Compiled by Dawn Wolfe
Illinois bans LGBT discrimination
SPRINGFIELD, IL – Capping an eleven year effort led by Equality Illinois, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill banning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. The bill was first introduced in 1974. When signed into law by the governor, Illinois will become the 15th state to protect gay people from discrimination, and the 5th state to protect transgender persons. The bill cleared the State Senate Jan. 11 by a vote of 30-27 and the State House Jan. 12 by a vote 65-51.
The law will add “sexual orientation” to the state’s existing nondiscrimination statute which already bans discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations or credit on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, marital status and military status. The definition of “sexual orientation” includes provisions to specifically cover transgender persons.
Texas lawmakers address discrimination in public schools
AUSTIN – Three state representatives filed a bill Jan. 12 that could reform Texas schools on behalf of LGBT students. The Dignity for All Students Act, HB 376, would protect students in Texas public schools from discrimination based on such things as race, religion, and sexual orientation.
Georgia GOP tries to usurp city’s right to outlaw bigotry
ATLANTA – A fight between the city of Atlanta and a country club that doesn’t want to give gays spousal rights has the GOP planning to block Atlanta from enforcing a local law meant to shield gays.
The Republican chairman of the powerful Rules Committee introduced a bill Jan. 12 blocking cities from punishing groups that want to exclude gays.
Oregon Gov. asks for passage of anti-discrimination bill
SALEM – Oregon’s governor urged state legislators Jan. 10 to pass a bill outlawing discrimination against gays and lesbians, saying Oregon must “defend social justice, tolerance and diversity.”
The Democratic governor, in his state-of-the-state address, said he is submitting a bill that would forbid discrimination against gays in employment, housing and public accommodations.
SLDN reports record 1,025 requests for assistance in 2004
WASHINGTON – Servicemembers Legal Defense Network received a record 1,025 requests for assistance in 2004, up from 991 similar requests in 2003. SLDN provides free, confidential legal counsel to service members impacted by the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel.
SLDN attorneys anticipate a 10 percent increase in requests for assistance during 2005, resulting from increased awareness of SLDN through its pending litigation and work in Congress.
For more information, visit www.sldn.org.
Number of gay linguists discharged higher than reported
SAN FRANCISCO Ñ The number of Arabic linguists discharged from the military for violating its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is higher than previously reported, according to records obtained by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military.
The group contends the records show that the military – at a time when it and U.S. intelligence agencies don’t have enough Arabic speakers – is putting its anti-gay stance ahead of national security.
Between 1998 and 2004, the military discharged 20 Arabic and six Farsi speakers, according to Department of Defense data obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request.
The military previously confirmed that seven translators who specialized in Arabic had been discharged between 1998 and 2003 because they were gay.
Experts have identified the shortage of Arabic linguists as contributing to the government’s failure to thwart the Sept. 11 attacks. The independent Sept. 11 commission made similar conclusions.
Pentagon confirms report of planned ‘gay bomb’
WASHINGTON – A spokesperson for the Department of Defense confirmed a report that Air Force officials proposed developing a gay conversion chemical weapon in 1994. The proposal, part of a plan from Wright Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, was to develop “chemicals that effect (sic) human behavior so that discipline and morale in enemy units is adversely effected (sic). One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior.”
C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network called the proposal, “delusional, homophobic and offensive.”
The Pentagon has said the proposal was never implemented. Details of the classified proposal were revealed by Project Sunshine, a watchdog group which monitors chemical and biological warfare agent development.
The Air Force proposal is available for download at www.sldn.org.
Pope will fight equal marriage rights
VATICAN CITY – Pope John Paul II has put lobbying against equal marriage rights at the top of the Vatican’s agenda for 2005.
The pontiff explained his plans Jan. 10. The pope made clear that he intends to use his energies to tackle what he called “challenges of life” issues – abortion, cloning, equal marriage rights, assisted procreation and embryonic stem cell use.
Episcopal bishops regret gay-bishop angst
SALT LAKE CITY – Episcopal bishops expressed “sincere regret” during a meeting in Salt Lake City Jan. 13 for consecrating the denomination’s first openly gay bishop without full consideration for overseas Anglicans who objected, and said they prayed for forgiveness so they could maintain ties with sister churches around the world.
However, American church leaders took no action on requests from Anglican leaders for a moratorium on consecrating gay bishops in same-sex relationships and on authorizing official prayer services for same-gender couples. The bishops said they did not want to “act in haste.”
Lutheran panel backs gay policy
CHICAGO – Trying to walk a line that will preserve unity, a panel recommended Jan. 13 that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America officially maintain its positions against same-sex blessing ceremonies and gay and lesbian ministers in relationships but tolerate dissenters.
Both conservatives and gay and lesbian groups were disappointed. Conservatives say the recommendations Ñ to be considered by church leaders at their August meeting Ñ condone defiance of church doctrine; gay supporters say they reinforce discrimination. Many fear the issue will divide the church, one of the nation’s largest Protestant bodies with five million members.