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Houston Mayor Moves Same-Sex Lawsuit Out Of Republican Court

Soon after the openly lesbian Texas city mayor Annise Parker announced that same-sex spouses of city employees would receive health and life insurance benefits, the Harris County GOP sued Parker and got Republican Judge Lisa Millard to stop the benefits from going into effect.

ParkerBut City Attorney David Feldman has just gotten the case moved out of Millard's district court and into a federal court.

Lone Star Q has more:

The notice of removal also brings light of how Republican Judge Lisa Millard failed to notify Mayor Annise Parker and the city of Houston before holding a hearing the exact same day Republicans filed the lawsuit, and then immediately signing a temporary restraining order halting the new same-sex benefits policy enacted by Parker in November…

The notice of removal has now automatically moved the lawsuit case into federal court.

Republicans are going to have to ask a federal judge to remand their case in order to get it back to state court.

The article goes on to say that the Harris County GOP lawsuit and the lawsuit filed by the Lambda Legal on behalf of three same-sex Houston couples could be consolidated into one lawsuit in federal court and finally put the constitutionality of Texas' same-sex marriage ban on trial.

Earlier this year, two same-sex Texas couples also filed a lawsuit calling Texas' 2005 amendment unconstitutional.

After Shaky Couple Of Years, Equality California Has Stabilized Under New Executive Director

Johno'connorEquality California (EQCA) has had a difficult time getting on its feet. Longtime executive director Geoff Kors left in March 2011, was replaced by Roland Palencia (who quickly stepped down after only three months), and spent a year without leadership. When current exec. director John O'Connor (right) arrived last December, the organization's financial situation was less than stellar and several staff members had been let go. Now, though, O'Connor says that EQCA is back in shape and ready to make a difference, urged on by the Supreme Court's Prop 8 and DOMA decisions this summer.

The Bay Area Reporter writes:

Asked what the biggest challenge during his first year at EQCA has been, O'Connor laughed and said, "All of it."

After some consideration, he said, "Revitalizing an organization that had been through so much upheaval at a time when the LGBT movement for equality was shifting so dramatically was very complicated, and identifying strategies for doing that was the most challenging thing. That includes getting people's financial and political support behind what was happening, inspiring a staff to work as hard as they needed to work to make this possible, instilling confidence in elected officials once again, and instilling confidence in the press."

O'Connor, 42, whose salary is $150,000, said EQCA has successfully been rebuilt. The organization is "resolvent," its "reputation is dramatically improved," and "our visibility is dramatically improved across the state, particularly in Sacramento."

However, he said, "We're not done. It will be a multi-year project of re-staffing, re-stabilizing" and other work.

EQCA is making efforts to reconnect with other LGBT-related organizations throughout the Golden State, including the Transgender Law Center and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. It has also increased its budget by $500,000 for the 2014 fiscal year and currently employs 43 paid staff. All of these improvements do not mean that the fight to maintain relevance and importance in a post-Prop 8 state is not real.

"Continuing to articulate the urgency of the work," is the biggest challenge ahead, said O'Connor. Even though California now has marriage equality, more remains to be done, including in areas like health care, cultural competency in nursing homes and other settings, transgender equality, and safe schools. 

Draconian Nigerian Bill Criminalizing Same-Sex Marriage, Gay Activism Passes Final Senate Hurdle

GoodluckjonathanA universal law criminalizing LGBT advocacy and rights has passed the Nigerian senate and could soon move on to the country's president, Goodluck Jonathan (right). The bill has undergone several incarnations and passed through various levels of Nigeria's government, as Towleroad previously reported. Its current state is another step in Nigeria's ever evolving LGBT rights battle.

Introduced in its first form in 2006, the anti-homosexuality bill would be one of, if not the most, comprehensively damning anti-LGBT pieces of legislation across the globe. Though the bill's political progression through the house and senate has been shadowy to say the least, and more information is needed, western LGBT advocates are outraged and fearful at its overarching condemnation of LGBT person's rights.

