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04/19/2007


Speed Read for Wednesday: Mississippi, Darrin Gayles, D.C., Virginia

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

MISSISSIPPI PASSES BIAS BILL:

BryantThe Mississippi House and Senate Tuesday adopted a final version of a religious bias bill, sending the measure to Republican Governor Phil Bryant for his signature. The final Mississippi Religious Freedom Act will enable any “person” to violate any state or local law or regulation (such as non-discrimination laws) by asserting the law burdens his free exercise of religion. The act carves out business exceptions, saying, “Nothing in this act shall create any rights by an employee against an employer if the employer is not the government.” If signed by Bryant, the bill goes into effect July 1. Opponents say some people will use the law to refuse services gays, blacks and others. There are no laws in Mississippi to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but the Human Rights Campaign says some universities have non-discrimination policies and the new law could allow pharmacists to refuse to provide HIV and hormone replacement drugs. Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi, said her group remains “hopeful that courts throughout the state will reject any attempts to use religion to justify discrimination.”

GAYLES’ GETS SMOOTH HEARING:

GaylesOpenly gay U.S. District Court nominee Darrin Gayles had smooth sailing Tuesday in his confirmation hearing. Senator Bill Nelson, in introducing Gayles and other nominees, noted that there was an emergency need for a judge in the Southern District of Florida, where Gayles is nominated. Senator Marco Rubio said Gayles has “dedicated himself to public service,” including two years at the Immigration Naturalization Service. Gayles noted that his life partner Raymond Zayas and other family members had accompanied him to the hearing. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Gayles what model he would use when interpreting the constitutional. Gayles replied that he’s always “followed the law and never interjected my own personal beliefs.”

GAY D.C. COUNCILMAN LOSES:

Four-term D.C. Councilman Jim Graham lost his Democratic primary Tuesday night to newcomer Brianne Nadeau. Graham, an openly gay councilmember who once led the LGBT community’s Whitman-Walker Clinic, was apparently hurt by a reprimand he was given by the D.C. Council last year for improperly involving himself in a lottery contract dispute.

JUDGE CANCELS VA. TRIAL:

VirginiaA federal judge hearing a class action suit against Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage announced Monday he was scratching the June 2 trial date and putting the matter on hold, pending a ruling from the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in another case. The plaintiffs in Harris v. Rainey, represented by the ACLU and Lambda, are now considered intervenors in the Fourth Circuit case, Schaefer v. Bostic, a case led by Ted Olson and David Boies and several Virginia attorneys. The Bostic case comes before the Fourth Circuit on May 13.

VIRGINIA IS FOR MARRIAGE:

A poll of Virginia voters March 19-24 found 50 percent support allowing same-sex couples to marry in Virginia, 42 percent oppose, and seven percent are undecided. The poll was conducted by Quinnipiac University with 1,288 voters and a margin of error at plus or minus 2.7 percent. Similar to other polling, the survey found that people under 30 and Democrats were much more supportive (69 percent each) and people over 65 and Republicans were more opposed (56 percent and 70 percent, respectively).


Gay D.C. Councilman David Catania to Run for Mayor

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David Catania, the gay councilman who authored D.C.'s marriage equality bill, will run for mayor, the AP reports:

Catania could pose a challenge to the Democratic nominee in this year's general election, even though the district is heavily Democratic. Catania is a gay former Republican with a progressive record. He first won a citywide at-large council seat in 1997 and has been re-elected four times.



Russian Gay Activist Disrupts Scott Lively’s Speech at Anti-LGBT Event in D.C. – VIDEO

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At a ‘pro-family’ press conference in D.C. on Friday, evangelist Scott Lively was caught on camera being heckled by Viacheslav Revin, a Russian gay activist and refugee in the U.S.

Queer Russia reports:

Revin disrupted Scott Lively’s presentation and made a statement with a help of Ellen Sturtz translating his speech into English:

"Homophobia is a first step toward dictatorship! Putin is a dictator who condemned to death thousands of orphaned children by banning foreign adoptions. Putin is a corrupted thief who invents scapegoats and deflects attention from his crimes. His latest invention is the anti-gay law, so gays in modern Russia feel like jews back in the USSR. Declaring support for Putin means denying the democracy and demanding racial segregation. This is what Putin doing in Russia now in regards to gays and migrant workers from Central Asia."

Lively-protest1Lively's speech was intended to announce the creation of the Coalition for Family Values, which includes Peter LaBarbera, Linda Harvey, and others dedicated to “confronting LGBT agenda” and supporting the Russian government’s anti-gay efforts.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Earlier this week, HRC released a video denouncing Lively and other prominent U.S. anti-gay activists for their work in helping Russia pass its gay propaganda law. 

Continue reading "Russian Gay Activist Disrupts Scott Lively’s Speech at Anti-LGBT Event in D.C. – VIDEO" »


Is Washington D.C. the Gayest Place in America? — VIDEO

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The New York Times heads to Washington D.C. to find out if, indeed, it is the nations' gayest city, paying a visit to Nellie's drag brunch and talking to several LGBT advocates and residents.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Writes Jeremy Peters, along with a compilation of statistics and anecdotes:

Consider what surveys by Gallup and the Census Bureau have found about the gay population here. When the District of Columbia is compared with the 50 states, it has the highest percentage of adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to Gallup. At 10 percent, that is double the percentage in the state that ranks No. 2, Hawaii, and nearly triple the overall national average of 3.5 percent...

