Speed Read: Idaho up, Kansas down

The Idaho Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a magistrate judge violated the constitutional rights of a lesbian when the judge dismissed the woman’s petition to adopt the children of her female spouse because the couple’s marriage was not recognized by Idaho. The Kansas House is expected to give final approval today on a bill that would give a broad right to people to refuse services to same-sex couples by claiming a religious belief against them.

IDAHO HIGH COURT RE ADOPTION: In a unanimous decision, the Idaho Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a magistrate judge violated the constitutional rights of lesbian Darcy Drake Simpson when the judge dismissed Simpson’s petition to adopt the children of her female spouse because the couple’s marriage was not recognized by Idaho. The state supreme court ruled that the magistrate denied Drake Simpson’s right to due process and erred in applying Idaho’s statutes governing adoption. “The Legislature has imposed no restrictions that would disqualify [Drake Simpson] from seeking to adopt [Rene Simpson’s] children,” stated the decision, “and the Court will not imply any such restrictions based upon Idaho’s marital statutes.” The couple, who live in Boise with their two children, have been together for 18 years and were married in California last year.

KANSAS VOTE TODAY: The Kansas House is expected to give final approval today to a bill that would allow any “individual or religious entity” to withhold “any services” and “accommodations,” including “counseling, adoption, foster care” and “employment” that is “related to” any same-sex “relationship.” All a person would have to do is claim to hold a “sincerely held religious belief” against that relationship. The House gave preliminary approval to the bill yesterday on a 72 to 42 vote.

NFL UNDER PRESSURE: University of Missouri football play Michael Sam said he came out as gay to his football team during a team-building exercise last August. Nobody spilled the beans until Sam himself decided to come out publicly before the National Football League draft. His decision to come out at such a critical moment in his career has drawn an enormous amount of attention from the media, which is prepped to scrutinize whether the NFL passes over a player who is widely acknowledged as a likely early-round pick. National Basketball Association player Jason Collins, who has not had his contract picked up since he came out last year, posted a Twitter message expressing his pride in Sam’s decision to come out, as did First Lady Michelle Obama.

FIRST OPENLY GAY EAGLE SCOUT:  A high school senior from Maryland has become what many believe is the first scout to earn the Eagle Scout designation under the Boy Scouts of America’s new policy of allowing openly gay members. Pascal Tessier, 17, of Chevy Chase was awarded the designation Monday from Maryland Troop 52. At the ceremony Monday, his troop leader made note of Tessier’s efforts, and that of his brother, in lobbying to change the long-standing BSA policy of barring gays from the organization. “To be a leader,” said Scoutmaster Dan Beckham, according to a Washington Post account, “there are going to be situations where you are going to have to stand up for what you believe is right.”

‘NOT GOING TO MAKE ANY FUSS’: Canadian lesbian speed skater Anastasia Bucsis told the Toronto Star yesterday that she has found the Sochi games “incredibly hospitable,” despite Russia’s anti-gay laws. “I’ve never once felt unsafe here,” she told the Star. Although Bucsis has reportedly spoken against Russia’s anti-gay laws back home in Canada, she told Radio Free Europe she was “not going to make any fuss” about them at the Games. “I’m here to compete as a speed skater and represent my country the best way I know how.” Bucsis finished 28 out of 34 skaters in the 500 meter long-track event Tuesday but was upbeat, saying “I did the best I could.” She credited openly gay former Canadian Olympian and gold medalist Mark Tewksbury as one of most important mentors.

GAY GUESTS AT STATE DINNER: Among the guests at the White House’s State Dinner last night for French President Francois Hollande were DOMA plaintiff Edith Windsor, her attorney Roberta Kaplan, National Basketball Association player Jason Collins, and Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andy Tobias.

Speed Read: Putin hugs lesbian medalist

Openly gay Dutch speed skater Ireen Wust won a gold medal in the 3,000 meter women’s speedskate Sunday, and Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated her at a nearby bar. The Nevada attorney general filed a motion Monday to withdraw the state’s brief defending its ban on same-sex marriage.

LESBIAN WINS GOLD, HUGS PUTIN: Openly gay Dutch speed skater Ireen Wust won a gold medal in the 3,000 meter women’s speedskate Sunday, and Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated her at a nearby bar. Wust told a Dutch broadcaster, “He congratulated me and asked if everything was OK in Russia…. He was happy to see me, but then he had to leave again. But I cuddled him.” Reaction was mixed. ABC News commentators pondered whether Putin’s gesture indicates he’s more liberal than originally thought. Queer Nation New York issued a press release to say, “By embracing Vladimir Putin, a man who has trampled on the human rights of LGBT Russians, political dissidents, artists, undocumented immigrants, and others in Russia, Wust has endorsed his fascist agenda.” ABC News said Wust identifies as bisexual and is currently dating a man, but the Daily Mail newspaper of the U.K. quoted her as saying nobody would be asking about her relationship at the Olympics “if I would’ve had a relationship with a guy….”

NEVADA WITHDRAWS: The Nevada attorney general filed a motion Monday to withdraw the state’s brief defending its ban on same-sex marriage. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s motion to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said the court’s January 21 decision in SmithKline v. Abbott “vitiated” both of the state’s arguments –that it needed only a rational reason to justify the law and that a 1972 case at the Supreme Court served as precedent by dismissing a challenge to a state ban on same-sex marriage. She also acknowledged, “There is little doubt that there is a broad, emerging judicial consensus since Windsor, not only in the Ninth Circuit but by other courts as well.” Republican Governor Brian Sandoval said he supports the move. The state did not withdraw as a defendant in Sevcik v. Sandoval but suggested the court could render a decision based on other briefs filed. The Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, which has been named intervenor in the case, will now carry the defense.

INDIANA SENATE PANEL STAYS THE COURSE: An Indiana senate committee voted 8 to 4 Monday to approve the same version of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage that was approved by the House last month. The bill goes to the full senate on Thursday where an effort is expected to approve a different version of the bill –one that was approved by both chambers last session. That version also bans civil unions and domestic partnerships.

CERTIFYING PARENTHOOD: Three married lesbian couples who are expecting to give birth to children and a gay male couple seeking to adopt filed a lawsuit in federal court in Cincinnati Monday. They are seeking a court order to force the state to put the names of both parents on the birth certificates of their children-to-be. Long-time civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein said the lawsuit, Henry et al v. Wymyslo, builds on a ruling last December in which a federal judge found the Ohio’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples was unconstitutional. The judge in that case ordered the state to put the name of a deceased plaintiff’s spouse on the man’s death certificate. “If they were in marriages with opposite-sex husbands,” said Gerhardstein, “they would apply for their birth certificates while in the hospital, and the Cincinnati registrar would place the names of both parents on the child’s birth certificate.”

Speed Read: Surprises in Sochi

It wasn’t a Dutch band but Sochi Olympics organizers themselves that included the iconic gay anthem “YMCA” on an approved playlist and pumped it into the speed skate arena Saturday. Holder’s announcement on same-sex couples gets mixed reviews. And an Indiana senate committee takes up the marriage ban bill today.

OLYMPIC VISIBILITY: LGBT visibility at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, included a few surprises in its first four days. For instance, it was Olympic organizers at the speed skating stadium who chose to play the iconic gay anthem “YMCA” over the public address system during Saturday’s competition. And it was openly gay athlete Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria who told reporters, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to make protests here, no one cares.” NBC aired its interview with President Obama in which he acknowledged putting three openly gay athletes on the presidential delegation to the Olympic ceremonies “to make it very clear that we do not abide by discrimination in anything, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.” Chevrolet ran a commercial promoting its SUV “for whatever shape your family takes,” including what appeared to be a two-dad family and a two-mom family. See full story.

HOLDER’S NEW POLICY? U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a Human Rights Campaign audience in New York Saturday that he would announce a new policy today. The Department of Justice, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, “will – for the first time in history – formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law.” But there have been some mixed assessments of how big this news really is. Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, says it’s “quite significant.” “It instructs all government attorneys to respect all marriages of same-sex couples, regardless of the laws of their state of residence to argue for recognition of their marriages for all purposes,” says Davidson. But Gary Buseck, legal director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, says the “substance” of the announcement was less impressive. Many of the benefits touted as part of the new policy were already a “done deal” “and the other items are good but certainly not far-reaching.” Read full story.

