Speed Read: A lot can happen in a week…


BIGGEST NEWS OF THE WEEK: A 5 to 4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Affordable Care Act may not require a closely held for-profit company to provide health insurance coverage for contraception if the owner of that company says it violates his or her religious beliefs. LGBT legal activists expressed deep concern that the ruling in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell would make it easier for other companies and entities to seek religious exemptions from various other laws. Lorri Jean, chief executive officer of the nation’s largest LGBT health and community center, called it an “alarming victory for fundamentalist religious forces” and “a dangerous precedent that in addition to harming women, puts the rights and freedoms of LGBT people at risk.” Full story.

GOOD NEWS LOST IN THE BIG NEWS: On the same day the Supreme Court handed down its troubling ruling on religious exemptions, it declined to hear a conservative group’s appeal challenging California’s law prohibiting conversion therapy (aka reparative therapy) for LGBT people under 18. The appeal, brought by Liberty Counsel, involved two cases –Pickup v Brown and Welch v. Brown.

PENNSYLVANIA CLERK SEEKS SUPREME HELP: A county clerk in Pennsylvania asked the U.S. Supreme Court Friday (July 4) to stay a lower court ruling saying she had no standing to defend the state’s marriage ban. Assisted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, Theresa Santai-Gaffney, clerk for Schuylkill County, petitioned Justice Sam Alito, who handles such matters for the Third Circuit, to stay the federal district court’s ruling that the state ban is unconstitutional until she can appeal it further. A Third Circuit panel on July 3 denied Gaffney’s request for a stay, affirmed the lower court’s order denying intervention, and dismissed her appeal.

NINTH CIRCUIT SCHEDULES THREE: The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals announced Thursday that it has scheduled oral argument in the marriage ban cases for Hawaii, Idaho, and Nevada for September 8 in San Francisco.

PARTY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President and Mrs. Obama hosted their annual Pride celebration at the White House Monday. Oddly, the President announced week-old news –that he had asked his staff to draft an executive order—and the White House press machine sent it out as news a second time. He also announced he was having staff prepare an executive order to protect federal employees based on gender identity. They did not offer any hint as to when the president will sign such an executive order and, chances are, the hold up is related to what the order will provide in the way of a religious exemption to federal contractors who discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

ABOUT THAT EXECUTIVE ORDER: It’s been three weeks since the White House announced that President Obama had directed his staff to draft an executive order to prohibit contractors doing business with the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. It shouldn’t take long to add “sexual orientation” to the existing policy governing federal contractors. That existing policy, Executive Order 11246, prohibits discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

ABOUT THAT EXEMPTION: While LGBT activists have made clear they don’t want any religious exemption in President Obama’s executive orders for federal contractors, the existing policy governing contractors already has such an exemption, albeit a narrow one. Section 204 of Executive Order 11246 exempts “a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society, with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities.” But the Washington Post reported a group of religious leaders sent a letter to the president July 1 asking for a “robust religious exemption,” exemption comparable to one in the Senate version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Among those signing the letter were Saddleback minister Rick Warren and Larry Snyder of Catholic Charities USA.

HOUSTON BALLOT BATTLE LOOKS LIKELY: Opponents of Houston’s new equal rights law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity needed just over 17,000 to put the measure on the ballot this November. On Thursday (July 3), they handed in what they claimed to be 50,000, according to the Houston Chronicle. City election officials have 30 days to verify the signatures, but Mayor Annise Parker and supporters of the law have vowed to vigorously campaign to defend the measure: The Equal Rights Houston Committee.

RELIEF FOR ONE INDIANA COUPLE: The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday granted Lambda Legal’s emergency motion that a lesbian couple in which one spouse has a terminal illness be exempted from the stay on a federal court ruling striking Indiana’s marriage ban for same-sex couples. The appeals court also expedited the appeal of the district court’s ruling in the underlying case, Baskin v. Bogan.

SECOND BLOW TO KENTUCKY BAN: U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn on Tuesday (July 1) declared Kentucky’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples unconstitutional. Heyburn, in March, ruled Kentucky’s refusal to recognize licenses obtained by same-sex couples in other states to be unconstitutional. Heyburn stayed his order pending appeal of the case, Love v. Beshear, to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

COLORADO CLASH CONTINUES: A Boulder County judge will hold a hearing Wednesday (July 9) on the state attorney general’s lawsuit against the Boulder County registrar. Registrar Hillary Hall has continued to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even though Republican AG John Suthers ordered her to stop. She also refused to cooperate with a request that she and the AG take their conflict to the state supreme court. Hall began issuing licenses after the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals declared Utah’s marriage ban on same-sex couples is unconstitutional. Colorado is covered by the 10th Circuit, but the appeals court stayed its opinion on Utah immediately. AG Suthers also filed a motion with a federal court July 2, asking that all Colorado lawsuits on same-sex marriage be suspended until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the matter.

POLIS FAMILY WELCOMES BABY: U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and his partner announced the arrival of their second child: a baby girl, Cora, reports the Boulder Camera. She joins brother C.J., who is two.

SAN FRANCISCO FAREWELL: An adviser to San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk died at home in San Francisco Monday, reported the New York Times. A native of Chicago, Frank Robinson, 87, was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, author of several novels, and a one-time ghostwriter for Playboy magazine’s Playboy Advisor column.

WELL SAID: “No amount of claiming the church’s love for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community will disguise the reality of the company one has to keep in order to further the cause of opposing same-sex unions.” –National Catholic Reporter staff editorial July 1, criticizing San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for participating in the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage rally in Washington, D.C. “….The fact is that people of other than traditional sexual orientation no longer engage in self-sequester or quarantine. That age has passed, and it has little to do with willful disregard for church teaching and far more to do with a growing understanding of the complexity and diversity of humankind.”

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