Speed Read: Thursday 19 December 2013

SUPREME COURT PRECEDENT: A federal judge in Ohio asked a tough question yesterday of Ohio state’s attorney Bridget Coontz, in a hearing challenging the state’s ban on recognition of marriage licenses to same-sex couples: “Politicians say, ‘I’ll leave this to the states,’” said Judge Timothy Black, according to an Associated Press report. “[B]ut if the United States Supreme Court said the federal government cannot fail to recognize valid same-sex marriages, why can the states?”

SUPREME COURT PASSES: In a development bound to disappoint activists working against bullying in schools, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up an appeal (Morrow v. Balaski) brought by the parents of a Pennsylvania student who was bullied, assaulted, and subjected to acts of racial intimidation at her high school. In refusing to take up the case, the high court left intact a Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that said public school officials had no liability for their inability to protect the student from the bully. At least four Supreme Court justices must agree to review a lower court decision in order for the case to proceed at the Supreme Court.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) announced Monday that it completed its three-year mission to distribute a “Safe Space Kit” to every middle and high school in the country to ensure school staff have the information and resources they need to address anti-gay bullying and other behaviors that create hardships for LGBT students. The organization’s press release notes that more than 100,000 kits were distributed to 63,000 schools around the country. The work was accomplished with the sponsorship of eight corporations (including PepsiCo., McDonald’s, WellsFargo, and Verizon), several foundations (including Gill, Blue Cross, and State Farm), and five educational organizations (including American School Counselor Association and National Association of School Nurses).

BUSH OFFICIAL FAULTED: A report issued last week by the Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general says the head of the U. S. Office of Special Counsel under President George W. Bush  “reorganized” his office in January 2005 “to specifically target the removal” of two “homosexual employees” for “nonmerit” reasons. According to the report, Special Counsel Scott Bloch openly explained to a federal contractor that the OSC had a number of gay employees who Bloch intended to get rid of by creating a new OSC field office in Detroit and assigning the gay employees to it. News reports during Bloch’s tenure indicated he had reversed an existing non-discrimination policy of the OSC that prohibited sexual orientation discrimination.

VIRGINIA AG RACE OVER: Republican Virginia attorney general candidate Mark Obershain conceded his loss to Democrat Mark Herring Wednesday. The result is a good one for LGBT people as it means that, in January, right-wing Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will be replaced with Herring, who supports marriage equality. The difference could be seen soon, as the state attorney general’s office is currently defending the state’s laws banning same-sex couples from marrying.

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