INDIANA SENATE COULD VOTE TODAY: An Indiana senate committee will hold a hearing today on a bill seeking to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The Indiana House passed the bill on January 28, but it was different from the bill passed by both chambers in the previous legislative session.  The bill passed this year does not include a sentence saying that the state will also not recognize any other form of same-sex relationship, such as civil unions or domestic partnerships. If the senate sticks with the House’s current version, then the legislature will have to approve the measure one more time, in the next legislative session, before it can go to voters. The full senate will likely take up the bill next week.

TAX SEASON CONSIDERATIONS: Lambda Legal says “there are still complications” for married same-sex couples preparing to file federal tax forms this year, as a result of the landmark ruling last June by the U.S. Supreme Court, striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. This is especially true for couples who live in states that do not recognize their marriages, says Lambda. And the group’s website is carrying an article to answer some of the more basic questions that might arise for couples as they file their federal taxes this year.

 

 

 

 

Olympic visibilty: Some big surprises happening off-screen in Sochi

LGBT visibility during the first few days of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, included some high profile political “messages,” two gay inclusive television commercials, and several surprise choices by both Russian games organizers and openly gay athletes.

It was Olympic organizers at the speed skating stadium who chose to play the iconic gay anthem “YMCA” over the public address system during Saturday’s competition. And it was openly lesbian athlete Daniela Iraschko-Stolz who reportedly told reporters, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to make protests here, no one cares.”

LGBT visibility during the first few days of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, included some high profile political “messages,” two gay inclusive television commercials, and several surprise choices by both Russian games organizers and openly gay athletes.

It was Olympic organizers at the speed skating stadium who chose to play the iconic gay anthem “YMCA” over the public address system during Saturday’s competition. And it was openly lesbian athlete Daniela Iraschko-Stolz who reportedly told reporters, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to make protests here, no one cares.”

Most Americans are getting their Olympic coverage via NBC’s nightly broadcasts of selected, edited events, as well as some live coverage during the day. Although broadcast of some of the first events began on Thursday, February 6, the most-watched programming started with the opening ceremony Friday night.

NBC led its opening ceremony coverage with an interview taped by anchor Bob Costas via satellite with President Obama on Thursday. In that interview, Costas asked the president why he, the vice president, and First Lady did not attend. President Obama said they all had busy schedules and “a lot going on,” and pointed out that he hasn’t attended any other Olympics since taking office in 2009.

Costas pointed out that the president chose three openly gay athletes to be part of the 10-member U.S. presidential delegation to the opening and closing ceremonies, saying that seemed to be sending a message. President Obama acknowledged he was.

“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,” said President Obama. (The full interview is available at NBC’s Olympics website.)

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach seemed to chide President Obama with his own remarks at the opening ceremony. Although he said the Olympics are about “embracing human diversity in great unity,” he called on “political leaders of the world” to “have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct, and political dialogue and not on the backs of these athletes.”

However, many people were attempting to find politics on the backs of the athletes, literally. When the German team entered the stadium wearing multi-colored uniforms, NBC co-anchor Meredith Vieira immediately characterized them as “rainbow-colored” but then quickly added that, when the uniforms were unveiled last October, the German team officials made a point of saying they were not a statement in regards to Russia’s anti-gay laws.

“So, if you’re thinking that this was a statement about that,” said Vieira, in an unusually strident tone, “it is not.”

Vieira said nothing as members of the Greek team, the first to enter the stadium, paraded in wearing white gloves with rainbow colored fingers.

Although some activists had predicted gay athletes and their supporters might wear “P6” or rainbow pins during the Olympics, there were very few clear signs of anything gay on the televised Olympics. Openly gay snowboarder Cheryl Maas of The Netherlands took a fall on one of her runs and, after she stood the obligatory few minutes in front of a “Sochi 2014” wall to await her score, she walked away holding her gloved right hand in front of the camera. Because Maas is gay and the glove had what appeared to be a unicorn and a rainbow-colored target on it, some interpreted that as a moment of LGBT visibility.

Another openly gay athlete (there are only seven among the 2,800-plus athletes competing in Sochi), Austrian ski jumper Daniela Iraschko-Stolz reportedly told reporters, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to make protests here, no one cares.

“I know Russia will go and make the right steps in the future,” said Iraschko-Stolz about the country’s anti-gay laws, according to an Associated Press report, “and we should give them time. I am here as a sportswoman. I always say I’m together with my woman now and don’t have any problems, not in Russia or with the Austrian federation. ”

One of the more prominent televised moments of visibility came in the form of two commercial advertisements for Chevrolet. One showed a large number of different family configurations, including what appeared to be a two-dad family and a two-mom family. The ad says that, “While what it means to be a family hasn’t changed, what a family looks like has.” Then it offered Chevy Traverse, “for whatever shape your family takes.” The company also aired a second commercial showing happy life moments, including a gay male couple at a wedding ceremony.

Three sponsors of the IOC also issued statements of opposition to Russia’s anti-gay laws –AT&T, DeVry University, and the Chobani yogurt maker.

Some media have suggested Russian President Putin might have been delivering a “message” at Friday’s opening ceremony in his choice of former Olympic skater and current Member of Parliament Irina Rodnina to help light the Olympic torch. While at first glance, Rodnina’s credentials seemed to make her an obvious choice for the task, news media soon picked up on her notoriety. As the UK newspaper, The Guardian, reported last September, Rodnina last fall posted a photo on Twitter that showed President Obama and the First Lady together and, because the president had a big bite of food in his mouth, his face was oddly contorted. Rodnina photoshopped a banana onto the photo’s foreground, making it appear the president and First Lady were mesmerized by the prospects of a banana.

In reaction to that photo, U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul last September published a message on Twitter, calling Rodnina’ post “outrageous.” The Guardian story at the time noted that “Racism is rife in Russia, and black football players often face racial abuse involving bananas.”

“It is difficult to see the image as anything but racist,” said a Chicago Tribune article Sunday.

Dmitriy Chernyshenko, head of the Russian Olympic committee, said his “panel” chose Rodnina and did so solely because of her Olympic legacy.

And it was also difficult to figure out what Putin and Russian organizers were trying to say Friday night, if, in fact, Putin was controlling all the messaging at the opening ceremony. A singing group widely identified as a “pseudo-lesbian” band –called T.a.T.u. (which reportedly means ‘this girl loves that girl’, according to the Daily Beast)—performed a song called “Not Gonna Get Us” –reportedly about two school girls in love—as the Russian team marched to their seats at the opening ceremony. The two female singers walked onstage hand in hand.

And it probably startled many in the speed skating arena when the iconic gay anthem “YMCA” started coming through the public address system Saturday. According to Associated Press, the stadium crowd was “dancing and hopping to the disco hit,” which was among 4,600 songs approved by the Sochi organizers for use during the Games.

Meanwhile, off-camera, and covered by some media, was the detention and arrest by police of more than a dozen people in St. Petersburg, 1,200 miles away from Sochi, on Friday for holding up rainbow flags and a banner that said “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement.”

Holder announcement scrutinized

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a Human Rights Campaign audience in New York Saturday that, beginning Monday, he “will – for the first time in history – formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law.” But there have been some mixed assessments of how big this news really is.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a Human Rights Campaign audience in New York Saturday that, beginning Monday, he “will – for the first time in history – formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law.” But there have been some mixed assessments of how big this news really is.

Holder said his new policy is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last June in U.S. v. Windsor. Many of the federal government’s agencies have issued new regulations in response to that ruling, striking down the key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Holder said the new policy would have “important, real-world implications for same-sex married couples that interact with the criminal justice system.” Specifically, he noted same-sex spouses would now have the same rights as spouses in heterosexual marriages not to testify against their spouse in a civil or criminal trial. Same-sex couples will be able to file bankruptcy jointly. Federal prisoners with same-sex spouses will be eligible for visits from their spouses, escorted trips to attend their spouse’s funeral. And public safety officers with same-sex spouses will receive the same benefits as their heterosexually married peers.

The mainstream media reportedly the news widely. HRC President Chad Griffin called it a “landmark announcement” that “will change the lives of countless committed gay and lesbian couples for the better” and has “more profound” effects in the long-term.

Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, says the announcement is “quite significant.”

