Speed Read: Wednesday 18 December 2013

DELEGATION TO SOCHI DECIDED: The White House announced yesterday the two five-person delegations to represent the United States at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February. Two of the 10 are openly gay athletes –tennis legend Billie Jean King and women’s Olympic hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow. The White House press release announcing the delegations made no mention of any of the delegates’ sexual orientation, but LGBT and human rights activists have lobbied the Obama administration to include openly gay members in reaction to Russia’s new anti-gay laws. Joining King to the opening ceremonies will be former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Robert Nabors, and Olympic figure skating gold medalist Brian Boitano. Joining Cahow to the closing ceremonies will be Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Olympic speed skating gold medalists Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden. U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, will be part of both delegations. Neither President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, or Vice President Biden plan to attend the events.

‘WE ARE HOUSTON, NOT SAN FRANCISCO’: The Republican Party of Harris County, Texas, filed suit Tuesday (Dec. 17) against the administration of openly lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker over her decision last month to extend health and insurance benefits to the spouses of legally married gay city employees. Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill warned on the party’s website last month that, “Mayor Parker will be taken to court and defeated.” “We are Houston, not San Franscisco. We are Texas, not New York. We hold the values of marriage being a sacred institution between one man and one woman.”

SENATE ADVANCES BUDGET: The U.S. Senate voted 67 to 33 Tuesday to send a House-passed two-year budget agreement to the Senate floor today for a vote. If approved, the bill will replace automatic across-the-board cuts that many expected would be damaging to many programs and organizations that rely on significant federal funding to provide services to the community. Cuts are still likely, but not expected to be as drastic as the sequestration cuts would have been.

DEFENSE FUNDING BILL UP: The U.S. Senate is set to hold a procedural vote today to send the House-approved National Defense Authorization Act to the floor Thursday. The NDAA passed by the House was a version agreed upon by a House-Senate committee and included a number of amendments of interest to the LGBT community. While the measure will repeal a military law against consensual sodomy, it also includes potential accommodations for service members to express religious views against homosexuality.

MIZEUR GETS EMILY BOOST: Lesbian Maryland gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur scored the backing Friday of EMILY’s List, a major player in the backing of pro-choice Democratic women candidates for office. EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock called Mizeur a “progressive powerhouse,” saying she is “poised to be the first elected openly gay governor in the country and the first woman to serve as governor in The Free State.”

A TOP TEN ACCOMPLISHMENT: The Hill newspaper, which specializes in coverage of all things in Congress, published a “Top Ten Lobbying Victories of 2013,” including efforts by three groups in supporting the first ever passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) through the U.S. Senate. The paper singled out the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry, and Freedom to Work.

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