Buzzfeed reports:

While the official text of the most recent version of the bill was not immediately available, Nigerian news reports suggested the version adopted on Tuesday closely follows the hardline version passed in the House, which would impose prison sentences of up to 14 years.

But a draft circulating that human rights activists believe to be the version adopted Tuesday would impose a maximum sentence of up to five years. It retains many of the House’s proposals to criminalize of a broad range of LGBT activism.

“Any person who is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private is guilty of an offense and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment,” the draft states. It also would ban adoption by same-sex couples and would jail people who “aid and abet” same-sex marriages.

NigeriaBecause of the bill's unclear status, diplomatic efforts around it must be measured. Too strong a condemnation could lead to increased tensions, something African rights groups fear.

“We don’t want an open confrontation,” said Dorothy Aken’ova of the Nigerian sexual rights group INCRESE. “That would be bad for us.”

...INCRESE’s Aken’ova said that an outright veto was probably politically impossible for Jonathan; the legislation has passed overwhelmingly every time it has come up for a vote. Instead, she said, Jonathan could find a way to further delay it by asking for modifications to the parts of the bill that could violate the constitution.

This vote, she said, shows the legislature is determined to criminalize LGBT people, not simply ban same-sex marriage, she said.

“They did not hold back anything—now their true intentions are visible.”

Report: Majority in Every Congressional District Supports Law Against Anti-Gay Employment Discrimination

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In a historic 64-32 vote, the Senate this month approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban discrimination in hiring and firing based on sexual orientation or gender identity, sending the bill to the House, where it's destined to languish--at least as long as John Boehner is Speaker of the House.

But a new report from the Williams Institute--a legal research and policy think tank at UCLA Law School--demonstrates that if House members voted according to their constituencies' beliefs, ENDA might very well pass unanimously:

A majority of Americans in every U.S. congressional district support laws that protect against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, such as the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed last week by the U.S. Senate . . .

When a similar bill was considered in 2007, 183 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted against it, even though a majority of their constituents supported the policy. The current ENDA now awaits consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives, and research confirms that ENDA would pass if all members followed their constituents.

A very interesting interactive graphic comparing 2007 to 2013 can be found HERE on the Williams Institute's website.

One rather big caveat worth mentioning in terms of the Williams Institute report: the public opinion data used by the center looked only at laws that would prevent employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  The most recent version of ENDA includes language providing protections for gender identity as well--protections that were initially included but eventually stripped from the unsuccessful 2007 bill.  If polled on sexual orientation and gender identity protections, some Americans' responses would undoubtedly be different.

Nevertheless, the Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog took a similar look at state-by-state opinion polls before the Senate voted on ENDA, and came to the same conclusions as the Williams Institute:

Will ENDA receive the necessary votes? If senators listened to their constituents, the bill would pass overwhelmingly. Nearly all recent opinion polls indicate that a large majority of the American public — more than 70 percent — supports efforts to make employment discrimination against gay men and and lesbians illegal. Of course, these national numbers are not what the senators are likely to care about. However, when we use national polls to estimate opinion by state, we find that majorities in all 50 states support ENDA-like legislation (note that in 1996, majorities in only 36 states supported ENDA). Today, public support ranges from a low of 63 percent in Mississippi to a high of 81 percent in Massachusetts.

Of course, 32 senators did in fact end up voting against the majority of their constituents that supports employment discrimination protections for LGBT Americans, so it's a pipe dream to think that the Williams Institute report means anything different will happen in the House.  Still, it's worth pointing out that, on this issue at least, Republican members of Congress are pretty far out of step with the very citizens they're representing.

Check out a district-by-district map of the U.S. with the results of the 2007 ENDA vote, AFTER THE JUMP, via the Williams Institute. The 2013 version of the map can be found at the beginning of this post.

Continue reading "Report: Majority in Every Congressional District Supports Law Against Anti-Gay Employment Discrimination" »

Will Justin Timberlake Condemn Russia's Anti-Gay Laws When He Performs There?


