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Friday Speed Read: ENDA, Utah, NOM, IRS, Puerto Rico, Patricia Todd, Uganda, Immigration

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

Finalvote_endaTWO MORE GROUPS DISS ENDA:

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality Illinois issued separate statements Thursday, joining the chorus of those who say the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) “falls short.” Equality Illinois says that, while it supports ENDA, its members “strongly oppose including any exemptions that would give LGBT people less protection than other protected groups already enjoy under federal civil rights law.” NCLR said it is “confident the current discriminatory religious exemption in ENDA will not be part of the final legislation,” but added it would “not continue to support ENDA if it is not changed to be consistent with Title VII’s religious exemption."

UtahTENTH CIRCUIT STAYS RECOGNITION ORDER:

The Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed Thursday to a temporary stay of a federal district court judge’s ruling that Utah must recognize, for the purpose of state benefits, the 1,300 marriages performed for same-sex couples in the state prior to a U.S. Supreme Court stay of a decision striking the state ban. The appeals court is expected to decide by June 12 whether to grant a more permanent stay, in Evans v. Utah, until the Tenth Circuit can rule on the state’s ban, in Kitchen v. Herbert.

NOM-logoJUDGE DISMISSES MOST OF NOM-IRS LAWSUIT:

A federal district court judge in Virginia on June 3 dismissed most of a lawsuit by the National Organization for Marriage that claimed an employee of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service deliberately leaked a confidential tax document from NOM to the Human Rights Campaign. Judge James Cacheris said NOM failed to provide any evidence that the disclosure was deliberate and politically motivated; but, he said the IRS may bear some responsibility for the legal expenses NOM incurred as a result of that error and scheduled that issue for trial June 30. Story to follow later today.

RodriguezLESBIAN NOMINATED TO P.R. SUPREME COURT:

Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla on Wednesday nominated lesbian attorney Maite Oronoz Rodríguez to serve on the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. Rodríguez is director of legal affairs for the city of San Juan, served as deputy solicitor general for PR and briefly as its acting solicitor general. Lambda Legal issued a statement applauding the nomination of the “first openly lesbian judge” to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. The nomination now goes to the PR senate for confirmation.

ToddMORE ELECTION WINNERS:

Openly gay Alabama state Representative Patricia Todd beat out two Democratic challengers in a primary race Tuesday, seeking her third term to represent Birmingham. Todd, the state’s first and only openly gay elected official, took 64 percent of the vote. And Richard Garcia was elected mayor of Long Beach, California, becoming the city’s first openly gay mayor.

Chad_griffinHRC URGES OBAMA ACTION AGAINST UGANDA:

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin sent President Obama a letter June 2, urging him to take “immediate, concrete” action to “illustrate the United States’ commitment to protecting human rights in Uganda.” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in February. President Obama said at the time that the law would “complicate” U.S. relations with Uganda and the administration began an “internal review” of those relations.  “Delay is putting lives at risk,” wrote Griffin. “…The world is waiting for action….”

GROUPS URGE ACTION ON IMMIGRATION:

The Human Rights Campaign and 14 other groups signed onto a letter to President Obama June 3, urging him to take “swift executive action to suspend mass immigration detention and deportations.” The letter says Immigration and Custom Enforcement “has failed to take adequate steps to protect LGBT people from abuse and inhumane isolation in detention centers….”

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Queer Nation: Why is HRC Blasting Vatican While Pushing for ENDA with Terrible Religious Exemption?

Earlier this week we reported that the Human Rights Campaign had sent a letter to the Vatican requesting an audience with the Pope on behalf of nine teachers who have lost their jobs at Catholic schools for being LGBT or supporting an LGBT person.

Pope_griffinThe activist group Queer Nation sent out a press release yesterday calling HRC out for hypocrisy on the issue of religious discrimination because it is pushing for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which contains a terrible religious exemption.

Here's the full release from Queer Nation:

At the same time it is criticizing Roman Catholic schools for their anti-LGBT discrimination, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is lobbying in Congress for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that has a religious exemption that would allow that discrimination under federal law.

"All discrimination is immoral and HRC is right to object to what these schools are doing," said Ken Kidd, a member of Queer Nation. "So why is HRC spending millions in Congress to promote ENDA when that legislation has a religious exemption that will let Roman Catholic schools and other religiously-affiliated institutions fire LGBT people and perhaps even pro-LGBT people?"

In a May 27 press release announcing it had delivered a letter to the Vatican on behalf of nine Roman Catholic school teachers who were fired from their jobs for being LGBT or pro-LGBT, HRC called such discrimination "draconian laws" that are "designed to force LGBT people back into the closet and silence straight allies."

