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Tuesday Speed Read: Obama, James Costos, Colorado, Brunei, Charlie Crist, Phil Bryant

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

Blue_obamaOBAMA PREPS EXECUTIVE ORDER:

The White House indicated Monday that President Obama has “directed his staff” to prepare an executive order to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The White House official could not say how soon President Obama intends to sign the executive order. But the news comes during Pride Month, just two weeks before the White House hosts its annual reception in celebration of Pride Month, and just one day before President Obama is scheduled to be at an LGBT-related fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in New York.

HIGH MAINTENANCE HOUSE GUESTS:

CostosThe openly gay U.S. ambassador to Spain and his partner hosted President Obama, the First Lady, and eldest daughter Malia at their house in Rancho Mirage, California, over the Father’s Day weekend, according to the Desert Sun. Ambassador James Costos and his partner, White House decorator Michael Smith, have a home in a gated community known as Thunderbird Heights. The President and First Lady headed back to Washington on Monday morning.

SENATE AGREES TO VOTE ON NOMINEES:

GaylesThe U.S. Senate voted 55 to 37 Monday to proceed to a vote on the confirmation of Darrin Gayles to the U.S. district court in Miami and, in a separate but identical vote, to proceed to a vote on the nomination of Staci Yandle to a district court seat in Illinois. If confirmed, Gayles will become the first openly gay African American to be appointed to a federal court bench. Yandle won’t be the first openly lesbian African American appointed to the bench but, if confirmed, she will be the first openly gay federal judge named to the bench in Illinois. The confirmation votes for both are  scheduled for 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

ColoradoCOLORADO JUDGE HEARS TWO CASES:

A state district court judge in Denver on Monday heard two consolidated lawsuits challenging the state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying. The Denver Post reported that Adams County District Court Judge Scott Crabtree expressed skepticism for the state’s contention that 15 federal and state judges before him erred in finding similar bans unconstitutional.

LETTERS PILE ON AGAINST BRUNEI:

KerryMore than 100 members of the U.S. House signed onto a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry last Thursday, urging that the U.S. halt negotiations with the government of Brunei on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Noting Brunei’s recent adoption of draconian penalties for being gay, the letter argues that such agreements must insist that participating nations “adhere to internationally recognized civil, political, and human rights standards.” All seven openly LGBT members of the House signed on. Four national LGBT groups also sent a similar letter last week to President Obama regarding Brunei’s brutal laws against LGBT people.

CristEQUALITY FLORIDA AND HRC ENDORSE CRIST:

The statewide LGBT group Equality Florida and the Human Rights Campaign both made independent announcements last Thursday that they are endorsing Democratic candidate Charlie Crist for the Florida governor’s race in November. Crist has a primary in August but is expected to win the nomination easily against two little-known candidates.

BryantCENTRAL PARK GREETING:

A small group of protesters followed Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant around Central Park Saturday to express their unhappiness with the state’s new “religious freedom” law, which goes into effect July 1. The protesters, which included members of GetEQUAL Mississippi, staged a mostly silent protest, and some hosted their own “Big Gay Mississippi Welcome” dinner, according to the Hattiesburg American.

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


President Obama, John Kerry Release Statements Marking International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

2_obamaTomorrow is IDAHO, and the President has taken note:

Tomorrow, as we commemorate the 10th annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, we recommit ourselves to the fundamental belief that all people should be treated equally, that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, and that no one should face violence or discrimination -- no matter who they are or whom they love.

This year, the United States celebrates the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, and the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. In doing so, we reflect on lessons learned from our own civil rights struggles and reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that the human rights of all people are universally protected.

At a time when, tragically, we are seeing increased efforts to criminalize or oppress LGBT persons, we call on partners everywhere to join us in defending the equal rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters, and in ensuring they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

KerrySecretary of State John Kerry also released a statement:

Today of all days, we are reminded that the cause of justice can and must triumph over hatred and prejudice. This is a day of action for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities and their allies all over the world. It is time to reaffirm our commitment to the equality and dignity of all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

It’s not lost on anyone that this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) coincides with the 60th anniversary of the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. Our commitment to advancing the human rights of LGBT persons is part of this country’s long history of fighting to ensure that all people can exercise their human rights.

We have seen incredible progress in the fight to advance the human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBT persons.

And the United States is proud to be doing its part. This past week, we convened religious leaders and representatives of faith-based organizations to think about how we work together to promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons. Next week, we will convene meetings with our private sector allies to discuss the important role of the business community in promoting equality and the ways we can partner through the Global Equality Fund.

But this must be more than a moment to celebrate how far we have come. We know that our work is not complete when countries enact laws targeting LGBT persons and their supporters. We know that our work is not complete when LGBT persons and their allies are harassed, arrested, and even killed simply because of who they are and who they love.

The United States condemns these senseless acts of violence and discrimination. Human rights are universal, and LGBT persons and their allies must be free to exercise them without fear of intimidation or reprisal.

When our LGBT brothers and sisters are threatened anywhere, it is a threat to freedom, justice and dignity of people everywhere. The United States will continue to protect and promote the human rights of LGBT persons worldwide this day and every day. Onward.


Secretary of State John Kerry Phoned Ugandan President to Discuss Anti-Gay Law's Impact

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Ugandan President Museveni yesterday via phone, according to a State Department memo from spokesperson Jen Psaki:

KerrySecretary Kerry expressed the United States’ deep disappointment in the Ugandan Government’s decision to enact the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The Secretary noted that the decision complicates the U.S. relationship with Uganda. He also raised U.S. concerns that this discriminatory law poses a threat to the safety and security of Uganda’s LGBT community, and urged President Museveni to ensure the safety and protection of all Ugandan citizens.  The two also discussed the law’s negative impact on public health efforts including those to address HIV/AIDS, as well as on tourism and foreign investment in Uganda. 


