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Pro Bono Attorneys Handling Same-Sex Marriage Cases Slam Gay Inc. For Lack Of Financial Support

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A pro bono attorney who's challenging Michigan's same-sex marriage ban is publicly criticizing national LGBT organizations for failing to adequately support her efforts. 

Dana Nessel, co-counsel for Michigan marriage plaintiffs April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse (all three shown above), told Bloomberg Politics that attorneys from national LGBT organizations initially tried to dissuade her from filing the case because they said it didn't fit into their national strategy. When Nessel and her clients began to have success, she said organizations wanted to take over the case. After she refused, they denied requests for financial assistance, all the while using the case to raise money for themselves. 

From Bloomberg Politics

Nessel1An historic triumph for gay marriage may be within reach this spring on the biggest possible stage, but attorney Dana Nessel’s chief frustration at the moment is actually not anti-gay opponents. Rather, she’s taking aim at an unlikely target: the biggest, richest civil rights and gay rights organizations, all of which have left her team to beg and scrape for the estimated $1 million they need to litigate at the Supreme Court. “Nobody even wanted us to file this case, they all tried to stop us, and even now they’re not helping much,” she says tartly. “The great irony is, we’re the ones going to the Supreme Court.”

Private attorneys handling same-sex marriage cases in other states echoed some of Nessel's complaints, which are certainly nothing new to the movement. If you'll remember, national LGBT orgs didn't initially support the lawsuit challenging California's Prop 8, which was ultimately funded by the American Foundation For Equal Rights. 

However, one of the attorneys serving as Nesser's co-counsel in the Michigan case, Carole Stanyar (right), painted a slightly different picture in a statement to Daily Kos' Kerry Eleveld

Stanyar"While this article is mostly accurate in detailing our experience with the civil rights and gay organizations, it grossly understates the contributions of both GLAD and Lambda Legal. Mary Bonauto (GLAD) helped us the moment we asked her and has never stopped helping us. She is our co-counsel and deserves to be acknowledged. Throughout the case, Lambda has provided a great deal of assistance to us also. They helped us -- any time we asked -- to locate trial witnesses, to garner resources and research from around the country, and to help fund one of our expert witnesses (a $13,000 contribution). I was aware of a 'national strategy' to avoid the states in the Sixth Circuit, however, I don't recall either GLAD or Lambda ever discouraging us from filing or pursuing this lawsuit." 

According to Bloomberg, Lambda Legal was the only organization that responded to requests for comment about Nessel's complaints: 

TaylorLambda’s Marriage Project director Camilla Taylor (right) rejected the criticism, insisting: “We don't ever try to take over someone’s case. To my knowledge [the Michigan attorneys] are thrilled with all of the help we have provided, including financial resources.” She would not specify what those resources were and would not respond to questions about whether the group advised various plaintiffs not to file their suits. Attorney-client privilege extends to potential clients even if they don’t end up retaining the organization, Taylor said.

Certainly there are valid points on both sides of this debate, but as gay PR guru Bob Witeck (right) suggests in the Bloomberg piece, now's not the time for bickering: 

WiteckWhile national groups pressured Nessel to back off her critique for this report, unaffiliated activists say blaming her for speaking out is yet another illustration of the problem. “This is the case of our lifetime,” said Bob Witeck, a public-relations strategist who has worked with Human Rights Campaign and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and advises American Airlines on their gay marketing outreach. “If others are raising large chunks of money and they’re not feeding and servicing the lawyers and the litigants in these cases, what are we giving it to? There can’t be weak links. We have to have our ‘A’ game going in. There can’t be any part of this defense that isn’t fully prepared.”

On that note, you can contribute to the Michigan marriage effort here

And watch the touching video of Nessel and her clients celebrating a federal judge's decision to strike down the state's marriage ban in 2014, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Pro Bono Attorneys Handling Same-Sex Marriage Cases Slam Gay Inc. For Lack Of Financial Support" »


HRC Spurns 'Deeply Flawed' Mormon 'Deal' as Utah Gay Dems Celebrate It

The Human Rights Campaign today criticized a proposal from leaders at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in which the Mormon church pledged support for Utah LGBT non-discrimination initiatives in exchange for religious exemptions, couching its proposal in "religious freedom" rhetoric.

LdsSaid HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow in a press release:

"Symbolically, seeing the church leaders advocating so openly for these protections will no doubt be deeply meaningful to Mormon families with LGBT members, and provide encouragement to LGBT youth in the church. But, as a matter of public policy, it appears deeply flawed....We share the church's commitment to freedom of religion. We embrace the principles of the First Amendment and believe churches do and should have the right to make determinations about who fills their pews. But non-discrimination protections only function when they are applied equally. It should be stated that there are countless LGBT Mormons, and Mormon allies, who support equality, not in spite of their faith but because of it. All Americans should have the right to be employed, receive housing and services in environments free of discrimination. We await the day the church embraces that fully, without any exceptions or exemptions."