“It instructs all government attorneys to respect all marriages of same-sex couples, regardless of the laws of their state of residence to argue for recognition of their marriages for all purposes,” says Davidson.

But Gary Buseck, legal director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, says the “substance” of the announcement was less impressive. Many of the benefits touted as part of the new policy were already in place “and the other items are good but certainly not far-reaching.”

While there is important “symbolism” in the announcement, said Buseck, “bankruptcy was a done deal several years ago; and the other items are good but certainly not far-reaching.”

In June 2011, the largest federal bankruptcy court in the United States ruled in re Balas that DOMA violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution. In a strongly worded decision, the 20 judges participating in the decision ruled unanimously “there is no valid governmental basis for DOMA.” By then, Holder had already advised the courts that the DOJ would not defend DOMA, and House Speaker John Boehner decided not to appeal the decision.

“It seems like Holder is spinning it as his agency – DOJ – coming on board with respect for our married couples and adopting a place of celebration rule,” said Buseck. “I didn’t immediately see it as a big deal that DOJ was somehow officially coming on board with the general trend post-Windsor.  But perhaps I am not giving them enough credit.”

In his other remarks Saturday night, Holder told the Human Rights Campaign fundraiser audience in New York City, that he thinks the struggle for LGBT civil rights has reached “a new frontier in the fight for civil rights.”

“This is no time to rest on our laurels,” said Holder. “This is no time to back down, to give up, or to give in to the unjust and unequal status quo.  Neither tradition nor fear of change can absolve us of the obligation we share to combat discrimination in all its forms.  And, despite everything that’s been achieved, each of us has much more work to do.”

 

Speed Read: Blunt messages

President Obama delivers powerful messages on discrimination. UN Secretary-General speaks out about Russia’s anti-gay laws. Williams Institute study finds 29 percent LGBT people need food stamps.

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.

Speed Read: U.N. dings Vatican

A United Nations report openly criticizes the Vatican for contributing to the stigmatizing of gays and their children. Clay Aiken tosses his hat into the ring. Obama tries another nominee for Florida.

UN REPORT DINGS VATICAN: A United Nations report released yesterday criticizes the Vatican strongly for its inadequate response to the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal, and also for its pronouncements against LGBT people. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child stateds “While also noting as positive the progressive statement delivered in July 2013 by Pope Francis, the Committee is concerned about the Holy See’s past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples….The Committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalization of homosexuality.”

CLAY AIKEN RUNS FOR CONGRESS: He became famous for his performance on the popular television talent show “American Idol,” but openly gay singer Clay Aiken showed considerable finesse in his first campaign video, announcing that he is a candidate for a U.S. House seat in North Carolina. Aiken, 35, is one of three Democrats seeking to unseat Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers who represents the heavily Republican Second District. The Democratic primary is in May. Aiken is the second openly gay candidate to announce a run for Congress. Marcus Brandon is running in the 12th Congressional District.

KING HAS TO WITHDRAW: Tennis legend Billie Jean King announced Wednesday that she must withdraw from the presidential delegation to the Winter Olympics this week. “With my mother in failing health, I will not be able to join the U.S. Presidential Delegation at this week’s opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics,” said King. “It is important for me to be with my mother and my brother at this difficult time.” The White House announced that hockey player Caitlin Cahow, the lesbian hockey player named originally to the closing ceremony delegation, has agreed to participate in the opening ceremony.

OBAMA TRIES AGAIN IN MIAMI: President Obama Wednesday nominated another openly gay African American man, Darrin Gayles, to serve on the U.S. District Court bench for the Southern District of Florida, Miami. The president’s previous nominee for the Miami seat was another openly gay African American man, Judge William Thomas. Thomas was blocked by Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who said he had objections to how Thomas handled two cases. But some critics of Rubio said they believe he objected to supporting an African American gay man to the seat. A graduate of Howard University and George Washington University Law School, Gayles, 45, was first appointed to the state court position by then Republican Governor Charlie Crist. He earned the support of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund when he ran for re-election in 2012.

A MARRIAGE OF ONE’S OWN: The case is Virginia Wolf v. Scott Walker, and it’s the latest of at least 36 lawsuits around the country that are now pending against statewide bans on same-sex couples obtaining marriage licenses. The Wolf challenge was filed by the ACLU of Wisconsin on behalf of four same-sex couples –three of whom seek to marry in their home state, one of whom seeks to have their marriage license from Minnesota recognized. In addition to the ACLU lawsuit, Lambda Legal is awaiting a decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court on whether the state’s domestic partnership law violates the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex couples marrying.

LGBT viewers guide to the Winter Olympics: What to watch for

Tensions are high as the 2014 Winter Olympics prepares to get underway today with figure skating and skiing events and then with the globally televised opening ceremony Friday. While there is a tremendous amount of anxiety over the possibility of a terrorist attack against the Games in Sochi, Russia, there is also considerable uncertainty around who might protest the country’s new anti-gay laws and how and when they might do so.

ice_skatesTensions are high as the 2014 Winter Olympics prepares to get underway today with figure skating and skiing events and then with the globally televised opening ceremony Friday. While there is a tremendous amount of anxiety over the possibility of a terrorist attack against the Games in Sochi, Russia, there is also considerable uncertainty around who might protest the country’s new anti-gay laws and how and when they might do so. Beyond the expectation that some might wear rainbow pins or hats that include “P6,” a reference to the Olympic charter’s non-discrimination policy, there are hints of bands playing “YMCA” and one skater promising to “rip” into Russian President Vladimir Putin after she’s finished her competition.

There is even more uncertainty about what the Russian government will do to anyone who does protest or violate its laws by expressing some positive message about being gay.

In a conference call with reporters last week, the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, said athletes would “enjoy freedom of speech” at a press conference but they could be punished if they do so during competition or on a medal podium. But a few days later, the chief executive of the Olympic Games in Russia, Dmitry Chernyshenko, seemed to contradict that statement.

“I don’t think [athletes] are allowed by the [Olympic] Charter to express those views that are not related to the sport at the press conference room,” said Chernyshenko. “What I would call the Sochi ‘speakers’ corner’ has been organized in Sochi city so that everybody can express themselves.”

The so-called “speakers’ corner” is a cordoned off protest area six or seven miles from the site of the Olympics.

Outsports.com, a site devoted to news about LGBT athletes in both professional and amateur sports, says it’s found only seven openly gay athletes coming to the Sochi Olympics. All are women, none are American, and they represent an “an improbably low number” among the 2,500 athletes coming to the games.

The seven include three speedskaters (Canadian Anatasia Bucsis and Dutch Ireen Wust and Sanne van Kerkhof), two snowboarders (Dutch Cheryl Maas and Australian Belle Brockhoff), one Austrian ski jumper (Daniela Iraschko-Stolz), and one Slovenian cross country skier (Barbara Jezeršek).

“Either GLBT athletes are uniquely bad at winter sports,” wrote the Outsports, “or dozens — perhaps a hundred or more— must be competing in Sochi while in the closet.”

For U.S. television audiences interested in watching the Olympics for signs of LGBT demonstrations or visibility, there are two options: watch a condensed broadcast of the events each evening on NBC, which is covering the events; or watch live webstreams at NBCOlympics.com, keeping in mind that Sochi is nine hours ahead of U.S. east coast time.

The following is a list of specific events at which the potential for LGBT visibility is higher than most:

Thursday, Feb. 6: Dutch lesbian Cheryl Maas will be competing in the “Ladies Slopestyle” snowboarding event today. She has a profile video, Through My Eyes, that talks about her wife and child. She has spoken in the Dutch press about her unhappiness with the IOC choosing Russia for the Olympics given its hostile laws. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Queer Nation says it will mark the start of the Olympics in Sochi by staging a “raucous” protest outside the Russian consulate in New York at noon, as part of its continuous campaign to draw attention to Russia’s anti-gay laws.

Friday, Feb. 7: Two openly gay people are part of the United States’ five-member delegation to the opening ceremony, and there seems little doubt that cameras will focus on them from time to time. They are Olympic figure skating medalist Brian Boitano and hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow. Tennis legend Billie Jean King was slated to be part of the opening ceremony delegation but yesterday announced that her mother was very ill and that she needed to stay with her. The White House announced Cahow would step in for King. There are several things to watch for during the opening ceremony: Do individual athletes wear anything or do anything in the procession of athletes to identify themselves as gay or as supporting equal treatment for gay people? Will Russian President Vladimir Putin voice anything about the highly publicized controversy during his remarks to the opening ceremony? And to what degree will NBC, which is covering the Games globally, report on the controversy?

