Speed Read: Michaud leads by 7

Openly gay U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is ahead in the polls for the gubernatorial race in Maine. Same-sex marriage as a civil right is a hot topic at this week’s 50th anniversary summit on the Civil Rights Act. And President Johnson’s daughters defend the right of gay couples to marry.

MICHAUD LEADING MAINE POLL: Openly gay U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is leading the polls in the three-way gubernatorial race in Maine. Public Policy Polling released survey results Tuesday showing 44 percent of 583 Maine voters said they were prepared to vote for Michaud, compared to 37 percent for current Republican incumbent Paul LePage, and 14 percent for independent Elito Cutler. Five percent were not sure. The survey was conducted April 1 and 2.

LEADING THE CIVIL RIGHTS SUMMIT: Same-sex marriage was a leading topic on the opening day of this week’s 50th anniversary event for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, who led the legal team to overturn Proposition 8 in California and are leading the team to overturn Virginia’s ban on same-sex couples marrying, led a forum Tuesday to answer the question: Is same-sex marriage a civil right. On Thursday, openly lesbian tennis legend Billie Jean King will headline a forum entitled “Women: How High is the Glass Ceiling?” The three-day summit is taking place in Austin, Texas.

PRESIDENT JOHNSON’S DAUGHTERS SPEAK: On the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act, his two daughters spoke forcefully and eloquently this week in support of allowing gay couples to marry. Lynda Robb and Luci Johnson said that, while gay issues weren’t on main stage during her father’s presidency, they believe his commitment to civil rights would have included allowing “everybody to live up to the best that God gave them.” Robb, who is married to former U.S. Senator Chuck Robb (D-Va.), said, “I certainly think that, if God made you a homosexual, that you should have love and affection with somebody. And I would not want to deny anybody that opportunity to be happy.”?Luci Johnson said she thinks it is “morally wrong and deeply tragic” to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. “And I don’t see how giving them the blessing of respect in any way hurts me,” said Johnson. “My father felt very strongly that when there was bigotry anywhere, prejudice anywhere, all of us lose out because it’s just one more expression of hate.” Former network anchor Katie Couric conducted the interview for Yahoo News.

LET THEM FILE TAX RETURNS: A Missouri judge on April 4 denied a petition for a temporary restraining order to block Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s directive that same-sex couples living in Missouri who were married in another state be able to file joint state tax returns. Associated Press reported that Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem denied the request in a lawsuit filed by three conservative groups challenging Nixon’s directive as violating the state’s ban on recognition of same-sex couples marrying. The judge will hold a hearing on the challenge May 2.

SIXTH CIRCUIT PONDERS EN BANC: The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals asked attorneys for a lesbian couple in Michigan to respond by April 21 to a petition by Michigan to skip a three-judge panel and make its appeal to the full appeals court. A district court judge ruled for the couple in DeBoer v. Snyder last month, saying the state ban on allowing same-sex couples to marry is unconstitutional.

MARRIAGE DEBATE ‘OVER’: Frank Bruni in New York Times essay April 5: “…the debate is essentially over, in the sense that the trajectory is immutable and the conclusion foregone. Everybody knows it, even the people who still try to stand in the way. The legalization of same-sex marriage from north to south and coast to coast is merely a matter of time, probably not much of it at that.”

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Speed Read: Supreme rejection

The Supreme Court refused to take review of an appeal from a photographer who violated non-discrimination laws by refusing a lesbian couple. Nebraska came close to passing a non-discrimination law that included sexual orientation and gender identity. Houston’s lesbian mayor is catching some heat from her own community.

SUPREME REJECTION: The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to review a decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court that said the state human rights law does not violate the free speech rights of a wedding photographer who refused services to a same-sex couple. By not taking the case, Elane v. Willock, the Supreme Court leaves intact the state court ruling that said businesses that “choose to be public accommodations must comply” with the non-discrimination law. The photographer had claimed that she had religious beliefs that compelled her to refuse accommodations to the lesbian couple, and the case was viewed as one of many disputes heading to the U.S. high court that pitted religious beliefs against non-discrimination laws. But the case was never pitched as a free exercise case and that may be why the Supreme Court didn’t take it, said Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jenny Pizer. Tobias Wolff, an attorney helping represent the lesbian couple, said, “No court in the United States has ever found that a business selling commercial services to the general public has a First Amendment right to turn away customers on a discriminatory basis.”