HRC noted that the firings were part of "a frightening trend" at Roman Catholic schools across America of including teacher contract clauses that bar LGBT people and pro-LGBT activities by teachers at these schools. In April, HRC collected over 30,000 signatures in a petition asking the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to remove the clause from its teacher contract, the press release noted.

"HRC can't have it both ways," Kidd said. "It can't criticize Roman Catholic schools for discriminating against LGBT Americans and then seek to make that discrimination legal under federal law. ENDA is a lousy bill and it should be scrapped. What the LGBT community needs is comprehensive federal civil rights legislation."

Queer Nation has been campaigning for a comprehensive federal civil rights law that bans discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and federally-funded programs. The direct action group is using the hashtags #deadenda and #endaisnotequal.

ENDA's religious exemption is expansive and goes beyond the more limited exemption in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Five leading LGBT legal groups are not supporting the current version of ENDA, which only bans employment discrimination, because of its religious exemption. Lorri Jean, the head of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, recently said that the exemption must be removed.

Matt Foreman, the former head of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and Cathy Marino-Thomas, the former board chair of Marriage Equality USA, have opposed ENDA and called for comprehensive federal civil rights legislation.


Teachers Fired from Catholic Schools for Being Gay Request Meeting with the Pope

The Human Rights Campaign has sent a letter to the Vatican requesting an audience with the Pope on behalf of nine teachers who have lost their jobs at Catholic schools for being LGBT or supporting an LGBT person.

FrancisSays the letter, in part:

We write to you today with humility to request a Papal audience. With loving eloquence you have explained that the role of the Church is to restore what is broken and unite what has been divided. In this spirit of wholeness and reconciliation, we hope you will agree to meet with us and our families to hear our stories.

“We have devoted years, some of us even decades, to serving our communities as teachers, leaders and role models. We have made a conscious choice to work within the Catholic Church because we strongly believe that a Catholic education prepares our young people to be responsible citizens, men and women for others. For each and every one of us, our employment was far more than just a job – it was a reflection of our core Catholic values.”

...All of us were fired for whom we love – whether it be for committing ourselves to one person, and one person only, for the rest of our lives, or for embracing and supporting our own children unconditionally. Love is one of the greatest gifts God bestows upon us, and we can think of nothing more sacred than loving another human being through challenges, sicknesses and times of distress. The Church celebrates this type of sacred commitment. But for some reason, it rejects that same commitment when it’s between loving LGBT people. For some reason, it rejects that love when a mother embraces her LGBT child.

Read the full letter here.


U.S. Government Seeks Summary Dismissal Of NOM's IRS Lawsuit

According to Joe.My.God. “The federal government has filed a motion seeking the summary dismissal of [the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage's] lawsuit against the IRS.”

NomThe lawsuit stems from March 2013, when the Human Rights Campaign revealed an IRS document showing that then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had made a $10,000 donation to NOM through an obscure Alabama PAC.

The HRC said that the document came to them through a “NOM whistleblower,” but since its release, NOM has accused the Obama Administration of “criminally” providing the document and NOM’s donor lists to the HRC.

About two months later, NOM asked for a federal investigation into whether the IRS leaked the document as a way of targeting it as a conservative group.

NOM President John Eastman spoke to a House panel over the alleged IRS leak, and in October, NOM filed a lawsuit against the IRS alleging that it had been damaged by the leak.

NOM has regularly flouted tax and campaign finance laws, ostensibly to keep their donors’ identities private, but most likely to cover-up the fact that they’re primarily funded by just two people.

The move comes as the House of Representatives votes to hold a former IRS official in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with an investigation of the agency's targeting of right-wing groups.


Monday Speed Read: Taxes, Alaska, Texas, Project One America, Boy Scouts, Asian Commission

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

ALASKA COURT TAX VICTORY: Aclu_alaska

In a partial victory, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled unanimously Friday that a tax break given to seniors and people with disabilities “potentially treats same-sex couples less favorably than it treats opposite-sex couples.” The ACLU-led case, State v. Schmidt, was appealed to the high court by the state and Anchorage on behalf of three same-sex couples. The court ruled that the denial of the partial property tax exemption to same-sex couples who cannot marry violates the equal protection guarantee of the state constitution. (The ruling did not include the third couple because neither partner formally owned the property.) In its decision, the court said the state’s existing ban on same-sex marriages does not prohibit or permit the state to offer or deny a benefit it grants to married couples to same-sex couples “who demonstrate they are similarly situated to married couples.” Committed same-sex couples who want to marry,” said the decision, “are similarly situated to opposite-sex couples who want to marry.”

