Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
One step closer to legal marriage
TRENTON, N.J. – Three motions by right-wing activists to become defendants in a historic lawsuit to achieve marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples were rejected Monday by the New Jersey Superior Court.
The ruling allows the case to proceed unencumbered. The victory for New Jersey’s lesbian and gay couples are the first rulings in the lawsuit Lewis v. Harris, in which seven lesbian and gay couples are plaintiffs. The couples are represented by Lambda Legal.
HRC praises legislative editing
WASHINGTON D.C.- The Human Rights Campaign today praised Sen. Rick Santorum, the leading Senate Republican champion of the President Bush’s faith-based initiative, for agreeing to remove provisions in legislation that might have created a system of federally subsidized discrimination based on religion. In the past, religious discrimination has been used as a proxy for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“What we see here is tremendous synergy among Senator Santorum, the White House, and Senators Joseph Lieberman and Tom Daschle – all standing together to put aside differences and advance legislation that spurs charitable donations without the potential for discrimination,” said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 exempts religious organizations from discrimination in hiring and permits them to favor members of their own religion. The Supreme Court has never clarified whether that exemption would apply to religious organizations receiving public funding. Before the language was removed, HRC supported amending the language to ensure that federally funded discrimination in employment based on religion would be prohibited.
“HRC unequivocally opposes any legislation that would allow public money to be used to discriminate against any American,” said Stachelberg.
To date, HRC has not opposed religious exemptions for hiring laws, as long as the groups and organizations are not using federal money. “We remain concerned that some Republican leaders in the House will continue to push for federally funded discrimination in this program. We urge the House and the Senate to continue to pursue policies that will not permit this federally funded discrimination,” said Stachelberg.
In separate action last week, the House Education and Workforce Committee approved legislation that would permit federally funded discrimination in job training programs. This legislation attempts to reverse a 21-year prohibition on such discrimination signed into law by President Reagan. HRC supported efforts in committee by Rep. Christopher Van Hollen, D-Md., to restore this non-discrimination provision that failed by a party-line vote. The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
Vatican ridicules gay rights
VATICAN CITY – A new Vatican book of sexual terms says gays and lesbians are not normal and that countries that allow gay marriages are inhabited by people with “profoundly disordered minds,” Reuters reports.
The “Lexicon On Ambiguous and Colloquial Terms about Family Life and Ethical Questions,” prepared by the Pontifical Council for the Family, went on sale Monday, Reuters reports.
The book runs nearly 900 pages and covers themes such as sexuality.
The text says homosexuality stems from an unresolved psychological conflict and that people who want to give gays and lesbians the same legal rights as heterosexuals “deny a psychological problem which makes homosexuality against the social fabric,” according to Reuters.
Judge nullifies divorce
AUSTIN, Texas – A Beaumont judge has vacated an order this week that allowed a gay couple to divorce who had been granted a civil union in Vermont last year.
State District Judge Tom Mulvaney ordered a new trial two days after Attorney General Greg Abbott determined it was illegal.
Abbott said John Anthony, 34, and Russell Smith, 26, both of Beaumont, could not be divorced because under Texas law they really weren’t married.
“Texas law does not provide for a dissolution of a civil union, and a divorce cannot be granted where a marriage never existed,” Abbott said.
Under Vermont law, a civil union is legal between two members of the same sex, although a marriage must be between a woman and a man. Texas does not recognize same-sex unions.
Smith, who petitioned for the divorce, said getting the divorce in Texas was expensive and strenuous. But getting the union dissolved in Vermont would have required Smith or Anthony to live in that state for at least a year before a final divorce hearing.
Women to lead Reform Jews
NEW YORK – California’s Janet Marder has been chosen the first woman to lead the rabbis in Judaism’s liberal Reform branch.
As president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis beginning Saturday, she leads an organization of 1,800 members, 377 of them women.