NEBRASKA COMES CLOSE: Nebraska’s unicameral legislature voted 26 to 22 Monday to move a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity to the floor. Unfortunately, supporters of the measure needed 33 votes to break the filibuster. The legislative session ends this week and local papers give little chance that the bill’s supporters might get the bill to the floor this year. The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln, vowed to continue the push even though the state’s term limits won’t enable her to come back next session.

EEOC ON THE JOB: Chai Feldblum, the openly lesbian member of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), told National Public Radio April 2 that the commission has “about 200 or so pending investigations right now that have been brought to us by LGBT people, and we’re looking into those charges.” Feldblum noted the EEOC used to turn away LGBT complaints because there is no federal law prohibiting such discrimination. But she said the Commission is now looking into the complaints as forms of sex discrimination, which is prohibited by federal law. Whether the EEOC has authority to do so, she noted, will probably be determined at the U.S. Supreme Court.

SPEAKING OF SEX DISCRIMINATION: A U.S. district court judge in Washington, D.C., entered a preliminary ruling April 4 in favor of a man who alleges he was fired from his federal job because he is gay. The order says the man, Library of Congress employee Peter TerVeer, can sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act –the title that, among other things, prohibits sex discrimination. The government’s brief in the case, Terveer v. Billington, is due June 3.

HOUSTON’S PARKER GETS HEAT: Houston’s openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker is being criticized for preparing to propose a human rights ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and public accommodations but not in private employment. In her annual State of the City address April 3, Parker noted that Houston is “the only major city in the nation without civil rights protections for its residents.” She is expected to introduce the bill in May, and LoneStarQ says LGBT leaders expect the bill will not prohibit discrimination in private employers, as a way to ensure the bill passes city council. The head of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus told the Texas LGBT paper the omission amounts to “siding with the right of employers to discriminate.”

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Speed Read: Ohio surprise

A federal judge in Cincinnati surprised a courtroom Friday by saying he would issue a ruling by April 14, declaring Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Michigan, meanwhile, is hoping to leap frog ahead of other appeals to the Sixth Circuit by asking to skip a three-judge panel and go straight to a full court review.

 

OHIO ON THE CUSP: A federal district court judge in Cincinnati surprised many in court Friday when he announced he will issue a ruling within 10 days declaring the Ohio ban on marriages of same-sex couples unconstitutional. Judge Timothy Black (an Obama appointee) heard arguments April 4 in Henry v. Wymyslo. The lawsuit was brought by three lesbian couples expecting to give birth soon and a gay male couple seeking to adopt. The four couples, all married out of state, were seeking a court order to force Ohio to put the names of both parents on the birth certificates of their children. Black, who previously ruled two married same-sex couples had the right to have a surviving spouse’s name listed on a death certificate, told the courtroom he would find the ban unconstitutional. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the state will appeal and likely to seek a stay. Plaintiffs attorney Al Gerhardstein said plaintiffs were surprised to get a preview of the decision in court.

MICHIGAN SEEKS A LEAP ‘FORWARD’: The Michigan attorney general on Friday filed a petition with the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, asking the court to bypass the usual three-judge panel hearing and go straight to a full appeals court review. “Advancing our case to a hearing before the entire [Sixth Circuit] will move us forward more quickly, and minimize delays in ultimately reaching the U.S. Supreme Court,” explained Attorney General Bill Schuette in a press statement. “This move also offers the added benefit of conserving taxpayer resources by shortening the timeline of the litigation.” Cases are moving quickly through two other circuits, both of which will be heard by three-judge panels in the coming days. If the Sixth Circuit grants Michigan’s request, it could make DeBoer v. Snyder the first to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, but that doesn’t guarantee that the Supreme Court would agree to hear that case.

REDUNDANT OR RETRACING HISTORY? The Human Rights Campaign was unhappy Thursday with comments from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about why President Obama won’t sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The White House has been sending mixed messages about the president’s willingness to sign an executive order but Carney has said in the past that an executive order is the “wrong approach” and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is the “right way to go.” Asked at a routine press briefing April 3 whether the president would sign an executive order if Congress passed ENDA, Carney said passage of ENDA would make an executive order “redundant.” HRC issued a statement Friday saying, “We couldn’t disagree more.” HRC pointed out that President Johnson signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors the year after signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

SOME REDUNDACY ALLOWED: Just three days after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said an LGBT-related executive order would be “redundant” to the pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Associated Press reported that President Obama will sign an executive order Tuesday that “is similar to language in a Senate bill aimed at closing a pay gap between men and women.”