Meanwhile, gay Utah Democrats were celebrating the 'deal'.

DabakisSaid state Senator Jim Dabakis in a statement:

"I am proud that the LDS Church has seen fit to lead the way in non-discrimination. As a religious institution, Mormons have had a long history of being the victims of discrimination and persecution. They understand more than most the value and strength of creating a civil society that judges people by the content of their character and their ability to do a job. Since serving as a Senator, and as the only LGBT member of the Utah legislature, I can say one of the joys of the job has been to meet and enjoy the company of LDS officials. I know that together, we can build a community that strongly protects religious organizations constitutional liberties and, in addition, creates a civil, respectful, nurturing culture where differences are honored and everyone feels welcome. Now, lets roll up our sleeves, get to work and pass a statewide Non-Discrimination Bill."

Equality Utah also saw the Mormon deal as a win.

Said Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams in a statement:

“We laud the LDS Church’s statement of support. The Church joins a growing number of faith, civic and corporate leaders who also stand on the side of compassion and fairness. We believe that gay and transgender Utahns can live and work beside people of faith. Many within the LGBT community are themselves people of faith. We look forward soon to the day when all Utahns have the opportunity to live and work freely in the state we call home.”

Watch the Mormon press conference from earlier today HERE.


UK Government Urged to Pardon the 49,000 Men and Women Who Were Persecuted Under Anti-gay Laws

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Spurred to action in response to the public's newfound awareness of gay World War II codebreaker Alan Turing, actors and activists are now calling on the British government to pardon the tens of thousands of other British citizens who were persecuted under draconian anti-gay laws of the past. 

In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II pardoned Turing, who committed suicide after being convicted of "gross indecency" for being gay.

Following a screening of The Imitation Game in London Wednesday, actor Stephen Fry said the pardon was only the start of what should be done to honor Turing. 

Via The Hollywood Reporter:

Fry

"Should Alan Turing have been pardoned just because he was a genius," Fry asked, "when somewhere between 50 to 70 thousand other men were imprisoned, chemically castrated, had their lives ruined or indeed committed suicide because of the laws under which Turing suffered? There is a general feeling that perhaps if he should be pardoned, then perhaps so should all of those men, whose names were ruined in their lifetime, but who still have families." He continued, "It was a nasty, malicious and horrific law and one that allowed so much blackmail and so much misery and so much distress. Turing stands as a figure symbolic to his own age in the way that Oscar Wilde was, who suffered under a more but similar one."

[Benedict] Cumberbatch, meanwhile, emailed THR from the set of the next Sherlock series to offer his full and enthusiastic agreement with Fry's idea. "Alan Turing was not only prosecuted, but quite arguably persuaded to end his own life early, by a society who called him a criminal for simply seeking out the love he deserved, as all human beings do. 60 years later, that same government claimed to ‘forgive’ him by pardoning him. I find this deplorable, because Turing’s actions did not warrant forgiveness — theirs did — and the 49,000 other prosecuted men deserve the same."

HRC president Chad Griffin ran an ad in Friday's New York Times on the campaign to pardon the other 49,000 persecuted gay men and women. You can check out the full ad, AFTER THE JUMP...

There's also a Change.org petition underway for the campaign HERE

Continue reading "UK Government Urged to Pardon the 49,000 Men and Women Who Were Persecuted Under Anti-gay Laws" »


HRC Likely Won't Defend Plano, Texas Equal Rights Ordinance, Calls It 'Transphobic'

Planopetition

Things are not looking good for Plano, Texas' recently passed Equal Rights Ordinance. 

As we reported earlier this week, opponents of the ordinance turned in over 7,000 signatures on petitions to repeal it — more than double the number needed to put it on the ballot. 

Granted, these folks may be prone to fraud and forgery, but still, given that the evangelical megachurch serving as their base of operations has almost 40,000 members, you'd think they'd be able to gather enough valid signatures. So chances are there's gonna be a ballot measure in May.

Ballot measures on nondiscrimination ordinances haven't gone well for LGBT people in conservative Southern cities of late, even when the community is united. But that won't be the case in Plano, because the Human Rights Campaign says it's probably not going to help defend the ordinance, according to a report from The Texas Observer.  

HRC, which has poured hundreds of thousands into similar fights in some other cities, called the Plano ordinance "transphobic" because of an exemption that would bar people from using restrooms, locker rooms and similar facilities according to their gender identity. 

