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Tuesday Morning Speed Read: Darrin Gayles, Staci Yandle, SCOTUS, Indiana, Uganda, Mike Michaud

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

NOMINEE HEARING TODAY:

President Obama’s openly gay African American nominee for the U.S. District Court in Miami goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning. A Committee spokesperson said both of Florida’s senators have indicated they support state circuit court Judge Darrin Gayles.  President Obama dropped another openly gay African American nominee for Miami in January after Senator Marco Rubio objected to the nomination.

YandleLESBIAN NOMINEE GRILLED:

President Obama’s nomination of openly lesbian African American Staci Yandle for the U.S. District Court in southern Illinois was up for a Committee vote last Thursday. But the committee held over her nomination and that of four others in a group of 10. Her nomination is now slated for a committee vote this Thursday.

REWRITING WINDSOR?

Two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee submitted questions in writing for federal court nominee Staci Yandle. Senator Charles Grassley grilled her over how she would interpret the Supreme Court’s ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, which overturned DOMA. Several LGBT legal activists said Grassley’s goal seemed to be to promote a narrow interpretation of Windsor. “They are trying to get her to say that the federalism discussion in Windsor means that the federal courts should not strike down state marriage bans – that they don’t have the authority to do so,” said GLAD Civil Rights Director Mary Bonauto.  Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry, noted that Grassley “chose not to ask about the explicit passages in the [Windsor] decision making clear that the ruling turned on equal protection, not federalism.” Lambda Legal’s Eric Lesh said Grassley has made the Windsor questions a routine line of inquiry for all federal court nominees now.

ElanephotographySUPREME BYPASS:

The U.S. Supreme Court, for two weeks in a row, has given no indication of whether it will hear a New Mexico dispute pitting New Mexico’s non-discrimination law against a commercial photographer’s claim that she has a First Amendment right to deny public accommodations to a same-sex couple based on her religious beliefs. The photographer filed Elane Photography v. Willock in November. The case was on the relatively short lists for the justices to discuss in private conference March 21 and 28. But on the subsequent Mondays, when the court announced which cases it would and would not take, Elane was not mentioned. The next conference is April 4.

IndianaSEEKING RELIEF IN INDIANA:

Lambda Legal on Monday filed an emergency motion in federal district court seeking an order that would allow a lesbian couple’s marriage to be recognized by Indiana. In the motion, Lambda adds couple Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler to the plaintiffs in its Baskin v. Bogan lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying. Quasney and Sandler were married in Massachusetts last August. Quasney has late-stage ovarian cancer and is concerned that, without a court order to recognize their marriage, their children will be “denied important benefits” upon Quasney’s death and Sandler will be considered a legal stranger.

UGANDAN CHILDREN IN SONG:

Thousands of people turned out yesterday in the capital city of Uganda to stage a “thanksgiving” celebration for President Yoweri Museveni’s signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in February. According to an Associated Press report, many in the crowd were schoolchildren “who sang and danced to anti-gay tunes that also railed” against U.S. and European countries.

HRC STAFFER JOINS MICHAUD CAMPAIGN:

The Human Rights Campaign’s associate director of communications, Dan Rafter, left that organization to take over Monday as communications director for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s gubernatorial campaign in Maine.


Sally Field Calls Being A Part of Her Gay Son’s Journey 'One of the Great Privileges of My Life'

In an open letter for the Human Rights Campaign, Oscar-winning actress and vocal LGBT ally Sally Field shared her experience raising a gay son, calling it “one of the great privileges of my life.”

Sally field“The three things I’m most proud of in my life are my sons, Peter, Eli and Sam. They are kind, loving and productive people. Each with their own list of talents and accomplishments. Sam is my youngest son, by 18 years, and he’s gay. To that, I say: So what?

“Growing up, Sam wanted desperately to just be like his older brothers – athletic, rambunctious and even a little bit macho. He wanted to beat Eli at tennis, trounce Peter at computer football and learn everything about every basketball player on the court. But Sam was different. And his journey to allow himself to be what nature intended him to be was not an easy one.

“When I saw him struggling, I wanted to jump in. But his older brothers held me back. They told me I couldn’t travel that road for Sam. It was his to travel, not mine. I had to wait for him to own himself in his own time.

“I could make it easier only by standing visibly to the side, clearly loving him, always being there and always letting him know. Finally, at 20, long after he beat his brothers at tennis and computer games and knew as much as anyone about basketball, Sam was able to stand up proudly and say, ‘I am a gay man’.

Field’s letter is part of a new fundraising campaign by the HRC to help prevent the introduction of laws similar to those brought up in Arizona and Kansas that would allow religious-based discrimination against gays.

“There are people out there – organizations and politicians, strangers who have never even met Sam – who would rather devote themselves to denying his happiness.

“Why would anyone want to prevent my son—or anyone’s son or daughter—from having basic legal safeguards like family medical leave, Social Security survivors benefits, or health insurance? It doesn’t make any sense—but it won’t change until people speak out. 


World Vision U.S. Reverses Decision To Accept Married Gay Employees After Attacks By Right-Wing Christianists

World-visionOn March 24, the American branch of the World Vision evangelical Christian humanitarian aid, development, and advocacy organization announced that they would no longer forbid current or potential employees from being in committed same-sex marriages.

Then, after two days of lambasting by right-wing 'Christianists' like Franklin Graham, Matt Barber, Bryan Fischer, and Peter LaBarbera, World Vision U.S. reversed its decision, calling it "a mistake."

