response. The panel includes Reagan appointee Edward Leavy, George W. Bush appointee Consuelo Callahan, and Obama appointee Andrew Hurwitz.

OmalleyMARYLAND TRANS BILL SIGNED INTO LAW:

Democratic Governor and potential presidential candidate Martin O’Malley signed a bill Thursday that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas. A press release from the governor’s office quoted Lt. Governor Anthony Brown as saying the bill is a “critical step forward in protecting all Marylanders from discrimination.” The law will go into effect October 1. Maryland will become the 17th and the District of Columbia to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF MARRIAGE:

Saturday, May 17, marks the tenth anniversary of same-sex couples being able to legally marry in the United States. It was 2004 when Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses, in response to a November 2003 decision of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. It was another four years before the second state –Connecticut—did so, in response to a state supreme court decision, followed a year later by Iowa, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. New Hampshire was the fifth state, in 2010, and New York the sixth, in 2011. Then, in 2012, voters in Maryland, Maine, and Washington state approved marriage equality measures. Eight more states joined the list in 2013 –five of them through action by the state legislatures—and a federal court ruling in Utah striking that state’s ban down is on appeal. So far in 2014, 11 states (all but one through federal court ruling) have had their bans struck and are on appeal.

ParkerBATHROOM COMPROMISE IN HOUSTON:

The Houston City Council postponed its scheduled vote on Mayor Annise Parker’s proposed equal rights ordinance Wednesday. According to local television news reports, Parker told reporters she had the votes to pass a version of the bill that removed language ensuring that transgender people could use public restrooms based on their gender identity, but she wanted to give the public more time to understand the legislation and comment. Some church groups say they are still opposed to the bill. A vote is expected May 28.

OFT QUOTED LINE OF HISTORY:

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the LGBT legal group that won the historic state supreme court decision in Massachusetts which led the state to become the first to allow same-sex couples to marry, highlights this line from that famous decision, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health: “The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens.”

WELCOMING MICHAEL SAM:

Wade Davis, head of a group for LGBT athletes, told Associated Press he was invited by St. Louis Rams’ head coach Jeff Fisher to help the team prepare to welcome the NFL’s first openly gay football player, Michael Sam.


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