By Lisa Keen
Keen News Service
EQUALITY TEXAS RAISES EYEBROWS: The Texas Equity political action committee of the statewide LGBT political group Equality Texas raised some eyebrows last month when, for the first time ever, it endorsed for a state House seat a Republican that some characterize as a Tea Party extremist. Texas State Rep. Sarah Davis voted against LGBT resource centers and against required reporting of harassment of LGBT students. But, noted an Austin Chronicle report Friday, she also met with Log Cabin Republicans and said “I do not oppose…civil unions.” Chuck Smith, executive director of the Texas Equity PAC, said Davis authored legislation to ensure LGBT people had the right to hospital visitation and to make medical decisions and helped defeat legislation that tried to remove LGBT centers from state college campuses. And Davis’ opponent in the Republican primary, said Smith, would be “infinitely worse on issues affecting the LGBT community than Rep. Davis.”
SOCIAL SECURITY RESPONDS: The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced in December it would begin immediately processing applications for survivor benefits for same-sex spouses. Now it has released new instructions for same-sex couples who might be applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a monthly payment to help persons who are disabled or over the age of 65 who have low incomes. Cathy Sakimura, family law director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, says the new instructions help those couples living in states that recognize their marriages. “But the rules still prevent people living in other states from receiving any benefits until more instructions are released.” For more information.
RESTORING HONOR: U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Brain Schatz (D-HI) introduced a bill last month seeking to require the Secretary of Defense to review the discharge of any former service member who was forced out solely because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and upgrade the characterization of the discharge to “honorable.” S. 1956 is a companion to House Bill 2839 introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) last July.
RESTORING DISCRIMINATION: Republican Governor Mike Pence said Friday he hopes the state senate will restore a sentence cut out by the House last week in a bill to ban recognition of same-sex marriages. The cut sentence called for also banning recognition of other forms of same-sex relationships, such as civil unions. By cutting the sentence, the House version would require the legislature to vote on the new form of the overall bill again next year. If the senate adds the sentence back, the House will be called on to approve that version and, thus, put the issue on this November’s ballot.
VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL RUN: Openly gay Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin announced last week that he is a candidate to fill the U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Moran. Ebbin is entering a crowded and somewhat hefty field. Other announced contenders thus far include a former lieutenant governor and ambassador, a big city mayor, and the chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party. The Democratic primary is June 10.
MARYLAND TRANS v GAY CANDIDATE: Transgender activist Dana Beyer announced last week that she is a candidate for a state senate seat currently held by the Maryland legislature’s first openly gay member, Rich Madaleno. Madaleno has represented Montgomery County for seven years. Beyer, a former aide to the Montgomery County Council, said she thinks she can do better on economic issues. “The fact that both of us are LBGT probably neutralizes the issue completely,” Beyer told the Washington Post. “I think it says a lot about how far America has come.”