Speed Read: Wednesday 20 November 2013

1-    PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL CEREMONY: President Obama will present the Medal of Freedom Award this morning to representatives of the late civil rights activist Bayard Rustin and the late astronaut Sally Ride. The awards, two of 16 to be awarded today, are the highest honor presented to civilians. A White House press release acknowledges Rustin as an “openly gay African American” who promoted non-violent resistance in the black civil rights movement. Ride, whose being gay was not public until after her death last year, is being honored as the first American woman in space and a role model to generations of young women.

2-   BALDWIN SIDES WITH GILLIBRAND: The U.S. Senate will vote today on an amendment that Republicans have been trying to block and that Democrats are divided on. The amendment is one from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It seeks to enable military prosecutors to act on cases of sexual assault instead of leaving them to military commanders. Senator Tammy Baldwin spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday in favor of an amendment, saying it would “eliminate inherent bias and conflicts of interest which currently deter victims from reporting sexual assault crimes in the first place.” The Senate is set to vote on the Gillibrand amendment today at 5 p.m. It will require 60 votes to pass.

3-   SCORING GOOD CITYHOOD: Twenty-five cities earned a perfect 100 score in the Human Rights Campaign’s 2013 Municipal Equality Index study, released yesterday. HRC, with the Equality Federation Institute, examined laws and policies affecting the well-being of LGBT people in 291 cities, including the 150 most populous cities in the U.S., cities with the highest proportion of same-sex couples, as well as each state’s capital city, its three most populous cities, and the city of its largest public university.  Among those earning a perfect score were Atlanta; Austin; Baltimore; Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Los Angeles; New York; Philadelphia; Phoenix; San Francisco; and St. Louis.

4-   LOW LYING STATES: States earning the lowest scores on the Municipal Equality Index included Loredo, Texas and Fairbanks, Alaska (each of which scored a 2); Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and (7)Birmingham, Alabama (9). Three cities rated a zero: Starkville and Southaven, Mississippi; and Kansas City, Kansas.

5-   MAINE ACTIVIST SNUBS MICHAUD: Betsy Smith, former head of Equality Maine, which won the marriage equality ballot measure in that state last year, announced in an op-ed piece November 18 that she would be backing independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, over openly gay Democratic U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud. “Admittedly, when Cutler entered the race I felt a moment of conflict, a bit of hesitation. This was not because I had any doubt of the kind of leadership Cutler would bring to Augusta, but because of my respect for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud,” wrote Smith in the Bangor Daily News. “What I have come to resolve is that supporting Cutler is not about working against Michaud, it’s about working for the best leader for Maine, and that’s Cutler.” Michaud and Cutler are expected to split much of the Democratic and progressive vote in Maine, giving incumbent Republican Governor Paul LePage a reasonable chance of re-election next November despite a rocky first term.

6-   ILLINOIS GOVERNOR SIGNS: Illinois’ Democratic Governor Pat Quinn will sign the state’s marriage equality bill today; the law will take effect June 1. The ceremony will take place at the University of Illinois in Chicago at 3 p.m. CST.

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