Speed Read: Blunt messages

OBAMA ACKNOWLEDGES MESSAGE: In an interview to air on NBC’s Olympic coverage tonight, President Obama says, “There is no doubt we wanted to make it very clear that we do not abide by discrimination in anything, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation….” President Obama made the remark during an interview Thursday via satellite with Bob Costas, in Sochi for the Olympics. A brief excerpt of the interview was made available on the network’s news broadcast last night. The full interview will be part of NBC’s coverage tonight, which begins at 7:30 ET.

OBAMA ON THREATS TO RELIGION: Speaking to the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday in Washington, D.C., President Obama sent another clear message Thursday: that the “freedom of religion is under threat.” But he probably surprised many conservative religious leaders when he expounded: “We sometimes see religion twisted in an attempt to justify hatred and persecution against other people just because of who they are, or how they pray or who they love.” He urged religious leaders to help his administration “advance human rights, including religious freedom.”

UN LEADER SPEAKS OUT, TOO: There were probably some surprised listeners Thursday in Sochi when United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke to the International Olympic Committee. “We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people,” said Ban. “We must oppose the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions they face. I know that Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter enshrines the IOC’s opposition to any form of discrimination. The United Nations stands strongly behind our own ‘Free and Equal’ campaign, and I look forward to working with the IOC, Governments and other partners around the world to build societies of equality and tolerance.”

WILLIAMS REPORT FINDS 29% POOR: It doesn’t fit the stereotype of gay people as having lots of disposable income to spend on fine clothes and fabulous home decorations: A Williams Institute analysis of data from three national studies indicates that 21 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults relied of food stamps (now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program –SNAP) in the past year. Of those who were raising children, 43 percent relied on SNAP. “LGB adults aged 18-44 are 1.3 times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to receive food stamps.”

HOSTILITY ADVANCES IN IDAHO: Security guards had to turn observers away from a crowded room where a House committee passed a bill to enable people to refuse to serve LGBT people by claiming their religious belief requires it. According to an Associated Press report, more than 500 people who opposed the bill showed up for the hearing, just two days after more than 40 people were arrested for civil disobedience in protest of the Idaho legislature’s refusal to even consider a bill prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people. The bill could come to the House floor as early as today.

UTAH ALSO IGNORES RIGHTS BILL: Like the Idaho legislature, the Utah legislature has decided not to act on a bill to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people. But in Utah’s case, a Democratic senator has publicly accused a private attorney hired to defend the state’s ban against same-sex marriages of engaging in a “very serious conflict of interest.” According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, State Senator Jim Dabakis claims Gene Schaerr,  the attorney the state hired to defend the marriage ban in court, is also a hired fellow for a conservative think tank that opposes the non-discrimination bill. Dabakis says Schaerr used his position as attorney defending the marriage ban to persuade Republican leaders to ignore the non-discrimination bill this year.

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