The Reform branch has ordained women rabbis since 1972. Today, half of those studying to become Reform rabbis are female.
Marder has led Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, Calif., since 1999. She was previously regional director rabbi of Beth Chayim Chadashim in Los Angeles, the first synagogue with an outreach to gays and lesbians to be accepted by the Reform movement.
Doctors may refuse to see gay patients
DENVER – State representatives have removed a provision protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination by health care workers.
Rep. Don Lee, a Jefferson County Republican, took a run-of-the-mill measure dealing with agency regulations and amended it to remove protection for gays under rules set by the Medical Services Board. It was approved by the House Thursday.
Lee argued that gays don’t have state legal claims against discrimination now and the rules would create a special protection for them.
Senate Bill 88 passed on a 34-29 party-line vote, with a lone Republican, Rep. Gregg Rippy of Glenwood Springs, siding with Democrats.
Killer of gay couple receives sentence
REDDING, Calif. – A white supremacist who admitted killing a gay couple nearly four years ago was sentenced Thursday to 29 years to life in prison.
James Tyler Williams, 32, will serve the sentence after he completes a 21-year federal sentence for fire bombing three synagogues and an abortion clinic.
Williams, 32, was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in the shotgun slaying of civic activists Gary Matson, 50, and Winfield Mowder, 40. The two were killed while sleeping at their home in July 1999.
No policy coming from Episcopalians
NEW YORK – An Episcopal Church report says the denomination should not try to set a policy on ceremonies to bless homosexual couples because “we are nowhere near consensus.”
Many have expected authorization of such blessings to be the hottest issue at the church’s convention this summer in Minneapolis.
At the 2000 convention, clergy and lay delegates narrowly defeated approval of same-sex blessings. The bishops did not address the issue, referring it to a committee of bishops and theologians.
The ideologically diverse committee’s new report summarizes the two sides of the intense disagreement. It pleads for unity and continuing reflection. The report does not oppose ordinations of actively homosexual priests, but it asks local bishops to “be respectful” of the ways their actions affect others. Some liberal bishops have approved gay ordinations and same-sex union
The Episcopal Church is part of the international Anglican Communion, whose bishops overwhelmingly opposed homosexual activity in 1998.
Legislators honor trans as ‘Woman of the Year’
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In her conservative black pantsuit and pearls, Theresa Sparks didn’t stand out Monday as she posed for a photograph on the Assembly floor. Lawmakers had to listen carefully to find out that Sparks was the first transgender woman to be honored as an Assembly “Woman of the Year.”
But Sparks’ appearance in the Capitol represents the most visible sign that Democratic lawmakers, including the largest group of openly gay state legislators in the country, are stepping up their agenda for gay and transgender rights this year.
At the Capitol, Sparks was politely received Monday along with 79 other women from each Assembly district who were honored as women of the year. But one gay lawmaker said she had seen some of her Republican colleagues cringe.
“They were hiding behind their hands and going, ‘Oh, my God, do you know what that is?'” said Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles. “So I am a little appalled by that. But it’s OK. It’s a learning process. We all learn by being with each other in the same halls, in the same elevators.”
Sparks, a member of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, was brought to the Capitol Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who is sponsoring the transgender-rights bill. A similar measure, drafted by Goldberg, died in the Senate last year after it became clear Davis did not want to deal with what became the “drag queen bill” during a tough re-election campaign.
This year, the boundaries are being pushed again, with Leno’s measure, AB196, and others. Leno’s bill would essentially expand the definition of gender so that transgender and transsexual people are protected from discrimination under the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Since gender issues are complex, the measure is necessarily vague and prohibits discrimination based on the “perception” of someone’s gender based on their appearance or behavior – “even if these characteristics differ from those traditionally associated with the employee’s sex at birth.”
“Particularly at this time when we are at war supposedly defending democracy,” said Leno, who is gay, “everyone without exception should have an opportunity to pursue their dreams and become all that they were God-given.”