Speed Read: All eyes on Supreme Court

BIGGEST NEWS OF THE WEEK:  The five largest legal activist organizations addressing LGBT issues announced Tuesday they are withdrawing their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). In a joint statement, the groups said they were motivated by “calls for greater permission to discriminate on religious grounds” that came following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. That decision made it “clear,” said the groups’ statement, that the “unprecedented” religious exemption in ENDA is “no longer tenable.” “Because opponents of LGBT equality are already misreading that decision as having broadly endorsed rights to discriminate against others, we cannot accept a bill that sanctions discrimination and declares that discrimination against LGBT people is more acceptable than other kinds of discrimination,” says the statement. The groups signing onto the statement are Lambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Transgender Law Center, and the ACLU. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Pride at Work also issued statements saying they were withdrawing support for ENDA.

NEWS LOST IN THE BIG NEWS: An enormous debate has erupted among activists over how bad or good the June 30 Hobby Lobby decision is and whether abandoning ENDA is a wise choice. The Supreme Court majority said 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. It also said the decision could not be a “shield” for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice and that, “The Government has a compelling interest in providing an equal opportunity to participate in the work-force without regard to race, and prohibitions on racial discrimination are precisely tailored to achieve that critical goal.” Some legal activists say that language will protect LGBT people. Others suggest it unlocks a door that religious conservatives have been pushing against to escape non-discrimination laws.

HRC URGES IMPROVED, EXPANDED BILL: Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin published an essay on HRC’s website Wednesday urging that the ENDA not be abandoned, but that the “overly broad religious exemption” in the bill be fixed and that the legislation be expanded to cover housing, public accommodations, credit, and education. That’s how the original bill started out 40 years ago.

UTAH JUMPS TO SUPREME COURT: The Utah Attorney General’s Office announced Wednesday that it will not ask the full Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to review a panel’s decision finding the state marriage ban for same-sex couples unconstitutional. Instead, it will file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, which will make the Kitchen v. Herbert case the first to reach the high court on the state marriage ban issue. That doesn’t guarantee the Supreme Court will take the Utah case.

BUT UTAH COUPLES MIGHT SOON MARRY: Utah’s other marriage case, Evans v. Utah, is a lawsuit to force the state to recognize the 1,300 same-sex couples that married before the Supreme Court stayed a district court decision in Kitchen v. Herbert, striking down the state’s marriage ban on same-sex couples. The state has lost both and appealed both. But on Friday, a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit denied the state’s motion in Evans to stay a preliminary injunction that requires the state to recognize the marriages. The panel is giving the state until July 21 to seek a stay from the Supreme Court. If Utah doesn’t secure a stay by then, the state must comply with the order to recognize the married couples.

ALITO SAYS NO TO PENNSYLVANIA CHALLENGE: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito on Wednesday denied a request by a county clerk in Pennsylvania to stay a lower court decision striking down the state’s marriage ban for same-sex couples. That secures Pennsylvania’s spot as the 19th state with marriage equality.

COUPLES MARRYING IN DENVER: The clerk of Denver County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Thursday, after a state court judge in Boulder denied the state attorney general’s motion for a restraining order to stop Boulder County’s clerk from issuing licenses to same-sex couples. The clerk of Pueblo County began issuing licenses Friday. Another state judge, ruling in Brinkman v. Long on Wednesday, declared the state ban unconstitutional but stayed his decision pending appeal. Attorney General John Suthers said he would “act swiftly…to prevent a legal patchwork quilt from forming.” He is expected to appeal the Boulder judge’s ruling to the state supreme court.

UGANDA UNDERGROUND OPERATING: A group of Quakers in Oregon has helped establish an underground network that has been helping LGBT people in Uganda leave that country. The effort, called the “Friends New Underground Railroad,” has transported 107 people by July 7, according to its website. It was developed after the country began implementing its Anti-Homosexuality Act.

U.N. EQUALIZES GAY EMPLOYEES: The United Nation’s announced Tuesday that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, acting on his own authority, agreed to have the UN recognize, for the purpose of UN employee benefits, “the marriage of any same-sex couple wed in a country where same-sex marriages are legal.”

DURAN BACKS STRAIGHT CANDIDATE: Openly gay West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran, who lost a primary bid last month to run for Los Angeles County Board, is not shifting his support to the openly gay candidate who made it to the final in November, openly gay Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl. According to the Los Angeles Times, he announced Tuesday he’s supporting Kuehl’s straight opponent, Bobby Shriver.

‘COUNTING THE VOTES’: “So we will see what our options are, and part of saying that is counting the votes. What [votes] do we have on the Republican side in the House if we change the bill and go to another place? And that’s really where it lies, because we have the Democratic votes.  So, can you tell me how many Republican votes we would have if we changed back to the bill we had in 2007, which was minus the [religious] conscience clause?” – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a July 10 press conference, talking about ENDA and escalating objections to its religious exemptions.

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