Speed Read: Nightmare in Nigeria

NIGERIAN NIGHTMARE: The Human Rights Campaign says LGBT and HIV activists in Nigeria are reporting that police there are illegally tapping the cell phones of people they believe to be gay and sending text messages to others to bait them into revealing that they are gay. The Nigerian president signed an anti-gay bill into law there January 7, calling for prison terms of 10 years for belonging to a gay organization or 14 years for being in a gay relationship. HRC President Chad Griffin called on Secretary of State John Kerry to “use every available tool to demonstrate that any nation which targets its own LGBT citizens and violates their civil rights gravely risks its standing in the international community.” Associated Press reported that, on Thursday, Nigerian authorities whipped a young man 20 times in public court following his pleading guilty to having engaged in sex with a man seven years ago.

NEW DISTRICT COURT APPOINTEE: For the first time, President Obama on Thursday named an African American lesbian to a federal court seat. Obama nominated Staci Michelle Yandle to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. A solo practitioner in southern Illinois and the St. Louis area, Yandle was awarded the Marie Lambert Award of the Women Trial Lawyers Caucus in 2012 for her exemplary leadership. She has served as an adjunct professor at St. Louis University School of Law and as a legal advisor to the NAACP of East St. Louis. She also served four years on the Illinois Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Yandle is President Obama’s ninth openly gay nominee to a federal district court seat; six out of the previous eight have been confirmed. The only nominee not confirmed was William Thomas, the first openly gay African American man to be nominated. Thomas’ nomination was blocked by one of his home state U.S. senators, Marco Rubio.

ANOTHER NOMINEE ADVANCES: The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday advanced the nomination of Judith Levy, a former law clerk for Lambda Legal. President Obama nominated Levy to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Her questionnaire to the committee noted that she is a board member of DOJ Pride, a member of the Human Rights Campaign, and won a scholarship from Parents and Friends of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Students. The LGBT Bar Association urged its members to call their senators to urge their support for Levy’s confirmation. “Earlier this year, one Senator was allowed to obstruct the nomination of another qualified nominee – William Thomas – to a U.S. District Court in Florida,” wrote D’Arcy Kemnitz, the LGBT Bar’s executive director. “This time, it is imperative we let Senators know: We expect LGBT nominees to receive a fair, up-or-down vote based on their qualifications, not their sexual orientation.”

UTAH BENDS ON TAX RETURNS: The Utah State Tax Commission on Wednesday that “Same-sex couples who are eligible to file a joint federal income tax return and who elect to file jointly, may also file a joint 2013 Utah Individual Income Tax return if they were married as of the close of the tax year.” The notice emphasized that its purpose was simply to provide guidance for tax year 2013, pending eventual court resolution of the challenge to Utah’s ban on same-sex couples marrying. “This notice should not be construed as a waiver of any legal defenses or arguments the State may make in the ongoing federal litigation or any pending or future judicial action.

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