Speed Read: Sochi worries escalate

WORRIES ESCALATE FOR SOCHI: The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory Saturday for citizens traveling to Russia for the Winter Olympics next month, including a specific warning that “vague guidance” from Russia about its new laws making “it a crime to promote LGBT equality in public” could be used to fine, deport, or jail foreign visitors. The LGBT warning was part of a longer advisory alerting Americans traveling to Sochi, Russia, for the Olympics that such highly publicized global events are an “attractive target” for terrorists and that several acts of terrorism have already been perpetrated in Russia in the past few weeks. But LGBT-related tensions seemed poised to escalate again over the weekend, when the head of the Russian Orthodox Church suggested the Russian people vote on whether to re-criminalize homosexuality. See full story.

U.S. WILL RECOGNIZE UTAH MARRIAGES: LGBT legal activists applauded an announcement by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Friday that the federal government will recognize marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in Utah despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court put a stay on enforcement of the district court decision that allowed those couples to marry. In his January 10 press release, Holder noted that an “administrative step” by the Supreme Court “cast doubt” on the marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in Utah, and that Utah officials have announced “the state will not recognize these marriages pending additional court action.” “I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law,” said Holder, “these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages.”

ACLU WEIGHS IN ON UTAH: In a letter to Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, Utah ACLU legal director John Mejia took issue with the state’s claim that the marriages of same-sex couples in that state are in “legal limbo” while on appeal to the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. “…there is no uncertainty here,” wrote Mejia. “In short, these marriages are valid and have vested the married couples with rights that the state and federal governments must recognize. Utah and the federal government should thus accord same-sex spouses who married in Utah all of the same protections and obligations that married couples of the opposite sex receive.”

INDIANA BEGINS CONSIDERATION: The Indiana House Judiciary Committee will take up consideration at 10 a.m. today of a bill seeking to amend the state constitution to ban marriage and any relationship “substantially similar” for same-sex couples. If the legislature passes the bill, House Joint Resolution 3, unchanged from its 2011 form, the proposed ban will go to voters this November. The Indianapolis Star predicted yesterday that there’s almost no chance of the bill being defeated in the 13-member committee that includes only four Democrats. A full House vote could come as early as Thursday.

McAULIFFE KEEPS PROMISE: Virginia’s new Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe kept his promise to sign an executive order prohibiting discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation and other categories. McAuliffe signed Executive Order No. 1 on Saturday, shortly after his inauguration.

GAY CAUCUS SPLIT: The seven-member openly LGBT members of the U.S. House split their votes on the January 10 vote on a Republican-sponsored bill to required the Department of Health and Human Services to notify an individual within two business days if the security of their personal information is breached under the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges. The Obama administration opposed the bill as unnecessary. But voting for the measure were Reps. David Cicilline, Sean Maloney, Mike Michaud, and Kyrsten Sinema.




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