The exemption apparently was included to pre-empt attacks over transgender bathroom use. But here's the thing: Anti-LGBT groups are making those attacks anway, and the strategy has backfired by dividing the community. 

Equality Texas and a local LGBT group say they'll defend the ordinance despite the exemption because it's a step in the right direction. But HRC's Cathryn Oakley told the Observer:

“The language in Plano is very problematic and in terms of investing a lot of resources in an ordinance that has a lot of problems, it’s difficult to see why that’s necessarily the best use of resources. If we had been consulted in the drafting of this bill, we would have withdrawn our support, and given that, it’s hard to justify defending it as valid. .. 

"I think the story coming out of Plano is about a city that really wanted to do the right thing, and I wish that this had unfolded differently, because I think that there were good intentions, but things fell apart. I think incremental process is important, I think municipal work is incredibly important, but incremental doesn't mean leaving part of the community behind. That's not an acceptable version of incremental."

Somewhere, the haters are sitting aroud licking their chops, because we've just played right into their strategy: Divide and conquer. 

Watch a report on the petition to repeal the ordinance from Fox 4, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "HRC Likely Won't Defend Plano, Texas Equal Rights Ordinance, Calls It 'Transphobic'" »


Former Lowe's Employee Sues For Antigay Discrimination And Harassment

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Former Lowe's employee Adam Haimowitz claims he was the target of homophobic taunts, verbal harassment and subsequently fired for testifying in a colleague's discrimination case against the hardware giant reports The AdvocateHaimowitz, 32, worked at the Lowe's in Orangeburg, N.Y. for 11 years, and he regularly filed complaints with the company's human resources department regarding the anti-gay harassment he endured. Haimowitz's complaints yielded no results as the alleged harassment continued.

Haimowitz's lawsuit claims a female manager called him a "whore," and said to him that the promiscuity of gay men was well-documented. The lawsuit also contains details about an incident where a male supervisor asked Haimowitz for oral sex, and that a coworker "joked" that someone might contract AIDS when Haimowitz inadvertently cut his finger. "They got a kick out of it. I guess they got pleasure out of it," Haimowitz told Journal News. 

The lawsuit claims that Haimowitz was fired based on trumped-up reasons that only turned into formal complaints in the months following his 2012 testimony in support of a gay colleague who sued the company for "sex-based harassment." That lawsuit, filed by an Edward Marse, settled in April 2014 under the agreement Marse would not discuss the terms of the settlement. Prior to Marse's settlement, Haimowitz held a perfect record with the company in the four years leading up to his testimony. However, a month after the company reached a settlement with Marse, Haimowitz claims he was written up twice for a "time and attendance" infraction and for "using strong language on the floor," reports Journal News. Haimowitz's lawsuit contends he was terminated under the pretext of "making inappropriate comments on the floor."

A spokeswoman for Lowe's declined to comment to Journal News, but the company has long held a rough relationship with the LGBT community. The Human Rights Campaign's latest Corporate Equality Index gave Lowe's a score of 30 out of 100, and noted that although the company's nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation and gender identity, it does not offer equal spousal benefits to same-sex couples, nor does it offer trans-inclusive health care coverage, LGBT cultural competency training or LGBT employee groups.


ACT UP Planning An Organized Protest of the HRC's Upcoming Corporate Gala

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Members of ACT UP are organizing a protest at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual gala where the organization plans to celebrate a number of Fortune 500 companies highlighted in its problematic 2015 Corporate Equality Index. Representatives in attendance will receive awards for meeting the HRC’s guidelines that only require that corporations have basic equality measures, despite many having awful track records when it comes to their involvement in funding anti-LGBT legislation. In particular, the protesters are taking issue with the HRC’s seeming lack of widespread support for large-scale HIV awareness and prevention initiatives:

“We demand that HRC include several criteria to evaluate companies on their treatment of employees living with HIV, as well as their contributions to organizations and causes relate to reducing the incidence of HIV among LGBT Americans, particularly among the young,” the protest’s Facebook page reads. “For over 30 years, too many have been fired, harassed, outed and discriminated against at work for having HIV.” The promoters of the protest add,

“Also at this gala, many of the corporations that HRC will honor actively work against the interests of middle-class and poor Americans, including people with HIV. ACT UP denounces this frequent practice of '"pinkwashing" whereby corporations with policies and practices that undermine the people's well-being are given positive publicity in exchange for maintaining LGBT-friendly (or just equal) workplaces.

This is short-sighted and divisive. We demand that HRC develop other criteria that takes into account the impact of companies' policies on every American, not just LGBT Americans.”


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