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Irish Lawmakers to Amend Employment Equality Act to Prevent Anti-LGBT Workplace Discrimination

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Good news keeps pouring out of Ireland after its historic gay marriage win, as Irish lawmakers are quickly pushing to amend the country's Employment Equality Act to prevent school and hospital LGBT employees from being discriminated against reports The Irish Times. Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin (above right) is leading the push behind the amendment, and hopes to pass it by September at the start of the new school term.

If the legislation passes, it will grant protections to LGBT staff of religious run educational and medical institutions, along with single parents, while simultaneously protecting the institutions' religious ideology. Drafting on the legislation began this week; once drafted it heads to the Cabinet for an official sign-off, followed by the Oireachtas enacting it in July if all goes well.

In its current state, the act still allows for discrimination against employees and prospective employees whose orientation and family status do not match the religious ideology of an institution they’re employed with or applying for.


Kazakhstan's Constitutional Council Rejects 'Gay Propaganda' Law

Kazakhstan has rejected a proposed "gay propaganda" bill as unconstitutional, reports Human Rights First.

674px-Kazakhstan_in_Asia_(-mini_map_-rivers).svgIn February, the upper house of the Central Asian country voted in favor of the bill banning "propaganda of a non-traditional sexual orientation" in order to protect children "from information harmful to their health and development."

A new ruling from Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Council will block the bill from becoming law, however.

It has been reported that the Constitutional Court invalidated the proposed bill - which would have created a ban similar to that in Russia - because its wording was unclear.

Similar bills have been considered throughout the region. One proposal is currently being considered in the parliament of Kyrgyzstan.

Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord said:

“This ruling is an important moment in the fight for the protection of human rights in Kazakhstan. We hope it will serve as an example both for other countries vying for an Olympic bid and for countries in the region considering similar propaganda bills.”


Texas Senate To Debate Anti-Gay Marriage Proposal After Bigoted Adoption Measure Stalls

Cake

A Texas Republican lawmaker says he dropped an anti-LGBT adoption measure Tuesday because he wanted the House to have time to consider an anti-abortion proposal before a midnight deadline. 

As we told you Tuesday, GOP Rep. Scott Sanford had introduced an amendment that would give state-funded, faith-based child welfare providers a license to discriminate against LGBT people. But Sanford ultimately withdrew the amendment. The Dallas Morning News reports: 

SanfordRep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney (right), has said the measure is needed but he pulled down his amendment to allow the House more time to get to a bill prohibiting insurance coverage of abortions in policies sold in the federally run Texas health insurance marketplace.

“The pro-life bills are really important to us,” he said. “In order to get to them, we need to pull down our amendment.”

Incidentally, the House didn't get to the anti-abortion bill, either. 

After Sanford dropped his amendment, GOP Sen. Donna Campbell tried to revive it in that chamber, but her effort also failed. From The Texas Tribune:  

CampbellState Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels (right), sought to add the amendment to a House bill sponsored by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, that would direct the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to study “kinship care” programs.

But Campbell quickly pulled the proposal down after state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, sought to kill the provision on a technicality. The Senate unanimously passed the bill, HB 2655, once the amendments were withdrawn.

Meanwhile, the Senate is set to consider an anti-gay marriage amendment Wednesday. As we reported Tuesday, the amendment is an effort to revive Rep. Cecil Bell's House Bill 4105, which aimed to undermine a potential Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality. The amendment was added to another bill by a socially conservative Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio (below right), in the dark of night. However, even if it passes the Senate, the amendment doesn't appear to have much chance of making it back through the House before the session ends Monday. The House author of the bill is Democratic Rep. Garnet Coleman, a staunch LGBT ally.  

6a00d8341c730253ef01b8d11aa95e970c-800wiFrom The Houston Chronicle

If the bill passes in the GOP-dominated Senate, which Coleman expects it to, it would need to return to the House, where the lower chamber's members would have to concur with the changes. Coleman said if he can't strip the anti-gay marriage off his legislation, then he would withdraw it completely.

"If I can't get it off, then the bill goes to bill heaven," Coleman said. "I don't support that legislation or that language." ... 

Lucio, a strong Catholic and social conservative, said Bell asked him to attach the language to the bill. Wednesday is the last day for the Senate to consider local and consent bills.

Equality Texas is urging people to call senators and ask them to vote against Lucio's amendment. 

The Senate convenes at 10:30 a.m. You can watch the proceedings live here


Landmark Protections for LGBT Citizens to Take Effect in Maryland: VIDEO

640px-Larry-HoganMaryland has passed landmark legislation providing protections for the LGBT community, reports the Washington Post:

One of the proposals requires health insurers to offer fertility treatments as a benefit regardless of a person’s sexual orientation, while the other allows transgender residents to change the gender on their birth certificates.

The House and Senate approved the legislation by wide margins earlier this year, and the LGBT community was watching carefully to see what Hogan (R) would do.

Set to go into effect on June 3rd, the measures were passed without the support of Governor Larry Hogan (right).

A spokesman for Hogan says that he has decided to neither sign nor veto the bills, thereby allowing them to take effect on their own.

Although he called for “tolerance and respect” in his 2014 inauguration, Hogan has so far mostly stayed away from divisive issues.

Said Equality Maryland executive director Carrie Evans:

“We’re really happy. These are bills that we worked very hard on, and they had bipartisan support in the General Assembly.

“It seems like [Hogan] doesn’t come in with a very entrenched opinion on social issues and that he really is looking at each bill individually.

“With a lot of the measures we’re supporting that don’t cost money, I think he’s going to support them. I think he’ll continue with a sort of fiscal-economic lens, and if we put forward something that would cost the state millions of dollars, he probably wouldn’t support it then.”


