Speed Read: Another one bites the dust
OKLAHOMA VICTORY: In yet another stunning victory for marriage equality, a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled Tuesday that the state’s ban on same-sex couples obtaining marriage licenses is unconstitutional. “Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern. “Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights.” Unlike the federal judge in Utah, however, Judge Kern, a Clinton appointee, stayed the effect of his ruling, pending appeal to the Tenth Circuit. The Utah case is also pending appeal before the Tenth Circuit. And unlike many of the current marriage equality lawsuits around the country, the one in Oklahoma, Baldwin v. Oklahoma, has been pending since 2004. The lead couple in the case, Sharon Baldwin and Mary Bishop, are editors at the Tulsa World daily newspaper. Full story.
VIRGINIA BAN SURVIVES: A Virginia senate committee Tuesday voted to table a bill seeking to repeal the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Like in many other states, changes to the state constitution must pass the state legislature twice before going to voters. Senator Mark Obenshain, the Republican chair of the committee and a failed candidate for attorney general last November, noted to the Washington Post that several other bills were tabled as well, all based on a procedural consideration. The bills will come again next year.
NUMBERS NUMBNESS: The House is scheduled to vote today on the $1 trillion agreement to avoid sequestration cuts that were set to take place today. That agreement includes dollars for AIDS-related research and treatment that went both up and down last night, when Congress released the details of its Fiscal Year 2014 budget agreement. The 1,500-page document restored almost $2 billion in AIDS-related cuts that were set to take place under sequestration, had Congress not approved the budget agreement last month. But the tallies are short, compared to FY 13, says Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of The AIDS Insitute. Research funds are down $714 million compared to FY 13, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are down $24 million, and housing is down $2 million. AIDS drug assistance is up $14 million but, says Schmid, is “far short of President Obama’s budget request of $943 million, which was supported by the US Senate.”
CHRISTIE’S BULLY PRANKS: As various news investigations uncover information suggesting that New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie may have used the power of his office to punish people who failed to support him, one gay-related incident has arise. The New York Times reported Sunday that Christie dinged Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop after Fulop declined to endorse Christie’s re-election last year. Suddenly, a string of Republican state officials canceled their scheduled meetings with Fulop and then failed to respond when he called for help with Hurricane Sandy relief. Fulop, a Democrat, told the Times he felt he could not endorse Christie because his city has a large population of gays and lesbians and the governor was opposing same-sex marriage.
NIGERIA CRACKS DOWN SWIFTLY: An activist in Nigeria reported to Associated Press Tuesday that Nigerian officials have arrested 38 men for violating the country’s newly enacted anti-gay law and have the names of 168 more. Aken’Ova, head of Nigeria’s International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, said the men were identified by four gay men detained by police in December before the law went into effect. She said the four were tortured until they identified other members of a gay organization.