Speed Read: Thursday 5 December 2013

1-    MORE PRESSURE ON BOEHNER: Five Republican and five Democratic House members (including three openly gay ones) signed onto a December 3 letter to House Speaker John Boehner, urging him to bring ENDA to the floor this session. The letter appeals to Boehner’s “innate sense of fairness” and says the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that passed the U.S. Senate in November “balances worker protections with respect for religious employers.” The three openly gay members signed on were Reps. Sean Maloney of New York, Jared Polis of Colorado, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. In a separate press release, Maloney said, “It’s a disgrace that Speaker Boehner continues to put his own partisan politics ahead of the American people” by refusing to bring the bill to the floor.

2-   UTAH JUDGE HEARS CASE: A federal judge in Salt Lake City heard oral arguments yesterday in a case challenging the state’s ban on allowing same-sex couples to marry. The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that the state’s attorney argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in U.S. v. Windsor was clearly “deferential” to the right of states to regulate marriage. Attorneys for the three couples who challenged the ban argued that the ban clearly has “no legitimate purpose overcomes their purpose and effect to disparage and injure.” The judge indicated he will rule by January.

3-   PHILLY CLERK APPEALS: The suburban Philadelphia court clerk who issued 174 marriage licenses to same-sex couples before a state court judge in September ordered him to stop appealed Monday to the state supreme court to overturn that order. In a brief to the supreme court, the Montgomery County Solicitor argues that, by ordering Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes to stop issuing licenses, the state judge has forced Hanes to violate his oath of office, the state constitution, and the U.S. Constitution. The brief also argues that Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage licenses is “patently unconstitutional.”

4-   RICE ON RIGHTS: President Obama’s National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, reiterated the administration’s commitment to the civil rights of LGBT people around the world. In a speech Wednesday to the Human Rights First Annual Summit in Washington, D.C., Rice said the U.S. stands “proudly for the rights of women, the LGBT community and minorities.” And while the U.S. cooperates with Russia on many issues, she said, “we don’t remain silent about the Russian government’s systematic efforts to curtail the actions of Russian civil society, to stigmatize the LGBT community.According to a Summit press release, Rice met with international LGBT community representatives following her remarks.

5-   SUMMIT GROUP URGES LGBTS IN DELEGATION: Human Rights First, the international human rights advocacy group that hosted this week’s Summit, has urged President Obama include LGBT leaders in the U.S. delegation to the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February. “The selection of the members of the official U.S. delegations for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics is an important opportunity to signal to Russia and the world the priority the Obama Administration places on equality and human dignity,” wrote Human Rights First in the letter to President Obama’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett last week.

6-    ON CONGRESS AND COCKROACHES: U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) told an audience in Madison last week just how bad Congress is in the minds of most people: “Public opinion polls show people like cockroaches and head lice better than Congress… I think we beat the Kardashian family and the Ebola virus. At least we’re not Toronto.” According to University of Wisconsin newspaper the Badger Herald, Pocan told the November 26 audience that Tea Party Republicans are preventing passage of any meaningful legislation.

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