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LGBT Members Of Congress Object To Trade Agreement With Anti-Gay Brunei And Malaysia

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Five out gay members of Congress have written to President Obama to ask why Malaysia and Brunei - two countries with severe anti-gay laws - have been included in a free trade pact which the administration is currently negotiating and seeking to fast-track, reports Buzzfeed News.

Ddcda4647e4d3900da0f2b57c8fd68bd_400x400Sent yesterday, the letter was signed by Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan, David Cicilline (above left), Sean Patrick Maloney (above middle), Kyrsten Sinema (above right) and Mark Takano, five of the six co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which also includes several other nations in Asia and Latin America, became a serious concern for gay rights groups last year after the sultan of Brunei imposed a version of sharia law that included a punishment of death by stoning for homosexuality. Some states in Malaysia also have criminal sharia codes, and the government is appealing a court ruling striking down a law that criminalizes transgender people.

The five representatives argue in the letter that although Obama’s administration announced in December that it would remove the Gambia from a trade pact for African nations because of a crackdown on gay rights, negotiations continue with Brunei and Malaysia.

The letter reads in part:

“In light of the decision to end trade preferences for Gambia, we write today to ask for clarification on the inclusion of Brunei and Malaysia in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

“These two countries are responsible for severe human rights abuses, including adopting penal codes permitting the imprisonment and physical harm of LGBT people. It seems inconsistent for the United States to expand trade privileges to these two countries while taking action against Gambia.”

Jared Polis, the sixth Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus co-chair, is the only out member of Congress who did not sign the letter.


GOP-Controlled House Committee Kills Education Bill Amendment to Protect LGBT Students from Discrimination

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The Republican-controlled House Education & the Workforce Committee yesterday prohibited a vote on the inclusion of non-discrimination protections for LGBT students as part of an education reform bill, reports the Washington Blade.

During a committee markup of the Student Success Act, the committee voted along the party-line by 21-15 to table the amendment. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who is considered a supporter of marriage equality and recently became a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, is one of the Republicans who voted to table the amendment.

The proposed amendment was submitted by gay Democratic Rep. Jared Polis (above) who is also co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus.

Introducing the amendment, Polis said:

“This is something I think we can all agree on. Schools are there to serve all learners. I hope we don’t play out our social prejudices and arguments on the kids in school because it truly doesn’t matter in this context whether you think they ought to be able to have their marriages accepted by the government.

"Here, it’s simply about should they be able to go to school free of the fear of intimidation, and every child has that right as an American.”

FoxxHowever, North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx (right) said that although she abhors “any kind of discrimination or any kind of intimidation,” she objected to the amendment because it was not relevant to the larger bill.

Republican Committee Chairman John Kline agreed with Foxx’s assessment, stating “the amendment is beyond the scope of a bill, which addresses improving elementary and secondary school education.”

Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that Republicans “had an opportunity to act to better the lives of LGBT students and send a strong signal that harassment and discrimination have no place in our country’s public schools” but “chose to engage in legislative gamesmanship instead.”


Rep. Jared Polis Wants Sen. Marco Rubio Under 24/7 Surveillance

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Anti-gay Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a huge fan of the federal government's invasive monitoring of private citizens in the name of fighting ISIL, Al Qaeda, and preventing another 9/11. So much so that he wants an permanent extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 act that was used to justify the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping.

Wrote Rubio in an op-ed published on Foxnews.com:

This year, a new Republican majority in both houses of Congress will have to extend current authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and I urge my colleagues to consider a permanent extension of the counterterrorism tools our intelligence community relies on to keep the American people safe.

Its subsequent amendments - the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, the Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006, and Protect America Act of 2007 - greatly expanded the federal government's right to spy on its citizens through "electronic surveillance".

In a challenge of putting one's money where one's mouth is, Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) called on the United States Intelligence Community to begin twenty-four hour per day monitoring of Senator Rubio, saying:

If Senator Rubio believes that millions of innocent Americans should be subject to intrusive and unconstitutional government surveillance, surely he would have no objections to the government monitoring his own actions and conversations. Senator Rubio is asking for American technology companies to ‘cooperate with authorities,’ so I believe he will have no objection to authorities being given access to his electronic correspondence and metadata.  Maybe after his 2016 strategy documents are accidentally caught up in a government data grab, he’ll rethink the use of mass surveillance.

Rubio's offices has not yet commented on Polis' proposal.


GOP Led House Panel Kills Last-Ditch Effort to Pass ENDA

Yesterday, a GOP-controlled panel in the U.S. House voted against attaching the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) as an amendment to a broader defense authorization bill, the Washington Blade reports:

PolisRep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) introduced the amendment on behalf of Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who’s gay and chief sponsor of ENDA, during House Rules Committee consideration of the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill. Polis is a member of the Rules Committee, but was absent when the amendment came up for a vote.

The panel, which is heavily stacked in favor of Republicans, rejected the amendment 7-3 without discussion by a party-line vote. Had the Rules Committee accepted the amendment, it would have made ENDA part of the defense spending measure before it headed to a vote on the full House floor.

Last year, ENDA was approved by the senate in a historic, bipartisan 64-32 vote. 


Out Gay Rep. Jared Polis Wins Re-Election In Colorado

6a00d8341c730253ef01b7c6e6d3ee970b-200wiOut gay Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado won his bid for re-election last night in a victory for Democrats and LGBT candidates. The Huffington Post reports:

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) defeated Republican attorney George Leing in the state's 2nd District Tuesday.

Polis was first elected to the House in 2010. He ran unopposed in this year's Democratic primary.

The wealthy progressive representative attracted attention this election cycle as he gave financial support to two ballot initiatives that would have restricted natural gas fracking in the state. Polis stopped bankrolling the measures over fears that they would hurt Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Gov. John Hickenlooper's (D) re-election chances.

The congressman is considered a rising Democratic star. He's rumored to be one of the candidates vying to be the next chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Polis has been an outpsoken advocate of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) as of late, although his discharge petition aimed at progressing the legislation recently stalled out.  


ENDA Discharge Petition Stalls at 190 Signatures; 28 More Necessary

A discharge petition filed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) to advance the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the U.S. House of Representatives appears to have stalled after 190 Democrats signed their names to it, the Washington Blade reports:

PolisDespite the immediate growth in signatures for the discharge petition within the week it was filed, no one has penned their name this week as of Tuesday, and even the names of some ENDA co-sponsors aren’t on the document.

Four Democrats who co-sponsor ENDA and are able to vote on the floor — Reps. Linda Sanchez (Calif.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Peter Visclosky (Ind.), Jim Matheson (Utah) — haven’t signed the discharge petition. None of their offices responded to the Blade’s request for a comment on why their names were absent.

For at least of two of these Democrats, the issue may be the narrowed religious exemption in this version of ENDA. Matheson represents a portion of Utah in the U.S. House that has Mormon-affiliated businesses; Visclosky is a Catholic.

The petition requires at least 218 signatures to force a House vote on the measure.

There are also reports that work may be underway to attach the ENDA language to a larger piece of legislation.

More at the Blade...


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