Saturday, Feb. 8: Speed skating starts today (6:30 a.m.) and three openly lesbian competitors are on the oval track. One of them, Canadian long-track competitor Anatasia Bucsis, who told outsports.com, “I could never promote that message of concealing who you are with all of this going on in Russia. I’m kind of happy that I did it on my own terms.” The other two openly lesbian speedskaters are both from the Netherlands, Ireen Wust (short track) and Sanne van Kerkhof (3000 relay). Their presence on the track may be a particularly interesting time to watch. The Washington Post reported that a Dutch brass band Kleintje Pils (“Small Beer”) “always performs at Olympic speed skating ovals” and signaled it might play the iconic gay anthem “YMCA” this year. “We will see if we can get one or two songs into the selection, knowing that in the Netherlands it will be seen as a signal we are thinking of [gays],” said Ruud Bakker, the band’s leader.

Wednesday, Feb. 12: Participating in the first ever Olympic competition for women’s ski jumping will be Austrian lesbian Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, who picked up the hyphenated name after marrying her partner last year. She told sportsfan.com that she doesn’t plan any protests during the Olympics.

Sunday, Feb. 16: The Women’s Cross Snowboarding is today and Australian Belle Brockhoff, the only openly gay person on Australia’s Olympic team, told home country papers she plans to wear a “P6” logo and make her unhappiness about the anti-gay laws in Russia known. “The Australian Olympic Committee has been really supportive and they want me to be safe. They don’t recommend me waving a [rainbow] flag around which I won’t do,” said Brockhoff, in an interview published January 23 in the Courier-Mail. “The most I’ll do is hold up six fingers to represent Principle Six. Possibly I’ll do it on camera here or there, and maybe after the heats of my event.” After her event, Brockhoff said she plans to speak freely about her thoughts. “After I compete, I’m willing to rip on his ass,” she said. “I’m not happy and there’s a bunch of other Olympians who are not happy either.” Brockhoff toned down her remarks in later interviews, saying that her parents had expressed concern for her safety. She told the BBC she would wave a rainbow flag at Putin or do “anything crazy.” “The most I’ll do is put up six fingers when there is a camera on me, for Principle 6,” she said. “It is a way athletes and non-athletes can voice their opinions about discrimination without exactly protesting.” Also on the 16th, the Australian Men’s Bobsled team will carry “Principle 6” logo down the track on their two-man bobsled.  Team captain Heath Spence has spoken out against discrimination of gay and lesbian athletes. He’ll be competing in both two-man and four-man sleds.

Sunday, Feb. 23: Closing Ceremony: The five-member delegation representing the United States at the Closing Ceremony was supposed to include openly lesbian Olympic silver medalist hockey player Caitlin Cahow. However, it was not clear at deadline whether she would still be part of the closing delegation, given that she had to step in for Billie Jean King as part of the opening delegation. The closing ceremony is where one might expect any athlete who might want to make a show of protest is most likely to act so as not to jeopardize their competition and medals.

Speed Read: 40 arrested in Idaho

Police in Boise arrested more than 40 protesters for trespassing Monday as they stood silently for more than three hours, blocking three entrances to the Idaho senate chamber. Scotland becomes the 18th country to approve marriage equality. Virginia lawsuit heard in Norfolk.

FORTY ARRESTED IN IDAHO: Police in Boise arrested more than 40 protesters for trespassing Monday as they stood silently for more than three hours, blocking three entrances to the Idaho senate chamber. In a video posted by the Idaho Statesman newspaper, openly gay former state Senator Nicole LeFavour, who organized the civil disobedience, said the protesters would not leave until legislators began work on a proposed bill to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Republican leaders have refused to hold a hearing on the bill.

SCOTLAND MAKES NUMBER 18: The Scottish Parliament voted 105 to 18 Tuesday to allow same-sex couples to marry, making Scotland the 18th nation in the world to provide marriage equality. Tom French, head of the Scottish Equality Network, told the Daily Record newspaper, “This is a profoundly emotional moment for many people who grew up in a country where being gay was still a criminal offence until 1980. Scotland can be proud that we now have one of the most progressive equal marriage bills in the world, and that we’ve sent out a strong message about the kind of country we are.” According to the Scotsman newspaper, same-sex couples can begin marrying some time later this year. The national Freedom to Marry group in the United States noted that Scotland follows England and Wales, which passed marriage equality legislation last July, “leaving northern Ireland as the only region in the United Kingdom where same-sex couples cannot yet marry.” The Netherlands was the first country to pass marriage equality legislation, in April 2001.

STAY GRANTED ON EX-THERAPY: The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued an order Monday granting a stay of its decision upholding a California law that bars the use of reparative therapy of persons younger than 18. The court granted the stay of its decision in Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown, pending the appeal by Liberty Counsel to the U.S. Supreme Court. Liberty Counsel has been challenging the law as a violation of the First Amendment rights of ex-gay therapists.

VIRGINIA CASE HEARD: U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen listened “studiously,” took a lot of notes, but “did not ask a lot of questions” during Tuesday’s two-hour hearing on a lawsuit challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex couples obtaining marriage licenses. Ted Olson, one of the lead attorneys arguing against the ban, said Allen indicated she will render her decision “soon.” David Boies, who leads the team with Olson, said the decision, whatever it is, will almost certainly be appealed to the conservative Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. A decision striking down bans at the Fourth Circuit level would cover bans in four other southern states as well: Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. See full story.

DE BLASIO SNUBS ST. PAT’S PARADE: New York City’s new progressive mayor, Bill De Blasio, announced Tuesday that he will not march in this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade because its organizers continue to bar openly LGBT contingents from participating. The New York Times pointed out that this marks the first time in 20 years that a New York City mayor has decided not to participate in the annual event but that he would allow contingents from the city’s fire and police forces to participate. That snub fell short for many LGBT groups and people. They signed onto a letter to the mayor saying that allowing the city’s fire and police details to march “sends a clear signal to LGBTQ New Yorkers that these personnel…do not respect the lives or safety of LGBT people.”

Olson: Judge in Virginia marriage ban case says she’ll rule ‘soon’

A federal judge in Norfolk, Virginia, told attorneys in a lawsuit challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex couples marrying that she will render her decision “soon.”

According to David Boies, one of the lead attorneys arguing against the ban, U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen listened “studiously,” took a lot of notes but “did not ask a lot of questions,” during Tuesday’s two-hour hearing.

Ted Olson
Ted Olson

A federal judge in Norfolk, Virginia, told attorneys in a lawsuit challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex couples marrying that she will render her decision “soon.”

According to David Boies, one of the lead attorneys arguing against the ban, U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen listened “studiously,” took a lot of notes but “did not ask a lot of questions,” during Tuesday’s two-hour hearing.

Ted Olson, who is working with Boies and a team of lawyers sponsored by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, said the judge “didn’t hear a whole lot new” in the way of arguments, compared to the case Boies and Olson mounted against California’s Proposition 8.

He noted that arguments made in support of the law included “variations on the same theme,” including the need to preserve “traditional marriage” and the male-female composition of marriage “since the beginning of time.” But Olson said those “very same arguments are ones people have been making in civil rights cases since the beginning of our country.”

“And as the [Virginia] solicitor general said, many of those same arguments were made in the past in an attempt to maintain Virginia’s law to prohibit persons of different races” from marrying, in the famous Loving v. Virginia case of 1967.

Tuesday’s case, Bostic v. Virginia, is one of two separate lawsuits filed in federal courts in Virginia challenging the state’s ban. The Bostic case was brought by two same-sex couples –Tim Bostic and Tony London who have been together for 24 years, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley who have been together 30 years and are raising a daughter.

“Carol and Emily and I own a home in suburbs, go to games, we shop at Target, we’re no different than anybody else,” said Townley, in a telephone press conference with reporters after the arguments. “Yet we are treated differently by Virginia laws.” Shaw noted that there were moments in Tuesday’s proceedings when she found herself near tears, hearing attorneys challenging the ban and “hearing these learned men understand what we are going through.”

Tony London told reporters he and Bostic simply “want to get married in the state we love.”

