Speed Read: Lesbian Assembly Speaker

LESBIAN WINS TOP CALIF. ASSEMLY SPOT: San Diego’s Democratic Assemblymember Toni Atkins won election Wednesday as California’s new Speaker of the Assembly. The Los Angeles Times reported that Atkins, who has been serving as majority leaders, won the top spot with a unanimous vote of the Democrats. She takes over from the Assembly’s first openly gay Speaker, John Perez of Los Angeles.

TISEI ANNOUNCING RE-MATCH: Openly gay Republican Richard Tisei will announce today his second attempt to unseat Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. John Tierney of Massachusetts.  Tisei spent six years in the Massachusetts House and 10 years in the state senate before making his first bid for Congress in 2012. He lost that bid by one percentage point.

INDIANA BAN ADVANCES: A Family Research Council representative told an Indiana House committee Wednesday that same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy. According to the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, the remark drew laughter from the audience at the hearing on the state’s proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The committee voted 9 to 3 in favor of the measure Wednesday evening. House Joint Resolution 3, which bans same-sex marriage or any “substantially similar” relationship for same-sex couples, heads to the full House next. If it passes there and the senate, it will go to voters in November.

PERSONAL BECOMES POLITICAL: Two right-wing Republicans in Texas voiced criticism this week of Annise Parker, Houston’s openly lesbian mayor, for marrying her partner of 23 years, Kathy Hubbard. A press release from the mayor’s office announced the January 16 ceremony in Palm Springs, California, adding that Hubbard would not apply for benefits under the new policy Parker initiated –to provide equal benefits to gay city employees. That policy is currently under challenge in court. The news release said Hubbard has “other insurance options available to her.” But a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor and the Harris County GOP official who is suing Parker over the policy said her marriage is part of a scheme to turn Texas into California. In an interview posted by KHOU-TV Tuesday, Parker dismissed the criticisms as politics-as-usual, adding, “They can get over it.”

SECOND-SURGE SUIT IN UTAH: First, there was the private lawsuit (Kitchen v. Herbert) to challenge Utah’s ban on allowing same-sex couples to marry. Now, there’s an ACLU lawsuit to challenge Utah’s refusal to provide state benefits to couples who legally married following a federal district court’s December 20 decision that the ban was unconstitutional. The state has that district court decision on expedited appeal, but John Mejia, legal director of ACLU-Utah says, “Regardless of what ultimately happens in the federal challenge to Utah’s marriage ban, the marriages that already occurred are valid and must be recognized now.” The new lawsuit, Evans v. Utah, filed Tuesday, represents four same-sex couples who obtained marriage licenses in Utah before the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the federal district court decision.

MOB SCENE IN NIGERIA: Various media reported a “mob,” numbering hundreds or thousands, threw stones at seven to 11 men in a courtroom in Bauchi, in northern Nigeria, as the men were being arraigned for having participated in a gay organization. The reports indicated that police had to fight off the mob using tear gas and evacuate the men from the court. One Nigerian news website, Punch, described the scene as “pandemonium” and said the judge ended the proceedings abruptly and rescheduled them for January 27. Associated Press said “thousands” threw stones and called for execution of the men for allegedly violating Nigeria’s newly enacted law, calling for long prison sentences for merely belonging to a gay organization.

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