Why are they all here? They could not have just moved in. Unlike cities like Austin, Tex., that rank high on the list of same-sex households (No. 15), Washington has not experienced a huge population boom in the last decade. One answer seems to be that they have always been here. Gays and lesbians do seem to be drawn to politics in disproportionately high numbers.

Continue reading "Is Washington D.C. the Gayest Place in America? — VIDEO" »


Indiana's First Openly Gay Countywide Official to Marry Longtime Partner

Zach AdamsonIndiana's first openly gay countywide official, Zach Adamson, will be making history once again, announcing that he and longtime partner Christian Mosburg will be heading to D.C. this week to get married. Indianapolis Star has the story:

Like any couple on the verge of marriage, they're excited about taking their vows. But they also hope that marriages like theirs can help to further break down the stereotypes and biases that have discriminated against gay individuals and couples for so long.

"It's important that people see this doesn't have to be the wedge issue or the divisive issue that it is often portrayed as," said Adamson, a 42-year-old first-term Democratic councilman. "We are just doing what other people do."

Adamson said the positive reception they've received, and the opportunity to get married, "just speaks to how far we've come." It's indeed a reminder of how much things have changed in a relatively short period of time.

Zach Adamson 2GOP leaders in the state, however, have been immune to these changes, continuing to push for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the November 2014 ballot. Polls have already shown Hoosiers are strongly opposed to the amendment proposal, with many, including Adamson and Mosburg, seeing it as an issue of common decency.

"Putting a group of people's civil rights and self-worth up to a vote of their fellow citizens has a very deep and entrenched impact on a human being," Adamson said. 

Mosburg said in a more perfect scenario their wedding would be taking place in Indiana. State law, however, already prohibits same-sex marriages, so the couple will have to make do with a follow-up ceremony in Indianapolis. 

"This is where we live," he said. "This is where we've put our home base. This is where most of our friends are. You should be able to say that the place you've chosen to be your home is your home for everything."

And one day, it will be.

(photo via Facebook


Richard Socarides On Justice Scalia's NY Mag Interview And The Progress of LGBT Rights

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As we reported earlier this week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia sat down with New York Magazine's Jennifer Senior recently for a wide-ranging interview that was filled with, well, exactly what you'd expect from a man known for his fiery dissents and come-at-me public persona.

Aside from a somewhat baffling and wild exchange about the devil (he's out there, according to Scalia, and he's decided to take on a lower profile compared to those stories you've read about in the Bible as a tactic), the justice raised some eyebrows when he told Senior that he doesn't know anybody who's openly gay.  "I have friends that I know, or very much suspect, are homosexual," he admitted to her. "Everybody does."

Scalia--as his New York Magazine interview makes patently clear, is a devout Catholic.  But as LGBT rights advocate Richard Socarides, writing in the New Yorker, points out, that very faith is currently experiencing a self-evaluation of its approach towards sexual orientation in the highest echelons of its power structure:

The most breathtaking development since the Supreme Court’s rulings on marriage rights, three and a half months ago, and the one with obvious global impact, was Pope Francis’ basic acceptance of gay people within the context of Roman Catholic theology—“Who am I to judge?”—signaling a turning point of historic proportions. A Quinnipiac poll late last week showed that American Catholics approve of the Pope’s new approach by a margin of sixty-eight per cent to twenty-three per cent. No doubt the dramatic progress we have seen in the U.S. impacted the Pope’s thinking.

Shortly after the Pope said that it was time to end the church’s focus on demonizing gay people (and its “obsession” with issues like abortion and contraception), Andrew Solomon, a longtime gay-rights advocate and the author of “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity,” told me in an e-mail, “The primary obstacle to gay rights—and indeed to various forms of human rights—is prejudice and bigotry that have been encoded in religion.” Solomon believes, as many do, that “the Catholic Church was long set up as our most vigorous enemy, and it’s to be hoped, very profoundly, that this change in position will filter down through the Catholic hierarchy and make religion once more the champion of loving-kindness, and no longer the instrument of oppression.”

Even Scalia felt the effect, though he argued that it was a matter of emphasis, not doctrinal change: “He’s the Vicar of Christ. He’s the chief. I don’t run down the pope.”

Socarides points out the significance of such a shift--even if it is only in the tone of the church's position--and underscores its ability to have a lasting impact. Earlier this year, the association of American bishops wrote in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court that equal marriage rights for same-sex couples "would compromise the ability of states to accommodate religious and moral objections to homosexual conduct on the part of employers and individuals." As Socarides pithily puts it, "So much for that."

Senior's interview with Justice Scalia reveals a man happily inhabiting a island of conservative thought that seems far removed from today's reality--it's incredible that he could live in our nation's capital in 2013 and know zero gay people personally.  But Socarides's point is a good one: as Scalia stands firm, history--and the very institution responsible in many ways for his opinions about LGBT people--continues to shift around him.

(photo courtesy of Platon for New York Magazine)


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