Virginia Attorney General Herring attended Tuesday’s hearing in Norfolk, where many protesters showed up with signs and chants criticizing his announcement that the ban is unconstitutional and that the state would argue against it. He called Tuesday’s hearing a “very significant step in the journey towards full equality under the law for all Virginians.”

Olson said, “the judge said she would study the matter…and render a decision ‘soon.’” He said he expects that, no matter which side wins, the case will be appealed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and that his team would ask for an expedited appeal.

Boies noted the significance of an appeal to the Fourth Circuit, one of the most conservative in the nation and one that covers the southern states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and West Virginia.

The decision from the Fourth Circuit, he said, “would have the potential to change the opportunities of gay and lesbian citizens in a large number of southern states to actually enjoy equality.”

Interestingly, Associated Press began its pre-court coverage with a prominent notice of that possibility, saying the case “could give gay marriage its first foothold in the old Confederacy.”

Attorney General Herring, who also participated in the press call with plaintiffs and their attorneys, did not reflect that far back in history, but emphasized that, too many times in the past, Virginia has treated some citizens as second class. He was referring to cases in which Virginia opposed school desegregation, interracial marriages, and women attending Virginia Military Institute.

“The injustice of Virginia’s position in those cases will not be repeated this time,” said Herring.

Although the judge allotted three hours for arguments, only two were used, noted Olson, because two friend-of-the-court attorneys supporting the ban opted not to use their time. The judge had made a request before oral argument that attorneys not use their allotted time if it would duplicate arguments already made.

Casey Mattox, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom group that represented a county clerk who has intervenor status to defend the law, said in an email that his group’s arguments were “consistent with the strongly supported fact that the welfare of children is in enhanced when they are raised by their mom and dad.”

“This is backed by the common experience of Virginians and the most reliable social science,” said Mattox.

The Daily Press newspaper reported that Mattox colleague Austin Nimocks argued in court that “every society that ever lived” sees marriage as being one man and one woman.

Nimocks said Virginia’s ban “is not constitutional because it’s ancient, but it’s ancient because it’s rational.”

The Daily Press also reported that Virginia Solicitor General Stuart Raphael did depart from plaintiffs’ attorneys on at least one point. He urged the judge to issue an immediate stay of a ruling in favor of plaintiffs, if she rules Virginia’s ban is unconstitutional.

“We think the Supreme Court is going to agree” that the ban is unconstitutional, said Raphael, but he said issuing a stay until the Supreme Court can rule would help avoid a “huge mess,” like that experienced by same-sex couples in Utah.

Asked whether last June’s Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Windsor, striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), gave attorneys challenging Virginia’s marriage ban any new arguments, compared to those they made during the Proposition 8 trial in California in 2010, Boies said the Windsor decision was “very strong support for us.” He also cited as helpful last month’s decision from the Ninth Circuit, in SmithKline v. Abbott, that said the courts should give laws disadvantaging people based on sexual orientation heightened scrutiny.

The second federal challenge in Virginia, Harris v. Virginia, is scheduled to have a status hearing on February 12.

Speed Read: Endorsing extremists?

The Texas Equity political action committee of the statewide LGBT political group Equality Texas raised some eyebrows last month when, for the first time ever, it endorsed for a state House seat a Republican that some characterize as a Tea Party extremist. New Social Security rules still disadvantage couples in some states. A transgender activist is running against a gay incumbent for a Maryland senate seat.

EQUALITY TEXAS RAISES EYEBROWS: The Texas Equity political action committee of the statewide LGBT political group Equality Texas raised some eyebrows last month when, for the first time ever, it endorsed for a state House seat a Republican that some characterize as a Tea Party extremist. Texas State Rep. Sarah Davis voted against LGBT resource centers and against required reporting of harassment of LGBT students. But, noted an Austin Chronicle report Friday, she also met with Log Cabin Republicans and said “I do not oppose…civil unions.” Chuck Smith, executive director of the Texas Equity PAC, said Davis authored legislation to ensure LGBT people had the right to hospital visitation and to make medical decisions and helped defeat legislation that tried to remove LGBT centers from state college campuses. And Davis’ opponent in the Republican primary, said Smith, would be “infinitely worse on issues affecting the LGBT community than Rep. Davis.”

SOCIAL SECURITY RESPONDS: The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced in December it would begin immediately processing applications for survivor benefits for same-sex spouses. Now it has released new instructions for same-sex couples who might be applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a monthly payment to help persons who are disabled or over the age of 65 who have low incomes. Cathy Sakimura, family law director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, says the new instructions help those couples living in states that recognize their marriages. “But the rules still prevent people living in other states from receiving any benefits until more instructions are released.” For more information.

RESTORING HONOR: U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced a bill last month seeking to require the Secretary of Defense to review the discharge of any former service member who was forced out solely because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and upgrade the characterization of the discharge to “honorable.” S. 1956 is a companion to House Bill 2839 introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) last July.

RESTORING DISCRIMINATION: Republican Governor Mike Pence said Friday he hopes the state senate will restore a sentence cut out by the House last week in a bill to ban recognition of same-sex marriages. The cut sentence called for also banning recognition of other forms of same-sex relationships, such as civil unions. By cutting the sentence, the House version would require the legislature vote on the new form of the overall bill again next year. If the senate adds the sentence back, the House will be called on to approving that version and, thus, put the issue on this November’s ballot.

VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL RUN: Openly gay Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin announced last week that he is a candidate to fill the U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Moran. Ebbin is entering a crowded and somewhat hefty field. Other announced contenders thus far include a former lieutenant governor and ambassador, a big city mayor, and the chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party. The Democratic primary is June 10.

MARYLAND TRANS v GAY CANDIDATE: Transgender activist Dana Beyer announced last week that she is a candidate for a state senate seat currently held by the Maryland legislature’s first openly gay member, Rich Madaleno. Madaleno has represented Montgomery County for seven years. Beyer, a former aide to the Montgomery County Council, said she thinks she can do better on economic issues. “The fact that both of us are LBGT probably neutralizes the issue completely,” Beyer told the Washington Post. “I think it says a lot about how far America has come.”

 

Speed Read: Mixed messages

Counselor to the President John Podesta said Friday that an executive order barring sexual orientation discrimination is “under consideration,” but press secretary Jay Carner said it was “the wrong approach” and that the president sees ENDA as “the right way to go here.” Hawaii judge upholds new marriage equality law. Hearing Tuesday in Virginia on that state’s ban.

MIXED MESSAGES: John Podesta, the former chief of staff to President Clinton who joined the Obama White House just a few weeks ago as Counselor to the President, says an executive order prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination by federal contractors is “under consideration at the White House –we’re looking at that.” He made his comment in a January 31 interview on Bloomberg News’ Political Capital. When host Al Hunt asked him, “What’s the argument against doing it?” Podesta said, “There is no real argument against non-discrimination in the workplace. I think the question is …we’ve been putting forth the effort to get a comprehensive ENDA through the Congress. We’ll see whether that’s possible.” But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a daily meeting with reporters Friday that he didn’t have any updates on “a hypothetical executive order for LGBT non-discrimination” but he said it’s “the wrong approach” and that the president thinks ENDA is “the right way to go here.” LGBT leaders have been pressing President Obama for the executive order since he first took office in January 2009.

HAWAII JUDGE RULES LAW OK: A state circuit court judge in Oahu ruled January 29 that the state’s newly enacted marriage equality law is constitutional. One of the legislators who opposed the law last year, Rep. Bob McDermott, filed a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. Big Island News says McDermott intends to appeal. The attorney general’s office reports that more than 670 same-sex couples have married since the law went into effect December 2 and another 230 licenses are pending.

NORFOLK HEARING TUESDAY: U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen has rescheduled the summary judgment hearing in Bostic v. Virginia for Tuesday, February 4, at 10 a.m. The original hearing had to be postponed after an unusually heavy snowfall forced closure of many public facilities, including the federal courthouse. Bostic is a case brought by the American Foundation for Equal Rights legal team and private attorneys challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.

HARRISONBURG CASE GETS CLASS: The other lawsuit challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage in federal court was designated a class action suit Friday. Harris v. Virginia, brought by the ACLU and Lambda Legal, will now proceed to represent the interests of an estimated 15,000 same-sex couples (based on Census data) who cannot marry in Virginia or whose valid marriages elsewhere are not recognized under Virginia law.

