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Virginia House Subcommittee Kills Anti-gay 'License to Discriminate' Bill

A bill that would have allowed religious-based discrimination against gays failed to pass a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee Thursday, the Washington Blade reports:

MarshallHouse Bill 1414, which state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) introduced last month, specifically cited “same-sex ‘marriage’ or homosexual behavior.”

“Equality Virginia applauds the subcommittee for voting against this discriminatory and destructive bill,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT advocacy group. “This bill would have hurt too many people, damaged our business climate, and highlighted Virginia as a hostile and unwelcoming place to live and work. The majority of Virginians agree that discrimination against LGBT people is wrong, and thankfully today’s vote reflects that opinion.”

Marshall (pictured) is the same anti-gay wingnut who last year sought to impeach Virginia's attorney general Mark Herring for refusing to defend the state's same-sex marriage ban in court. He has also spoken at length about his belief that “sodomy is not a civil right.”


Virginia Bill Allowing Unmarried Gays To Adopt Defeated

Howell"Two steps forward, two steps back" continues to be the best way of escribing Virginia's path towards LGBT equality.  Virginia state senator Janet Howell’s bill that would have allowed unmarried gay couples to adopt children has been shot down by Virginia Republicans.

Howell’s bill, which was backed by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, was built around the idea that regardless of marital status, children fare better having two parents in their lives. The conservative opposition countered Howell’s bill arguing that unmarried parents made for unstable homes.


Virginia Bill Banning Conversion Therapy for Minors Dies in Senate Committee

Shurka
(screenshot)

Sad news out of Virginia today as a bill that would have banned harmful conversion therapy to minors in the state was killed by a Senate committee, the Washington Blade reports:

Members of the Senate Education and Health Committee by a 7-8 vote margin tabled Senate Bill 988 that state Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) introduced on Jan. 12.

“It is extremely disappointing that our lawmakers cannot come together in support of a bill that would protect Virginia’s LGBT youth,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, in a statement. “We cannot continue to allow our youth to be put through this so-called ‘treatment’ that can cause depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior. At best, allowing this harmful treatment on our youth is irresponsible, and at worse, it could contribute to the unthinkable.”

The House Health, Welfare and Institutions Subcommittee earlier in the day heard testimony for and against House Bill 1385, an identical measure that state Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington County) introduced last month.

“Homosexuality is not a disease or a disorder,” said Parrish. “Prohibiting any health care provider from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with any person under 18 years of age is necessary to protect our youth as they come to terms with who they are.”

Mathew Shurka, who underwent “conversion therapy” in Virginia and three other states for five years, testified in support of HB 1385 and SB 988.

“This is about protecting children,” Shurka told the Washington Blade.

Shurka said some members of the commitee appeared uncomfortable with his testimony, rolling their eyes and giving him no acknowledgment during his speech. 


Virginia Introduces Bill Banning Conversion Therapy For Minors

Conversion Therapy protest

Conversion therapy has been proven time and again to not only be ineffectual in changing an individual's sexual orientation from gay to straight, a sentiment even endorsed by former "ex-gay" leaders, but is instead likely to be harmful, particularly to minors. As this truth has permeated through society, state after state has begun introducing bans on the quackery, forbidding it to be administered to minors. Legislators in Virginia are joining the movement with the introduction of a bill today that - much like in New Jersey, Illinois, and California - forbids enrolling minors in conversion therapy.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights issued a statement on the proposed bill:

“Today, more than ever, it is clear that state legislatures need to step up to the plate to protect LGBT youth from the dangerous and discredited practices of conversion therapy,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Staff Attorney and #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator Samantha Ames. “We commend Delegate Hope and Senator Lucas, as well all the local organizers who have worked tirelessly to get this bill introduced and ensure all Virginian children are able to grow up in communities and families where they are loved for exactly who they are.”

A similar bill failed to pass in the state House last year, so Delegate Patrick Hope and Senator Louise Lucas may have a fight ahead of them to get this one through.


States Defending Gay Marriage Bans Costing Taxpayers Millions In Attorney Fees

MarriageGraphic

Plaintiffs in successful same-sex marriage lawsuits have been awarded more than $800,000 in attorneys fees' from states that defended the bans, with another $2.6 million in requests pending, according to a new report from The National Law Journal: 

Federal district judges across the country have issued nearly three dozen rulings since late 2013 declaring state same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. Attorney fee petitions haven't been filed yet in the majority of those cases as they go before circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. The fee awards, agreements and requests to date offer an early snapshot of what these landmark civil rights cases could cost taxpayers. ... 

Plaintiffs who prevail in federal civil rights cases can collect legal fees from the losing side. Congress set up the fee-shifting rule as an incentive for lawyers to take on time-consuming and expensive civil rights litigation, said Deborah Ferguson, lead counsel for the couples who fought Idaho's gay marriage ban.

In Idaho, the plaintiffs' attorneys were awarded a whopping $410,663 — the most in any state thus far. But that hasn't stopped Republican Gov. Butch Otter from continuing his futile defense of the state's marriage ban in court. The other states where plaintiffs' attorneys fees have been awarded or agreed to in same-sex marriage cases are Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon and Virginia. Requests are pending in Alaska, Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin. 

Of course, the plaintiffs' attorneys fees don't include the cost to taxpayers of states paying their lawyers or hiring outside counsel to defend the bans — or, for that matter, lost revenue from wedding-related spending where same-sex marriage is still not legal. 

All told, it seems that defending discrimination isn't cheap, and states that continue to fight same-sex marriage better be prepared to pay up. And the irony is, many of the same folks who advocate lower taxes are the same ones fighting hardest to deprive same-sex couples of the freedom to marry.  


Why Marriage Equality in Florida Is a Sign of Good Things to Come

FloridaBY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

When last we spoke, the freedom to marry had just been handed a setback: the Sixth Circuit let stand marriage discrimination laws in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. Over the holiday season, though, we took many steps forward in defiance of that egregious and wrongheaded appellate court opinion: Marriage equality officially came to Montana and South Carolina. And although she tried every trick in her book, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi could not stop the arc of justice from sweeping ashore in the Sunshine State.

The arrival of marriage freedom in Florida is particularly notable because of how it happened.

BondiIn Florida, a federal district court judge ruled in August that the state's marriage ban was unconstitutional; the judge stayed his decision until January 5, 2015. The Republicans running the state wanted to delay as much as possible as they appealed the judge's ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. But neither the district court nor the circuit court would grant the state a stay beyond January 5. So, Attorney General Bondi asked the Supreme Court. The Court said no, with only Justice Scalia and Thomas willing to issue the stay.

Note the difference between South Carolina and Montana, on the one hand, and Florida on the other. South Carolina is under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit, which declared Virginia's marriage ban unconstitutional some time ago. Montana is in the Ninth Circuit, which made a similar decision in Idaho's case in October. Because marriage equality was just steps away from all the other states in those jurisdictions as a result of the appellate court decisions, the Supreme Court declined to issue a stay in the South Carolina case.

Florida is in the Eleventh Circuit, which has not had occasion to rule on a gay marriage case. So the Supreme Court's refusal to grant a stay and to allow marriages to start in Florida was a stronger pro-equality signal than denying a stay in South Carolina.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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