John Kerry On America, Global LGBT Rights: 'This Is A Fight Worth Fighting': VIDEO

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Andrea Mitchell sat down with Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday to discuss the anti-gay bills recently passed in both Arizona and Uganda, as well as briefly mentioning Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws. Though the laws' implications vary widely and are incomparable in most ways, Kerry used the opportunity to speak out vehemently against discrimination of all kinds, and to assure viewers, and the LGBT community, that the American government would be working hard to make strides in the arena of global human rights. He said, "We will stand up for people's rights."

He also asserted his belief that the Arizona law would be overturned by Governor Jan Brewer: "I cannot imagine that that law would withstand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court of the United States, so I would hope that she will make the right decision." Luckily, she did. Still, many battles remain and it is good to hear Kerry speak up in a time like this.

Check out the video, AFTER THE JUMP...

Yesterday, Kerry told reporters that he was launching a new effort to combat a worldwide threat to human rights, spurred by anti-gay activity in Uganda and elsewhere, the AP reports:

"You could change the focus of this legislation to black or Jewish, and you could be in 1930s Germany, or you could be in 1950s or '60s apartheid South Africa," Kerry told reporters during a 55-minute question-and-answer session at the State Department. "It was wrong there, egregiously, in both places, and it is wrong here."

He said the issue would be a major focus of discussion when U.S. ambassadors from across the world return to Washington for meetings in the weeks ahead.

Continue reading "John Kerry On America, Global LGBT Rights: 'This Is A Fight Worth Fighting': VIDEO" »


John Kerry Says State Dept. Reviewing Relationship with Uganda Over 'Tragic' Anti-Gay Law

Secretary of State john Kerry released a statement today following Ugandan President Museveni's signing of the 'Anti-Homosexuality Act', penalizing homosexuality with life imprisonment.

KerrySaid Kerry in the statement:

This is a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights. Ultimately, the only answer is repeal of this law.

The United States is deeply disappointed in the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. For the four years since the bill was introduced, we have been crystal clear that it blatantly violates human rights obligations that Uganda’s Human Rights Commission itself has recognized are enshrined in Uganda’s Constitution

Today’s signing threatens a dangerous slide backward in Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and a serious threat to the LGBT community in Uganda.

We are also deeply concerned about the law’s potential to set back public health efforts in Uganda, including those to address HIV/AIDS, which must be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner in order to be effective.

As President Obama stated, this legislation is not just morally wrong, it complicates a valued relationship. Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values.

From Nigeria to Russia and Uganda, we are working globally to promote and protect the human rights of all persons. The United States will continue to stand against any efforts to marginalize, criminalize, and penalize vulnerable persons in any society.


Human Rights Organizations Want U.S. Ambassadors to Uganda and Nigeria Recalled Over Anti-Gay Laws

The Human Rights Campaign yesterday called on Secretary of State John Kerry to recall U.S. ambassadors to Uganda and Nigeria in reaction to legislation and oppression of LGBT citizens in those nations.

Via HRC:

Kerry"The Ugandan and Nigerian governments' decisions to treat their LGBT citizens like criminals cannot be accepted as business as usual by the U.S. government. We urge Secretary Kerry to recall both Ambassadors for consultations in Washington to make clear the seriousness of the situation in both countries," said HRC President Chad Griffin.

Last week, a spokesperson for the Ugandan president announced that President Yoweri Museveni is set to sign an archaic anti-LGBT bill into law that was passed by the Uganda parliament last December. The bill, which once included the death penalty, calls for gay Ugandans or anyone "promoting" homosexuality to be jailed -- potentially for life. The passage of the AHB and subsequent approval by Museveni is part of a broader clawback in fundamental freedoms in Uganda over the last several years, particularly regarding freedom of expression, assembly and association. Human rights violations are on the rise and the AHB represents an especially troubling escalation of this trend.

An equally horrific law was signed by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in January. The law criminalizes same-sex marriage, punishes homosexuality with jail terms of up to 14 years, and threatens any person who supports or is a member of an LGBT organization with 10 years' imprisonment. Since the law was enacted, Nigerian activists and human rights groups have reported dozens of LGBT individuals have been arrested, many of who work to combat HIV/AIDS in the country. It has also been reported LGBT Nigerians are facing blackmail by the police and mob violence.

Over the weekend, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice reported on Twitter that dialogue with President Museveni urging him to refrain from enacting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (AHB) had proven unproductive. President Barrack Obama also issued a statement condemning the AHB.

International human rights organizations agree in an interview with the AP that the "quiet diplomacy" from the U.S. is not working:

"Quiet diplomacy up to the final moment clearly has failed," said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch.

"We need a better strategy," said Julie Dorf, senior adviser at the Council for Global Equality. "We do believe that our government here in the U.S. needs to ramp up the potential consequences that countries might face for these regressive anti-human rights measures. I have no doubt that President Museveni watched very carefully what happened after President Jonathan signed the Nigeria bill. And the truth is, there wasn't much of a reaction."

Human Rights Watch and the Robert F. Kennedy Center are both calling on the U.S. ambassador to Uganda to be recalled for consultation.

Canada has threatened to cut ties with Uganda over the anti-gay bill, according to an interview with the Canadian ambassador to Uganda published earlier this week.


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