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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


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


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.


Continue reading "Why Marriage Equality in Florida Is a Sign of Good Things to Come" »

Rachel Maddow Looks At Anti-Gay Former VA Governor Bob McDonnell's Dramatic Sentencing Hearing: VIDEO


As we reported yesterday, anti-gay former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell was sentenced to only two years in prison after being convicted on 11 counts of corruption this past September. The sentencing was somewhat of a shock to observers, as McDonnell had originally faced up to two decades in prison for his crimes. Even after the sentencing guidelines were reduced to between six-and-a-half and eight years, the final sentence still fell dramatically short of the minimum recommended incarceration period.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow dug into the bizarre and dramatic moments in the courtroom during yesterday's hearing, including a look into the fraught politics of McDonnell's marriage. You'll recall his wife was also convicted of corruption and was chosen as the scapegoat for Mr. McDonnell by both his lawyers and other members of his family, including his daughter.

Find out about McDonnell's day in court, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Rachel Maddow Looks At Anti-Gay Former VA Governor Bob McDonnell's Dramatic Sentencing Hearing: VIDEO" »

Wingnut Bob Marshall Introduces 'Unethical, Abusive And Dangerous' Anti-Gay Legislation in Virginia

6a00d8341c730253ef01b7c73089a3970b-800wiAnti-gay bigot and Virginia Republican delegate Bob Marshall has introduced new legislation that would allow for widespread discrimination against LGBT people in the state, reports LGBTQ Nation.

Marshall is no stranger to anti-gay policy making - in 2006, he co-authored Virginia’s constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

The new bill HB 1414 states that “a person shall not be required to perform, assist, consent to, or participate in any action or refrain from performing, assisting, consenting to, or participating in any action as a condition of obtaining or renewing a government-issued license, registration, or certificate where such condition would violate the religious or moral convictions of such person with respect to same-sex marriage or homosexual behavior.”

Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal, who fought the state’s ban on same-sex marriage last year, said a bill as broad in scope as HB 1414 would allow a doctor to refuse to prescribe HIV medication to a gay man, or a therapist to refuse counseling to an individual in a same-sex relationship.

He added that it “threatens the mental and physical health of Virginia unconstitutional...unethical, abusive and dangerous.”

Although the bill could pass both the Republican-majority House and Senate, openly gay delegate Mark Sickles said he believes Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe would veto the measure.

Last year, Marshall called for the impeachment of Attorney General Mark Herring over his refusal to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in court.

Anti-Gay Former VA Governor Bob McDonnell Sentenced To Two Years For Corruption


(Photo via Twitter)

Anti-gay former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison after being convicted in September on charges of corruption. While McDonnell had originally faced up to two decades in prison, the maximum possible sentence was reduced by Judge R. Spencer to between six-and-a-half and eight years. The New York Times reports:

For hour upon hour before sentence was passed, the court heard accounts of Mr. McDonnell’s good deeds, and the judge said they were a mitigating factor. But, he said: “A price must be paid. It breaks my heart.” 

Mr. McDonnell, who arrived in court with two of his daughters, looked on silently through the hours of testimony from friends and former associates. He was the last to address the court.

“I stand before you as a heartbroken and humbled man,” he said, as many supporters in the packed courtroom dabbed at their eyes with tissues.

Mr. McDonnell said his life in the governor’s mansion had become unbalanced. Now, he said, he will dedicate the rest of his life “newly to service.”

McDonnell’s wife was also convicted on corruption charges and still awaits sentencing. Mr. McDonnell, along with other members of the family, alleged it was Lady Macbeth who was to blame, having introduced Mr. McDonnell to Virginia businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. who eventually gave the couple “$120,000 in low-interest loans, paid for much of the wedding of their daughter Cailin McDonnell Young, bought a Rolex for the governor, picked up bills for golf outings and lent them his Ferrari.” However, Judge Spencer, perhaps making a biblical allusion, insisted that Mr. McDonnell still bore the blame for his crime:

Judge Spencer, referring to Mr. Williams, said Ms. McDonnell “may have let the serpent into the mansion.” But the governor, he said, let Mr. Williams into his financial affairs

Upon release, Mr. McDonnell will face two years of supervision. The prison term and the supervision are all well below the recommended sentencing guidelines, which could have put the former governor behind bars for up to 20 years, and less than the 78 months sought by the government.

“The Jonnie Williams of the world are a dime a dozen," Michael Dry, a lead prosecutor in the case, told the court. “Corrupt governors are not. But when we find one,” he said, the official must be brought to justice. When Mr. Dry left the courtroom, his face was twisted in anger. He declined to comment.

During his tenure as Governor McDonnell had been a vocal opponent of both gay adoption and providing protections for LGBT individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity


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