Texas House To Consider Horrific Anti-LGBT Adoption Amendment

Sanford

The Texas House of Representatives is expected to consider a proposal Tuesday that would give state-funded, faith-based child welfare agencies a license to discriminate against LGBT people. 

GOP Rep. Scott Sanford (shown above with Sen. Ted Cruz) says his amendment is designed to protect adoption agencies like Catholic Charities, which has chosen to shut down rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws requiring them to serve same-sex couples in other states. 

Sanford's so-called "religious freedom" measure began as a bill, but died before a House deadline two weeks ago. Then, he introduced it as an amendment last week, but Democrats used a procedural tactic to block its consideration. Now, it's back for a third time as an amendment to Senate Bill 206, which is on Tuesday's House calendar. 

Of course, it's already legal for adoption agencies to turn away gay couples in Texas, which has no statewide LGBT protections. Major national child welfare groups have come out against Sanford's proposal, which would also run counter to proposed federal legislation, the "Every Child Deserves A Family Act." 

Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the pro-LGBT Texas Freedom Network, said of Sanford's amendment in an email:  

"Rep. Sanford's divisive and disgraceful political agenda has held hostage important legislation reauthorizing a state agency that helps abused and neglected children. He has repeatedly threatened to attach an amendment that would promote discrimination against LGBT families in matters involving foster care, adoption and child welfare placement services. Texas doesn't have enough foster homes, so why turn away qualified and loving families? And Sanford’s amendment is so broad that it would authorize child welfare agencies to discriminate against any family that doesn’t meet the organization’s religious or moral criteria — like interfaith couples or people who belong to a religion that’s different than a particular agency’s. It’s callous and shameful to put politics and discrimination ahead of the interests of vulnerable children."

More from Equality Texas, which is calling on people to contact House members and ask them to oppose the amendment:  

"If enacted into law, the Sanford Amendment would allow child welfare providers to discriminate against not just gay and transgender families, but also against people of other faiths, interfaith couples and anyone else to whom a provider objects for religious reasons.

"The only consideration of a child welfare agency should be the best interest of the child – not proselytizing for a single, narrow religious interpretation."

TxValuesNot surprisingly, the anti-LGBT hate group Texas Values is supporting the amendment, and has created an infographic (right) suggesting that it would somehow help a 5-year-old whose parents were killed in a fire find a home:   

"In Texas, a large portion of our welfare providers, foster homes and adoption agencies are faith-based organizations. In other states, overbearing governments have essentially forced some faith-based organizations to close or stop services due to the organizations’ stance on Biblical marriage. This amendment would help ensure this does not happen in Texas."

The Texas House convenes at 10 a.m. Central time and likely will go until midnight because it's the last day for the chamber to consider contested bills from the Senate. With less than a week remaining in the legislative session, only one of the 20-plus anti-LGBT proposals introduced in Texas this year has passed. But Equality Texas ultimately withdrew its opposition to that bill, the so-called Pastor Protection Act, and two openly LGBT state representatives voted for it.  

Watch the House proceedings live here


Nine More States Comply With Federal Prison Rape Law, But DOJ Rejects Texas Governor's Letter

Abbott

For a brief instant, it was starting to appear as though a wave of sanity had swept over the Texas GOP. 

First, Rep. Sarah Davis became the first Republican state lawmaker in history to publicly back same-sex marriage.   

Then, it was widely reported that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott had agreed to comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act — unlike his predecessor, Rick Perry. 

Alas, though, it was apparently too good to be true, at least with regard to Abbott. The New York Times reports that the Justice Department has rejected the governor's assurance of compliance with PREA: 

Mr. Abbott, who took office in January, was under some pressure in the week before the deadline, during which an article in The New York Times highlighted the sexual abuse problem in Texas’ prisons, an editorial in The Dallas Morning News urged the governor to “enact the federal reforms now,” and protesters in Austin called on him to take action against prison rape.

“I can assure you that we will fully implement D.O.J.’s PREA standards wherever feasible,” he wrote to the attorney general. ... 

Mr. Abbott did not, however, provide the required written assurance that Texas would spend at least 5 percent of certain federal grants to achieve full compliance with the anti-rape standards.

“The letter we received from Texas makes no such representation and, therefore, it cannot be considered to be an assurance under PREA,” said Dena W. Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department.

All told, nine more states certified compliance with PREA this year, brining the total to 11. Texas was one of six states that had rejected the federal standards outright, foregoing federal funds rather than striving to meet them. Two of those states, Florida and Indiana, have since said they're working to comply with PREA. It was unclear whether whether the other three, Arizona, Idaho and Utah, had done so, The NYT reports. 

According to Just Detention International, which works to eliminate sexual abuse in detention facilities, LGBT inmates are 15 times more likely to be victims of prison rape than non-LGBT inmates. And Texas is home to five of the 10 facilities in the nation with the highest rates of sexual assault. 

Jael Humphrey of Lambda Legal, which is suing Texas on behalf of transgender inmate Passion Star, who's been repeatedly raped in assaulted in the state's prisons, issued this statement: 

“We are profoundly disappointed that Governor Abbott has neglected to make a meaningful commitment to meet the PREA standards set by the DOJ, and we applaud the Justice Department for demanding real commitment from Texas to use grant funds to actually enforce these standards. Governor Abbott cannot coast by paying lip service to PREA, while Passion Star and other incarcerated people remain at risk of continued sexual violence. Lambda Legal will continue to press Governor Abbott to take the necessary steps to end prison rape in his written statements and to turn his words into action.”


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