Speed Read: No religious exemption

EXECUTIVE ORDER MONDAY: President Obama will, on Monday, sign an executive order to prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination by federal contractors, and that executive order will not include any new exemptions to allow for discrimination based on religious beliefs. The absence of an LGBT-specific religious exemption is a major victory for LGBT political and legal activists who have, in recent months, begun to pushback against efforts by religious conservatives to carve out new exceptions to existing non-discrimination laws in order to discriminate against LGBT people, especially same-sex couples seeking to marry.

THE PRESSURE WAS ON: Although the White House is just adding the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to an already existing executive order for federal contractors, the document took more than a month. The hold up almost certainly was due to the White House staff’s interest in the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell decision, concerning religious exemptions. The White House was also the focus of a concerted effort by anti-LGBT forces to seek a “robust” exemption and an effort by pro-LGBT forces to oppose any LGBT-specific religious exemption. On July 1, a group of 14 religious leaders urged a “robust religious exemption.” In a July 15 letter, 69 groups –including more than two dozen religious organizations—urged against it. The latter noted that religious entities already have an exemption, provided by an executive order from President George W. Bush. Although the pro-LGBT groups asked President Obama to remove the Bush religious exemption, the new executive order does not.

A CONGRESSIONAL PITCH, TOO: In another July 15 letter, a group of 39 members of the U.S. House urged the president against a religious exemption in his upcoming executive order on federal contractors, saying it would create a “a dangerous precedent for employees around the country.” Queer Nation spokesman Andrew Miller issued a press statement, saying “Opposing the religious exemption in the executive order and supporting it in ENDA is hypocrisy and proves that ENDA is flawed. ENDA has our longtime allies tied in knots; it’s time for them to dump ENDA and support comprehensive civil rights legislation.”

INDIANA, WISCONSIN MAY GET SHORTCUT: The Seventh Circuit is considering a request from Indiana to give the state a full-bench (en banc) hearing on its marriage ban. The court had scheduled an August 13 hearing date to hear consolidated and expedited appeals from both Indiana and Wisconsin, in defense of their bans on same-sex couples marrying. But on Tuesday, July 16, the court canceled the date and ordered briefs concerning the en banc hearing be filed by July 23. It said Wisconsin would have to file its own separate petition if it, too, wishes to skip the three-judge panel phase.

SECOND PRO-MARRIAGE RULING FROM TENTH: As expected, a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the Oklahoma marriage ban on same-sex couples is unconstitutional. The latest ruling came in Bishop v. Smith, by the same three-judge panel and the same 2 to 1 vote as delivered in Utah’s Kitchen v. Herbert case.

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UTAH II STAY CONTINUED: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Friday granted Utah’s request to stay a second pro-marriage equality ruling from a federal district court. The July 18 order concerns Evans v. Herbert in which a district court ruled that Utah must recognize an estimated 1,300 marriage licenses granted to same-sex couples. The couples married during a brief period following a ruling in Kitchen v. Herbert, that the state ban on same-sex couples marrying is unconstitutional. A Tenth Circuit panel upheld the decisions in both cases and refused to grant stays in both.

FLORIDA JUDGE SAYS BAN UNCONSTITUTIONAL:  A state judge in Florida ruled Thursday that the state’s marriage ban for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. In Huntsman v. Heavlin, Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia immediately stayed his ruling until July 22, pending appeal. Garcia is an appointee of Governor Jeb Bush.

COLORADO HIGH COURT STOPS MARRIAGES: The full Colorado Supreme Court on Friday issued an order for county clerks to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Clerks in Boulder, Denver, Pueblo and Adams counties have been issuing licenses since shortly after the Tenth Circuit federal appeals court ruled state bans on same-sex couples marrying to be unconstitutional. The Denver Post reported that the clerks in Boulder and Pueblo counties vowed to continue issuing the licenses. A decision in a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s ban is expected  this week.

NEW HAMPSHIRE CLARIFIES MARRIAGE LAW: New Hampshire’s Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan signed a bill July 10 that adds language to the state’s existing marriage equality law to ensure that New Hampshire recognizes a marriage license obtained in another state and treats as married couples with only a civil union license from another state. The bill also states that gender-specific terms relating to marriage in various state laws and regulations “shall be construed to be gender-neutral for all purposes….”

CDC ESTIMATES ADULTS WHO IDENTIFY AS GAY: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in an annual report Tuesday that only about 2.3 percent of the U.S. adult population identifies itself as either gay, lesbian, or bisexual. The CDC makes its estimates every year; but this year is the first to ask about sexual orientation. The data was based on data collected by the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey in 2013 from 34,557 people 18 and older.

BASEBALL DRAFTS BEAN: Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced Tuesday that MLB has appointed openly gay former baseball pro Billy Bean to provide advice on how to better accommodate gay players in the major and minor leagues. The announcement comes one year after MLB instituted a policy of prohibiting players from harassing or discriminating against other players based on their sexual orientation. Bean came out as gay in 1999, four years after leaving professional baseball because he did not feel he could be openly gay while playing.

FOOTBALL’S KLUWE TO SUE: Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe announced Tuesday he would sue his former team for discrimination based on sexual orientation and religion, as well as defamation and contract issues. Kluwe said he was subjected to verbal abuse by the Vikings special teams coordinator and ultimately released from the team in May 2013. According to USA Today, Kluwe’s attorney said the player decided to sue after the team refused to release to the public its report on an investigation into Kluwe’s charges. On Friday, in response to Kluwe’s allegations, the Vikings announced it would suspend the special teams coordinator for three games and donate $100,000 to LGBT groups.

PROP 8 ATTORNEY BECOMES JUDGE: Therese Stewart, the lesbian attorney for the City of San Francisco who helped argue the case against Proposition 8 in the historic Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial in 2010, has become a California appeals court judge. The California Commission on Judicial Appointments voted unanimously to confirm Stewart on Thursday. Governor Jerry Brown nominated Stewart, 57, last month, along with openly gay appeals court judge Jim Humes to be the court’s presiding judge.

ARCHIE’S HEROIC ENDING: A four-year-old spin-off of the long-running Archie Comics series ended Wednesday in a climactic intersection of gays and guns. The “Life of Archie” series, with adult characters, introduced a gay friend character, Senator Kevin Keller, in 2010 and portrayed his first kiss last year. In the finale, a gun control opponent attempts to assassinate Keller over this gun control efforts. Archie jumps in and takes the bullet for his friend. Archie and his teenaged friends will continue to live on in the original 75-year-old series, according to the Washington Post.

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