STARVING THE SOUTH: A report released Saturday shows that only a tiny percentage of monies contributed to LGBT efforts goes to southern states. “Out in the South,” published by Funders for LGBTQ Issues,” an organization that seeks to promote philanthropic giving to LGBT organizations, estimates that foundations gave $101 million to U.S. LGBT groups in 2012 –$55 million to national groups, $46 million to local and regional groups. And only $4.8 million went to organizations in the 14 southern states. By comparison, organizations in New York City alone received $10 million and those in San Francisco received $4 million.

Speed Read: Supreme Court appeal

The Maine supreme court ruled a public school can’t bar a trans girl from the girls’ bathroom. Liberty Counsel says it will head to the U.S. Supreme Court to fight ban on ex-gay therapy. Two of eight openly LGBT members of Congress are Blue Dogs.

BIG T VICTORY IN MAINE: The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled yesterday that a student with a gender dysphoria diagnosis who was widely accepted by school staff and students as a girl could not be barred from using the girls’ bathroom at her public school. Jennifer Levi of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), which brought the lawsuit on behalf of the girl and her parents, called the decision in Doe v. Clenchy a “huge breakthrough” for transgender young people. GLAD also noted that the decision marks “the first time a state court has ruled that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathrooms that match who they are.” Full story.

EX-GAY CASE WILL GO TO SUPREME COURT: Liberty Counsel, the conservative legal group representing therapists who oppose California’s law barring use of reparative therapy on people younger than 18, said yesterday it will appeal the Ninth Circuit decision upholding that law. In two consolidated cases –Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown, Liberty Counsel has sought to argue that the law violates the First Amendment speech rights of therapists who wish to administer sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). The full Ninth Circuit announced Wednesday that it would not review a three-judge panel decision that upheld the law. Liberty Counsel, which has two similar challenges pending in New Jersey, noted that similar bans have been proposed in Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Virginia, and Washington. Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver said his group would continue to file lawsuits in other states to oppose such bans.

BLUE DOGS INCLUDE TWO LGBTs: Openly bisexual U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and openly gay U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine are part of the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of conservative Democrats. A recent Washington Post article noted that the caucus’ membership has dwindled to 15 from a high of 50 a few years ago.

CATHOLIC SCHOOL FIRES MEAL PLANNER: Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination Thursday, saying a Catholic girls preparatory school violated the state’s human rights law when it withdrew a non-religious job offer from an applicant because he listed as his emergency contact a man as his spouse. The Fontbonne Academy in Milton hired Matt Barrett in July but after he filled out the routine paperwork, listing his spouse Ed Suplee, as his emergency contact, school officials said they couldn’t employ him because he was gay. GLAD attorney Bennett Klein said Fontbonne fired Barrett from a job that has nothing to do with religion.

HHS ‘ETC.’ REGS DISAPPOINT: Six national LGBT groups expressed their deep disappointment this week at a decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to publish new regulations that without language explicitly barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The regulations in question were published in the Federal Register January 16 and concern Medicaid’s Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS). The groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, asked that the non-discrimination policy explicitly include protections for LGBT people. But HHS said, in the Register, that “There are already general provisions in other regulations that … prohibit discrimination in State Medicaid programs on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, etc….” The groups issued a joint statement saying, “Failure to include explicit protections undermines efforts prevent anti-LGBT discrimination in home- and community-based care.”

THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF DAVOS: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey will deliver her annual State of the Movement address at Creating Change in Houston today. Carey has been at the Task Force for 10 years and executive director since 2008. Last night, Houston’s openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker welcomed the conference and Orange is the New Black star Laverne Cox focused her keynote on transgender issues. Best quip of last night’s opening plenary came from comedian Kate Clinton: “In case you were wondering: Creating Change is the exact opposite of Davos.”

 

GLAD scores major victory in Maine supreme court for transgender students

In an historic first, a state supreme court ruled yesterday that a male-to-female transgender student who was accepted by school staff and students as a girl could not be barred from using the girls’ bathroom at school.

In an historic first, a state supreme court ruled yesterday that a male-to-female transgender student who was accepted by school staff and students as a girl could not be barred from using the girls’ bathroom at school.

Jennifer Levi of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), which brought the lawsuit on behalf of the girl and her parents, called the decision in Doe v. Clenchy a “huge breakthrough” for transgender young people. GLAD also noted that the decision marks “the first time a state court has ruled that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathrooms that match who they are.”

“This ruling is an important breakthrough for transgender students,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Schools have a desire and responsibility to make schools safe and welcoming for all students. And this ruling helps schools meet that mission. In fact, this is consistent with what educators and human rights commissions around the country have concluded. Trans girls are girls, trans boys are boys and schools that understand that will better serve all their students.”

GLAD took the appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on behalf of Nicole Maines (identified in court papers as Susan Doe) and her parents after losing in a state superior court. Their girl attended public schools whose staff and students seemed to be handling her transition well. Controversy erupted, however, after one boy –prompted by his guardian– followed Susan into the girls’ bathroom, claiming that he, too, should be allowed to use the girls room. The incident garnered considerable media attention and prompted school officials to require Susan to use a unisex staff bathroom.

The Maines filed suit, saying forcing Susan to use a separate bathroom violated the state human rights law against sexual orientation discrimination.

Saying it had to enforce the law “without regard to the public’s potential discomfort with the result,” the 6 to 1 majority said that segregation or separation is a form of discrimination. Noting that another state law requires school bathrooms be segregated by sex, the court said that policies concerning the use of those bathrooms must nonetheless comply with the state non-discrimination law.             Given that the school staff and Susan’s parents agreed that Susan is a girl, wrote the majority, the school violated the human rights ordinance when it “treated [her] differently from other students solely because of her status as a transgender girl.”

The majority decision, written by Justice Warren Silver (appointed by former Democratic Governor John Baldacci), emphasized that Susan had obtained a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and that the school staff and her friends all accepted her as a girl.

“Thus, we do not suggest that any person could demand access to any school facility or program based solely on a self-declaration of gender identity or confusion without the plans developed in cooperation with the school and the accepted and respected diagnosis that are present in this case,” wrote the majority.”

What bathrooms transgender people use has often been trotted out as a major concern by opponents of equal rights for transgender people.

“This is a hugely important decision because it makes clear that the scare tactics raised around bathroom access issues are just that – scare tactics,” said GLAD’s Levi. “They have no foundation in reality or practice. As the majority explained, transgender non-discrimination laws do not require ‘casual access to any bathroom of [a person’s] choice.  Decisions about how to address student’s legitimate gender identity issues are not to be taken lightly.’”

“Eventually, the obvious trend in law and policy to protect trans youth will make that an untenable strategy for fundraising or getting attention or whatever their goal is,” said Keisling. “But for now, unfortunately, this case, while decisive, probably won’t end their thoughtless attacks in our kids.”

Speed Read: Ex-gay therapy ban upheld

The full Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday denied a request to review a three-judge panel decision that upheld a law that prohibits the use of ex-gay therapy on young people. A Kansas House committee is considering a bill that would enable “individuals” and others to discriminate against same-sex couples based on religious beliefs. New gay representative in Texas.

EX-THERAPY BAN UPHELD: The full Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday denied a request to review a three-judge panel decision that upheld a law that prohibits the use of ex-gay therapy on young people. The denial came in Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown, two cases challenging California’s new law barring the use of sexual orientation change efforts (aka reparative therapy) on persons younger than 18. Last August, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit said the law does not violate the right to freedom of expression, “is neither vague nor overbroad, and does not violate parents’ fundamental rights.” Many expect Liberty Counsel, which has been leading the challenge against the law, to appeal now to the U.S. Supreme Court.

KANSAS SEEKS A LOOPHOLE: A Kansas House committee held a hearing Tuesday and Wednesday on a bill that seeks to allow any “individual or religious entity” to withhold “any services, accommodations” including “counseling, adoption, foster care” and “employment” that is “related to” any same-sex “relationship” by claiming to hold a “sincerely held religious belief” contrary to that relationship. Rep. Charles Macheers told the Topeka Capital-Journal that HB 2453 is intended to “protect religious freedom for people and institutions on both sides of the marriage debate.” But Thomas Witt of the Kansas Equality Coalition said it’s an effort to circumvent what many believe is a likely ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down state bans on same-sex marriage. The House committee could vote as early as Friday on the measure. A group of senators and representatives in Idaho’s legislature introduced a similar bill yesterday, but that bill’s language does not mention same-sex couples.