NellermoeDIVORCE DELAYED:

A Texas appeals court on Thursday granted a request to stay a state district judge’s ruling that the state “cannot discriminate against same-sex couples” and that the state’s ban against allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the child’s right to equal protection of the law. The Austin Statesman reports that the appeals court in San Antonio granted state Attorney General Greg Abbott’s request for an emergency stay of the ruling. Abbott said Judge Barbara Nellermoe’s ruling in the lesbian divorce and custody case last Tuesday could create “legal chaos.” The appeals court has set a May 5 deadline for briefs in the appeal.

PoaSHORING UP THE SOUTH:

The Human Rights Campaign Saturday announced a three-year, $8.5 million project to help improve legal protections for LGBT people living in three southern states. The campaign, called Project One America, will also devote a staff of 20 people concentrating on Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi –the states where, says an HRC press release, “there are no non-discrimination protections for LGBT people at the state or local level in employment, housing or public accommodations, and where each state’s constitution expressly prohibits marriage equality.” HRC says it has 57,000 members in these three states.

BsaBOY SCOUT BELLY FLOP:

Legal counsel for the Louisville Metro Council advised the local Boy Scouts troop last week that the city could not pay for the group to use a local pool because the Boy Scouts’ policy exhibits “intentional discrimination.” The Louisville Courier-Journal reported April 25 that at least $45,000 in city money was appropriated for scout activities last year. It said the troop’s assistant scoutmaster threatened to end scout volunteer work at local park clean-ups in retaliation it the city doesn’t provide the financial assistance.

TWO NAMED TO ASIAN COMMISSION:

Two of the 14 newly named members of President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are openly gay. One is the head of Asia Services in Action, Inc., Michael Byun, of Ohio; the other is actor Maulik Pancholy, best known for is secondary roles on the hit series 30 Rock and Weeds.

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


Monday Morning Speed Read: Ohio, Michigan, 'ENDA' Executive Order, Hillary Clinton

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

T_blackOHIO ON THE CUSP:

A federal district court judge in Cincinnati surprised many in court Friday when he announced he will issue a ruling within 10 days declaring the Ohio ban on recognizing marriages of same-sex couples unconstitutional. Judge Timothy Black (an Obama appointee) heard arguments April 4 in Henry v. Wymyslo. The lawsuit was brought by three married lesbian couples expecting to give birth soon and a gay male couple seeking to adopt. The four couples were seeking a court order to force the state to put the names of both parents on the birth certificates of their children-to-be. Black, who previously ruled in favor of two married same-sex couples seeking the right to have a surviving spouse’s name listed on a death certificate, read a statement to the courtroom saying he would find the ban unconstitutional. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the state will appeal, and he is expected to seek a stay.

SchuetteMICHIGAN SEEKS A LEAP ‘FORWARD’:

The Michigan attorney general on Friday filed a petition with the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, asking the court to bypass the usual three-judge panel hearing and go straight to a full appeals court review. "Advancing our case to a hearing before the entire panel of Sixth Circuit judges will move us forward more quickly, and minimize delays in ultimately reaching the U.S. Supreme Court,” explained Attorney General Bill Schuette in a press statement. “This move also offers the added benefit of conserving taxpayer resources by shortening the timeline of the litigation." Cases are moving quickly through two other circuits, both of which will be heard by three-judge panels in the coming days. If the Sixth Circuit grants Michigan’s request, it could make DeBoer v. Snyder the first to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, but that doesn’t guarantee that the Supreme Court would agree to hear that case.

CarneyREDUNDANT OR RETRACING HISTORY?

The Human Rights Campaign was unhappy Thursday with comments from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about why President Obama won’t sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The White House has been sending mixed messages about the president’s willingness to sign an executive order but Carney has said in the past that an executive order is the “wrong approach” and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is the “right way to go.” Asked at a routine press briefing April 3 whether the president would sign an executive order if Congress passed ENDA, Carney said passage of ENDA would make an executive order “redundant.” HRC issued a statement Friday saying, “We couldn’t disagree more.” HRC pointed out that President Johnson signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors the year after signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

SOME REDUNDACY ALLOWED:

Just three days after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said an LGBT-related executive order would be “redundant” to the pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Associated Press reported that President Obama will sign an executive order Tuesday that “is similar to language in a Senate bill aimed at closing a pay gap between men and women.”

HillaryREADY FOR HILLARY:

There are two big LGBT fundraisers tonight for an independent political action committee raising money for an expected presidential bid by Hillary Clinton. One, in Manhattan, is hosted by gay philanthropist and politico Jon Stryker and features California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. The other, at a gay bar in West Hollywood, is hosted by a group called Out & Ready for Hillary and will feature a number of actors and political figures.

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


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