This week, Justin Timberlake announced on his website that his 20/20 Experience World Tour is headed to Russia--St. Petersburg and Moscow, to be exact--in 2014, with tickets going on sale this Saturday. Since the performances in Russia will mark Timberlake's first time performing in the country, people are starting to ask, essentially, WWJD--what will Justin do? US News reports:

"Obviously our hope is that Justin will use his time in Russia as an opportunity to highlight and expose the horrible situation that the LGBT [community is] facing there," says Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Charles Joughin. Recent legislation passed by the Kremlin includes the prohibition of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" and a ban of the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples abroad and unmarried individuals in countries where same-sex marriage is legal.

Cher recently revealed she had been asked to perform at 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in February, but turned down the offer because of the crackdown. Elton John, meanwhile, has vowed to go on with his concerts in Russia next month, despite boycott threats, being labeled "the devil's work" by a Russian Islamic leader, and calls that John wear a traditional Cossack uniform rather than his usual costume, which one group suggested was "homosexual propaganda." 

The problem, as HRC's Joughin points out, is that Russia's anti-gay laws are so vague--and so all-encompassing--that nobody really knows exactly what's illegal.  "It could be that tweeting, 'I support LGBT equality,' while you're in Russia could violate the law," Joughin told US News.

Of course, Timberlake's not the kind of gay icon that Cher or Elton John are, but he has voiced his support for LGBT rights in the past.  More importantly, though, he represents--and can speak to--a younger generation.  And in today's Russia, that generation could use all the pro-LGBT sentiment it can get.

Scott Lively: Gay People Are to Blame for Anti-Gay Violence in Russia — AUDIO

6a00d8341c730253ef019affbc74ef970d-800wiIn a somewhat astonishing display of victim-blaming, Scott Lively, the infamous conservative Christian anti-gay activist, says that the real group to blame for anti-gay violence in Russia isn't homophobes--it's gay people themselves.  

This might come as a bit of a shock to anyone whose seen the disgusting and disturbing images of anti-gay hate that have come out of the country recently, but last weekend, on a radio show called "Mission America," Lively told host Linda Harvey that the only violence taking place in Russia is "gay-on-gay crime":

“Russia does have nationalists, these are Nazis, the same as I wrote in the book ‘The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality and the Nazi Party,’ that’s the same thing. The guys that are beating up gays in Russia—and it’s not any more prevalent than it ever has been really and it isn’t all that prevalent at all—but the ones that are doing it are butch homosexuals who are beating up effeminate homosexuals, the same thing that happened in Germany; this is gay-on-gay crime, at least that is what it appears to be.”

In "The Pink Swastika," the book Lively refers to, the anti-gay activist argued that Hitler and other top Nazi officials were gay, and that it was these men's homosexuality that led to the rise of extremism in Germany that would later spark World War II.

According to Right Wing Watch, Lively bragged on Harvey's program about the energy he's put into supporting anti-gay efforts in Russia:

Lively also said that he met with Russian Orthodox Church’s leadership to “pitch the idea of the Russians adopting the rainbow as a Russian symbol, a Christian symbol, reclaiming the rainbow and to do the Russian Olympics under the banner of the rainbow that says ‘the rainbow belongs to God.’”

“It looks like they are going to do that,” Lively continued. “Get all the pro-family organizations to come along to declare 2014 ‘The Year of God’s Rainbow’ and all of us adopt it—I’m wearing a pin right now that says ‘Reclaim The Rainbow: Ezekiel 1:28’—I think all of us should just start taking the rainbow, putting it on our webpages, wearing it and just take it away from them, it doesn’t belong to them.”

“Fabulous, fabulous, neither does the word gay,” Harvey added.

Lively told the radio host that the U.S. is becoming "a gay Soviet union," and that Russia will take its place as a strong Christian country thanks to its recent push to demonize LGBT people and suppress LGBT rights.

Lively is currently on trial for crimes against humanity in Uganda, where he pushed virulently anti-gay legislation.  Last month, he announced a run for the governorship of Massachusetts.

Listen to clips, below:


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