NEW GAY TEXAS REP: Openly gay Democrat Celia Israel, treasurer of Stonewall Democrats of Austin, won election to the state House Tuesday. According to the Travis County Clerk’s records, Israel won with 59 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Mike Van De Walle’s 41 percent. The election makes Israel the second openly LGBT person in the Texas House, along with Rep. Mary Gonzalez of Clint.

TENNESSEE RECALL: A group of people unhappy with efforts of gay Chattanooga Councilman Chris Anderson to pass a bill giving gay city employees equal benefits for their domestic partners are seeking to circulate petitions to force a recall vote against him. Others reportedly believe he doesn’t represent his district’s African American citizens. Anderson was elected in March of last year. The Times Free Press says the local elections commission will discuss the petition February 13. It says the domestic partnership issue will be on the city ballot later this year.

WEST VA. SUIT ADVANCES: A federal district court judge in West Virginia yesterday denied a state motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Lambda Legal against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. But Chief Judge Robert Chambers (a Clinton appointee) also granted a state’s motion to dismiss that part of McGee v. Cole that challenged the state’s refusal to recognize marriage licenses granted to same-sex couples in other states.

VIRGINIA HEARING DELAYED: Due to an unusually heavy snowfall, U. S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen has postponed today’s scheduled oral arguments in one of two cases challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. Famed Proposition 8 attorney Ted Olson was due to make today’s key argument that the ban is unconstitutional, sharing time with the Virginia solicitor general who will also be arguing against the state’s ban. The judge’s office indicated the hearing would be rescheduled for sometime in February.

Speed Read: 4,000 converge on Houston

An estimated 4,000 people will be attending the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual Creating Change Conference starting today in Houston. Indiana House advances bill to ban same-sex marriage. Republican former senator endorses Democratic incumbent over Republican challenger in Virginia.

PRESIDENTIAL DISAPPOINTMENT: President Obama spoke of a nation working on issues such as marriage equality, and he praised the nation’s reputation in the world, respected because “we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation.” But he did not, in his nationally televised 80-minute State of the Union address last night, express explicit support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) or promise an executive order to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation. That absence prompted many expressions of disappointment from LGBT leaders, but the White House said the address is never a comprehensive list of priorities and that the president has expressed his support of ENDA publicly and did so in a supplemental fact sheet issued in conjunction with last night’s address. Full story.
BAN BILL PASSES INDIANA HOUSE: The Indiana House on Tuesday approved a proposal to change the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The vote on House Joint Resolution 3 was 57-40, and the bill now goes to the state senate. Marriage equality supporters potentially delayed seeing the ban on marriage for same-sex couples on the Indiana ballot until 2016, when the House on Monday removed language that had been approved in 2011. But during debate Tuesday, Rep. Shelli VanDenBurgh (D-Crown Point) said she thinks the amendment to remove the language that would have also banned civil unions and domestic partnerships was just a tactic to give some Republicans political cover. She predicted the state senate would re-insert the language taken out of the House bill and the full original bill would be ultimately passed by both chambers. That would put the measure before voters this year. Full story.
CREATING CHANGE KICKS OFF: An estimated 4,000 people will be attending the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual Creating Change Conference starting today in Houston. Day One includes several day-long “institutes,” including one devoted to issues in K-12 education, organized by GLSEN. Later in the week, NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey will deliver her annual “State of the Movement” address. And one of the highlights will be a keynote by Laverne Cox, the first trans woman of color to have a leading role in a mainstream scripted television series, Orange is the New Black.
GILLESPIE BID IN VIRGINIA: The marriage equality issue is almost certain to come up in the U.S. Senate race in Virginia this year. Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie announced this month his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. Gillespie is opposed to marriage licenses for same-sex couples but in August 2010, when another former RNC Chair, Ken Mehlman, came out, Gillespie told The Atlantic he hoped Mehlman’s coming out would help the party become “more respectful and civil in our discourse.” Warner told a town hall meeting in Williamsburg Friday that he supports the right of gay couples to marry, adding “It’s not an issue I was in the lead on.” Perhaps more concerning for Gillespie this week, however, was the sting Monday of former Republican U.S. Senator John Warner announcing his endorsement of incumbent Democrat Mark Warner.
POLIS INVITES OBAMA ON POT TOUR: Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) recently invited President Obama to Colorado to see how the state’s new law, legalizing the sale, possession, and use of marijuana for personal, recreational purposes, works. The January 23 letter, which Polis also sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, says Colorado’s new voter-approved law gives the state “an opportunity to reduce crime and to help keep marijuana out of the hands of children.”

State of the Union: LGBT leaders disappointed in what was missing

In his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke of a nation working on issues such as marriage equality and earning the respect of other nations “because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation.”

But while LGBT leaders expressed appreciation for those references, most voiced considerable disappointment over what he did not say.

President Obama
President Obama

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama spoke of a nation working on issues such as marriage equality and earning the respect of other nations “because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation.”

But while LGBT leaders expressed appreciation for those references, most voiced considerable disappointment over what he did not say.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said the president was “right to urge Congress to fix our broken immigration system this year, create more jobs, equal pay for women, and the restoration of the Voting Rights Act.” And she praised his announcement to sign an executive order to increase the minimum wage federal contractors must offer their employees. But, she added,            “The irony is that some LGBT federal contract workers will get a pay raise but they could still be fired for who they are and who they love.”

“The longer the President waits, the more damage LGBT people will face,” said Carey. “Discrimination is a painful reality that is too often the lived experience of LGBT people.  The President has to act when Congress won’t.”

Tico Almeida, founder and leader of the Freedom to Work group, also expressed frustration.

“President Obama should have challenged the House Republicans to allow a vote” on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), said Almeida. “it’s disappointing that he has still not included LGBT workplace protections among the issues he will handle through executive order as part of his ‘year of action,’” said Almeida. “Both ENDA and the LGBT executive order would have fit perfectly into the themes of this address.”

Lorri Jean, executive director of the nation’s largest LGBT community center and health facility, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, praised Obama for saying “many important things about equality, or the lack thereof.” But she, too, noted he said “nothing about the fact that no federal law protects LGBT people from employment discrimination, let alone equally harmful forms of discrimination.”

The White House did issue to reporters a long supplemental statement in conjunction with the State of the Union address, and that statement did note that, “Today, federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and disability.”

“It’s time to add sexual orientation and gender identity to that list, so that no American worker can lose his or her job simply because of who they are or who they love,” said the statement. “The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would provide strong federal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers.  Last year, a bipartisan majority of the Senate passed ENDA, and the President renews his call for the House to do the same.”

But Jean said, “I’d be happier with [the supplemental statement] if it came last week or even next week” rather than in conjunction with the State of the Union address.

“It’s almost as if he didn’t dare to say it when the whole country was watching, but they put it out to quell any criticism from our community,” said Jean. “It just seems odd.”

Asked to respond, the White House said, “The State of the Union isn’t a comprehensive list of all of the President’s positions or priorities.  The President has long supported ENDA, and its inclusion in our fact sheet reflects the President’s belief that Congress needs to act.  It’s time to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories protected by federal law against employment discrimination.  No American worker should lose his or her job simply because of who they are or who they love.  Last year, a bipartisan majority of the Senate passed ENDA, and the President renews his call for the House to do the same.”

Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, was unimpressed with the president’s speech, calling it “more of the same.” He, too, dinged the president’s speech for what it lacked.

“While the President’s calls for a more equal nation are welcome,” said Angelo, “there is a profound irony in the absence of any mention of [ENDA].”

LGBT activists have been, since the beginning of President Obama’s first term, pressuring the White House to issue an executive order barring sexual orientation discrimination by federal contractors. Others have urged him to speak out more forcefully for ENDA.

Coincidentally, the Movement Advancement Project, in releasing its biennial assessment of the LGBT civil rights movement Tuesday, noted that the “top 50 federal government contractors (81%) include sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies.”

Even the Human Rights Campaign, one of the LGBT community’s strongest supporters of President Obama, could not hide its disappointment.