Before March 24, World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns (pictured) said that the organization never asked job candidates about their sexual orientations but rather questioned them about their Christian faith and affirmation of the Apostles' Creed and World Vision's Trinitarian statement of faith.

Richard_stearnsHe said that this organization’s sexual conduct policy for employees only ever “required abstinence for all single employees, and fidelity for all married employees.”

But in an interview with Christianity Today, Stearns explained that the group’s policy change to accept same-sex marriage employees had nothing to do with receiving federal funding. In fact, World Vision opposed a 2012 USAID proposal that would have "strongly encouraged" faith-based organizations such as World Vision to follow government hiring guidelines requiring the employment of LGBT people.

And yet Stearns says that his group’s initial decision in favor of married gay employees reflected a growing acceptance of same-sex marriage within churches at large, and was not caused by any external pressure or lawsuits. Rejecting legally-married LGB candidates, he said, would create a fractious divide within his own organization:

World Vision now has staff from more than 50 denominations—a handful of which have sanctioned same-sex marriages or unions in recent years, including the United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Meanwhile, same-sex marriage is now legal in 17 states plus the District of Columbia, and federal judges have struck down bans in five other states (Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, and—most recently—Michigan) as well as required Kentucky to recognize such marriages performed in other states.

"Same-sex marriage has only been a huge issue in the church in the last decade or so. There used to be much more unity among churches on this issue, and that's changed."

Continue reading AFTER THE JUMP...

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Vice President Joe Biden Blasts Global Human Rights Abuses Against LGBT People: VIDEO

Biden

Vice President Joe Biden delivered a powerful speech to approximately 1,000 folks at the Human Rights Campaign Gala in Los Angeles last night focusing on the still-unpassed Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the importance of promoting LGBT rights internationally.

The Washington Blade reports:

“I travelled to most countries in the world, and I can tell you, they’re looking to us as an example, as a champion of LGBT rights everywhere,” Biden said during his 30-minute speech.

Noting that being gay is illegal in 80 countries, Biden laid out the challenges faced by LGBT people overseas. In places like in Jamaica, he decried the practice of “corrective rape” for lesbians, and was critical of the anti-gay law in Nigeria that makes entering into same-sex marriage or supporting LGBT rights punishable with time in prison.

The vice president also criticized Russia, which has recently been condemned by the United States by military incursion into Ukraine, over its law banning pro-gay propaganda to minors.

“By the way, as the great Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov said, ‘A country that does not respect the rights of its citizens will not respect the rights of its neighbors,’ and we’re seeing that today in Ukraine,” Biden said.

Buzzfeed adds that Biden also called the anti-gay discrimination in the U.S. "barbaric":

“Hate can never be defended because it’s a so-called cultural norm,” he said. “I’ve had it up to here with cultural norms.”

He called on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would outlaw discrimination by most private employers against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Read Biden's full remarks HERE.

Continue reading "Vice President Joe Biden Blasts Global Human Rights Abuses Against LGBT People: VIDEO" »


Arkansas Superintendent Defends Censorship of Gay Student from Yearbook: VIDEO

Chad_griffin

On Monday we reported that Sheridan High School in Arkansas was refusing to run a student's yearbook profile because the student, Taylor Ellis, is openly gay.

The Human Rights Campaign, which sent a letter to school officials demanding the profile be replaced after the "unconscionable" decision to exclude it, rallied on the steps of the state capitol in Little Rock on Tuesday, led by HRC President and native Arkansan Chad Griffin. Ellis was also there.

Watch a news report on the rally, and interviews with Ellis and the yearbook editor who exposed the censorship, AFTER THE JUMP...

HaynesMeanwhile, the Sheridan School District Superintendent Brenda Haynes is digging in her heels.

Said Haynes in a statement to the Arkansas News:

“We must make decisions that lead in the proper direction for all of our students and for our community. We must not make decisions based on demands by any special interest group. The seven profiles will not be published in the yearbook...It is clear that the adults who have the responsibility for the operation of the district have the obligation to make decisions which are consistent with the mission of our school. We have done so."

Watch KATV's report on yesterday's rally, AFTER THE JUMP...

Taylor_ellis

Continue reading "Arkansas Superintendent Defends Censorship of Gay Student from Yearbook: VIDEO" »


Arkansas High School Refuses To Run Openly Gay Student's Yearbook Profile

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin has written a letter to administrators of Arkansas-based Sheridan High School, who are refusing to run a yearbook profile on openly gay student Taylor Ellis (pictured), demanding they not censor it.

TaylorThe letter reads in part:

Regardless of print deadlines, it would be unconscionable to release the yearbook with the omission of Taylor's well-deserved profile.

If not resolved immediately, this act of discriminatory censorship will send a dangerous message to all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in Sheridan, across Arkansas and around the nation — that they are second-class citizens and their lives are not equally valid. Instead of respecting the wishes of Taylor's fellow students to recognize him in their yearbook, you have told him and other students who may already feel marginalized that they are not an equally valued part of the Sheridan high school student body.

Cases similar to this have popped up every so often during the past few years.

In 2013, a Texas high school pulled a lesbian couple’s photo from the yearbook and another Texas school refused and then assented to include a yearbook photo of a trans student in a tuxedo.

In 2012, four Colorado yearbook staffers left the publication after their advisor required them to remove a gay couple from a spread on high school relationships. In the same year, a Tennessee school board member protested the inclusion of an article entitled, “It’s OK to be Gay” in the Lenoir City High School yearbook.


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