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Democratic Senator Joe Manchin Can't FInd It In His Heart To Support Marriage Equality

ManchinSen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has not changed his position on same-sex marriage and will not sign an amicus brief being put together by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and other Senate Democrats urging the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize nationwide marriage equality when it considers same-sex marriage later in the year. The Washington Blade reports:

Asked by the Washington Blade if Manchin would announce support for marriage equality and add his name to the brief, Jonathan Kott, a Manchin spokesperson, replied, “No. His position has not changed.”

Now that former Sens. Mark Pryor and Mary Landrieu have been voted out of office, Manchin is the only Senate Democrat to remain opposed to same-sex marriage. He’s designated as an opponent of gay nuptials on the Human Rights Campaign congressional scorecard, which cites a 2012 statement from a spokesperson saying Manchin believes marriage is between one man and one woman.

Manchin is unfazed by the dramatic shift in favor of marriage equality both across the nation and within his own party. The Blade notes that Manchin dodged the question of same-sex marriage earlier this year after President Obama historically called same-sex marriage a civil right in his state of the union address, saying he didn't remember Obama making such a grand and sweeping declaration in favor of marriage equality.

By remaining a stalwart opponent of same-sex marriage, Manchin is also directly opposed to his party's platform, which in 2012 stated,

“We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.”

Manchin previously voted against the repeal of DADT but came out in favor of ENDA.


West Virginia Panel Advances Bill Banning LGBT Anti-Discrimination Ordinances

WVH.B. 2881, a bill that would ban local municipalities in the state of West Virginia from enacting LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances, advanced out of committee today and now moves to the House floor for an up or down vote. The bill is a facsimile of the anti-gay bill Arkansas recently enacted.

The bill, named the "West Virginia Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act", claims its intent is to "improve intrastate commerce" and business by enacting "uniformity" of laws, thus benefitting "the businesses, organizations and employers seeking to do business in [West Virginia] and will attract new ones to [it]." In actuality, the bill prevents local governments from protecting its LGBT citizenry from discrimination. 

The bill reads:

(a) No county, municipality or other political subdivision may adopt or enforce a local law, ordinance, resolution, rule or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.

And adds:

(b) Any local law, ordinance, resolution, rule or policy adopted before the operative date of this act that violates subsection (a) of this section shall be null and void.

Prior to the bill advancing out of committee, Andrew Schneider, Executive Director of Fairness West Virginia, told The New Civil Rights Movement, 

"HB 2881 not only prohibits the rights of communities to govern themselves but it also interferes with democracy in its purest form: city and town councils. When a nondiscrimination ordinance or resolution is considered or passed, each community has the opportunity to speak out against it, vote the city or town leadership out of office, or repeal the ordinance. There’s no need for interference by the state legislature." 


West Virginia Town With Five Residents Votes For LGBT Anti-Discrimination Order

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Thurmond, West Virginia has become the smallest town in the United States to pass an order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, reports WVPV.

In a unanimous vote on Monday night, Thurmond’s five residents approved employment, housing and public accommodation protections to a new town-wide Human Rights Act.

Andrew Schneider, Executive Director of statewide advocacy group Fairness WV, said the Thurmond ordinance is stronger than current protections in West Virginia’s Human Rights Act.

Although attempts to extend protections have failed in the West Virginia Legislature for years, towns including Charleston, Huntington, Morgantown, Athens, and Harpers Ferry have adopted similar ordinances banning discrimination against LGBT people.

Despite progress, politicians around the United States continue attempts to repeal non-discrimination orders.


States Defending Gay Marriage Bans Costing Taxpayers Millions In Attorney Fees

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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.  


Gay Soccer Player Comes Out to West Virginia High School by Dancing with Homecoming King

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Michael Martin, an all-state soccer goalie for Musselman High School in rural West Virginia, came out of the closet to his classmates at their homecoming dance by dancing with another guy — his boyfriend Jem — who also happened to be the Homecoming King from another school. Two weeks earlier they had done the same thing at Jem's school.

Martin writes about it at Outsports:

My homecoming dance at Musselman -- two weeks after the dance at Jem's school -- was the big moment I revealed being gay to my school. Jem was the date of girl at Musselman and her outside guest for the dance, while I went "alone." The girl knew Jem and I were together. I was on the homecoming court, which was a big honor and something I never thought would happen. Only some people knew about me before the homecoming, so it was a shocker for some seeing me dance with another guy.

Jem and I danced all night to the most popular pop songs. But it was the slow dance that I most remember that night at the school cafeteria -- "Remember When" by Alan Jackson. It was the best night ever. Jem and I got asked a lot if we were together and we said yes. "That is so cute!" some girls said. It made us felt accepted.

Word quickly spread and the following week I sensed that some guys were looking at me differently. My friends even told me people were talking about me in a negative way in different classes. "He is a faggot now," I was told some people said. My friends courageously stood up for me and I am so proud to call them my friends.

Martin also writes about coming out to his best friend, life in rural West Virginia, the general atmosphere at his school for LGBT students, and how his soccer team reacted when he told them.

Teammates were curious and I got a lot of questions. I also got teased by my teammates closest to me making jokes or saying sexual things, but I know they were just kidding. Actually, their joking told me they were OK with things. I also knew that even if someone did say something negative that a lot of my teammates would have my back. Recently I was named captain for the Musselman swim team. They all know about my sexuality and gratefully are accepting.

Martin says he was inspired by L.A. Galaxy star Robbie Rogers ("He gave me hope and confidence to be true to myself. Once he came out I started to contemplate doing the same myself and being proud of who I am."). He graduates this spring.


Gay Freshman Diver Alex Obendorf Comes Out at West Virginia University, Qualifies For NCAA Postseason

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As a senior in high school, Alex Obendorf (above) suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car wreck that left him out of diving for nine months.  

Perhaps that difficult experience explains why Obendorf is undaunted by the idea of being openly gay as a freshman athlete on a relatively conservative college campus. 

Obendorf2Obendorf, who attends West Virginia University, quietly came out publicly this weekend in the The Missourian, which treated his sexual orientation as a footnote related to his admiration for gay Olympians Matthew Mitcham and Tom Daley: 

“I like their form and everything,” Obendorf said. “I’m pretty proud of them because I know that it’s a hard thing to open up about, especially to the public as an Olympian. I am openly gay. I know where they come from.”

The Missourian reports that Obendorf became the first male WVU diver to qualify for the NCAA postseason this year, by finishing fourth in the 3-meter springboard at this weekend's Mizzou Invitational.

Obendorf was a two-time All-American at his high school in Ohio, but he missed his senior season after the car wreck in August 2013.

He was initially diagnosed with a concussion, but realized the injury was more serious when he tried to return to diving and the symptoms reappeared. 

He didn't get back on the board permanently until May, which left him nervous about how he'd perform after joining the WVU team in August. But so far, things seem to be going pretty well, and now that he's qualified for the postseason, his coach is pushing him to make the NCAA Championships. 

Although he just came out in the media this weekend, Obendorf has been open about his sexual orientation on Facebook since at least August.

And guess what? He's single. 

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[h/t Outsports]


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