“The President’s message tonight failed to address the needs of LGBT workers looking for a fair shake in this economy,” said HRC President Chad Griffin in a statement issued after the address. “Not only was there no call for the House to pass a federal law to protect LGBT workers nationwide, President Obama also sidestepped his commitment to take action where Congress has left off, leaving out an order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors.  Unfortunately, President Obama missed a real opportunity to use the State of the Union to improve the lives of LGBT people by taking immediate executive action to address anti-LGBT discrimination for the millions of Americans employed by federal contractors.”

As in past years, President Obama included an openly gay person among the special guests joining the First Lady in the House gallery during the State of the Union address. Tuesday night it was Jason Collins, the National Basketball Association player who, last year, became the first male player in a major American team sport to come out as gay.

Movement status: ‘Unprecedented progress’ and ‘second-class’

An independent think tank that studies the progress of the movement on equal rights for LGBT people released its latest report Tuesday, and the assessment is a surprising “mixed.”

An independent think tank that studies the progress of the movement on equal rights for LGBT people released its latest report Tuesday, and the assessment is a surprising “mixed.”

The Movement Advancement Project’s “Momentum Report” acknowledges “unprecedented progress” towards marriage equality in the past two years but notes that, while 17 states allow same-sex couples to marry, 33 don’t. And progress on other issues of importance to the LGBT movement, such as bullying and employment discrimination, ‘have slowed significantly.”

“In fact, over half of U.S. states lack even the basic laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations,” notes MAP, a Denver-based group whose work is funded by 13 foundations and LGBT supporters, including the Gill Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the David Geffen Foundation, and James Hormel.

“The fact is, most states have passed few or no laws protecting LGBT people,” states the report. “In the spirit of Charles Dickens’ famous line, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’ the remarkable progress of recent years in some states has obscured the fact that in a majority of states, LGBT people still are treated under the law as second-class citizens.”

The report divides the states into three categories: “High Equality” states (20 plus D.C.), “Medium Equality” states (2-Wisconsin and Indiana), and “Low Equality” states. The “High Equality” states include California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York. The “Low Equality” states include Arizona, Florida, Michigan, and Texas.

The report said momentum favors continued progress in marriage equality, in large part because public opinion polls show a growing percentage of Americans accept the fairness of allowing same-sex couples to marry. But it noted that, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the availability of benefits involving certain federal agencies –Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, to name three big ones—remains “unclear.”

The report also noted “real progress” in fighting discrimination through local government ordinances and major employer policies. It noted that 188 local governments in states with no sexual orientation discrimination protection now prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, as does 91 percent of Fortune 500 corporations.

Among the more interesting facts included in the report this year are:

  • every state but one has an openly LGBT elected official;
  • there are more than one million LGBT veterans; 71,000 are serving in the military currently;
  • there are about 140,000 transgender veterans;
  • only 21 states and D.C. have “unambiguous laws” allowing same-sex couples to adopt children;
  • 20 percent of hate crimes reported by law enforcement agencies to the FBI in 2012 involved sexual orientation bias;
  • three times as many people between the ages of 18 and 29 self-identify as LGBT compared to people 65 and older; and
  • “the number of regular and recurring LGBT characters on broadcast network television reached its highest point in five years during the 2012-13 season.”

 

Indiana House clears marriage ban; headed for senate

The Indiana House on Tuesday approved a proposal to change the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The vote on House Joint Resolution 3 was 57-40.

The bill now goes to the state senate.

The Indiana House on Tuesday approved a proposal to change the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The vote on House Joint Resolution 3 was 57-40.

The bill now goes to the state senate.

            Marriage equality supporters scored an important victory Monday, potentially thwarting the effort to put the ban on marriage for same-sex couples on the Indiana ballot this November. But during debate on the bill Tuesday, Rep. Shelli VanDenBurgh (D-Crown Point) said she thinks the amendment to remove language that would have also banned civil unions and domestic partnerships was just a tactic to give some Republicans political cover. She predicted the state senate would re-insert the language taken out of the House bill and the full original bill would be ultimately passed.

The Republican-dominated House voted 52 to 43 to remove language from the proposed ban that would have prevented same-sex couples from obtaining any form of recognition for their relationships, including civil unions and domestic partnerships. Some opponents said it could even have prevented employers from offering equal benefits to employees with same-sex partners.

During Tuesday’s debate, Rep. Woody Burton (R-Whiteland), who described himself as a “person of faith,” said gay couples can live together but “where does it stop?”

“These people want to live a lifestyle, that’s their right,” said Burton, “but when they force some type of an object on us, then people have a right” to vote.

VanDenBurgh (D-Crown Point) responded to that later by noting that the proposed ban was singling out one group of people. “Where does that stop?” she asked.

Rep. Linda Lawson (D-Hammond) recounted the discrimination she experienced when she sought to become the first woman on her local police force. She said she was forced to wear a man’s police uniform because her supervisor told her that her trying to be on the police force was “trying to be a man.”

“Discrimination is an ugly, mean thing,” said Lawson.

If the senate passes the version of the bill approved by the House, then the proposal will have to be approved by the next legislative session before going to voters.

The state’s constitution requires that, before a proposed constitutional change can be put before voters, it must pass two consecutive sessions of the legislature.

If the senate restores the original language, the House would have to agree to that original version in order to put the measure on the ballot this year.

Speed Read: Indiana dodges a ballot?

The Republican-dominated Indiana House cut out a significant portion of the proposed bill to ban same-sex marriage, potentially thwarting chances for the ban to be on the ballot this November. A report on the movement says that, beyond marriage, the LGBT movement has “slowed significantly.” And openly gay guest in the gallery for President Obama’s State of the Union address.

INDIANA DODGES A BALLOT? The battle isn’t over yet, but marriage equality supporters scored an important victory Monday, thwarting an effort to put a ban on marriage for same-sex couples on the Indiana ballot this November. The Republican-dominated House voted 52 to 43 to remove language from the proposed ban that would have prevented same-sex couples from obtaining any form of recognition for their relationships, including civil unions and domestic partnerships. Some opponents said it could even have prevented employers from offering equal benefits to employees with same-sex partners. The House is expected to hold its final vote on the overall bill (HJR 3) today. The bill then goes to the state senate, which could pass the original House version or accept the amended version.

VIRGINIA GOV SAYS NO: Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe responded Monday to a letter from Republicans asking him to appoint an independent counsel to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in federal court: No.

MOVEMENT REPORT MIXED: An independent think tank that studies the progress of the movement for equal rights for LGBT people releases its latest report today and the assessment is a surprising “mixed.” The Movement Advancement Project’s “Momentum Report” acknowledges “unprecedented progress” towards marriage equality but notes that while 17 states allow same-sex couples to marry, the rest don’t. And progress on other issues of importance to the LGBT movement, such as bullying and employment discrimination, ‘have slowed significantly.”

STATE OF POSSIBILITIES: President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address tonight and much of the early buzz around the speech suggests he will signal his intentions to issue more executive orders in the coming year. LGBT activists have been pressuring the White House to issue an executive order barring sexual orientation discrimination by federal contractors. Others have urged him to speak out more forcefully for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). There has been no indication that President Obama is considering an LGBT executive order.

VISITORS IN THE GALLERY: As in past years, President Obama will include an openly gay person among the special guests joining the First Lady in the House gallery during the State of the Union address. Tonight, it will be Jason Collins, the National Basketball Association player who, last year, became the first male player in a major American team sport to come out as gay.

HOLDER TO HIGHLIGHT HRC FETE: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will deliver the keynote address to a Human Rights Campaign gala in New York February 8. HRC President Chad Griffin called Holder a “courageous” leader who “has seized every opportunity to broaden the circle of freedom to include LGBT people and their families, and he continues to act with unprecedented speed to bring federal recognition to married gay and lesbian couples across the country.”

GAY GOP RUNS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: Openly gay Republican Dan Innis is running for a U.S. House seat from New Hampshire. Innis is a former dean of the University of New Hampshire business school and, with his husband, co-founder of a hotel opening this spring in Portsmouth. He seeks to unseat incumbent Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, but must first win the Republican nomination September 9 from Frank Guinta, who held the U.S. House seat before being defeated by Shea-Porter. Guinta’s voting record on LGBT issues in the 112th Congress rated a zero from the Human Rights Campaign, the lowest possible.