READY FOR HILLARY: There are two big LGBT fundraisers tonight for an independent political action committee raising money for an expected presidential bid by Hillary Clinton. One, in Manhattan, is hosted by gay philanthropist and politico Jon Stryker and features California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. The other, at a gay bar in West Hollywood, is hosted by a group called Out & Ready for Hillary and will feature a number of actors and political figures.

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Speed Read: Mississippi signs

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR SIGNS: Republican Governor Phil Bryant signed the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act Thursday, saying it “will protect the individual religious freedom of Mississippians of all faiths from government interference.” The ACLU says the law, though less problematic than in its original form, “could still open the door for someone who wants to use their religion to discriminate against others.” “We remain hopeful that courts throughout the state will reject any attempts to use religion to justify discrimination.” The law takes effect July 1.

MOZILLA APOLOGIZES WITH RESIGNATION: The Mozilla software company that operates the Firefox browser issued an apology Thursday for failing to “move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started.” The controversy centered around Mozilla’s new CEO Brenden Eich, who gave a $1,000 contribution in support of Proposition 8 in California. Some staff and board members objected when Eich was named CEO on March 24, and that protest quickly spread to outsiders. The Mozilla statement issued yesterday said Eich “has chosen to step down from his role as CEO…. for Mozilla and our community.” GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said, “Mozilla’s strong statement in favor of equality today reflects where corporate America is: inclusive, safe, and welcoming to all.”

SOCIAL SECURITY STILL ROLLING:  The Social Security Administration continued its rollout yesterday of new regulations affecting same-sex couples, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision last June to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. The Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that the SSA is now able to process requests “for certain eligible people in same-sex marriages” for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). For details, see HHS website.

THE PROFIT OF MARRIAGE: The Williams Institute, an LGBT research think tank based at UCLA, released a report Thursday showing that the state of Colorado’s economy stands to gain millions from legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. The calculation is based on taking the Census data estimate of how many same-sex couples live in Colorado (12,424), anticipating half will want to marry within the first few years they are able to in the state, and presuming same-sex couples will spend less than one-fourth the $26,000 straight couples do on weddings in Colorado. These couples and their guests would spend an estimated $50 million during those first three years, supporting 436 jobs.

LIVELY CAMPAIGN: Anti-gay activist Scott Lively, who is widely considered a motivator behind Uganda’s harsh anti-gay laws, has launched a purported campaign for Massachusetts governor that is giving him considerable media attention for his radical views. In Boston last week, he gave an interview to a British news channel and quipped, “I think Mr. Obama may well be a homosexual himself. He’s certainly a radical homosexualist, meaning a person whether homosexual or not is 100 percent invested in the homosexual community. He’s lending the weight of his office to a movement that’s goal is to overturn the Judeo-Christian ethic and replace it with the gay ethic of sexual anarchy.”

WHETHER TO MARRY: A new book out by lawyer-activist Scott Squillace offers practical considerations for couples contemplating marriage. Much of the advice would apply whether the couples are straight or gay: such as how couples with disparate incomes might result in lower taxes while those where both earn high incomes might pay higher taxes if married. But for same-sex couples specifically, the book examines which federal agencies have limited marriage-related benefits for couples living in marriage equality states and which have yet to publish post-Windsor regulations regarding such matters. The self-published book is available through amazon.com.

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Speed Read: Health alert in L.A.

LGBT RALLY FOR VETO: LGBT groups will hold a rally on the lawn of the State Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi, at noon CDT today, in protest over the passage of a religious bias bill by the state legislature Tuesday. The groups, which include the national Human Rights Campaign, Equality Mississippi, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Lesbian and Gay Community Center, among others, will also hold a candlelight vigil this evening. As of Wednesday night, Republican Governor Phil Bryant had not issued a statement on whether he intends to sign the bill.

L.A. ISSUES HEALTH ADVISORY: The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued an advisory Wednesday urging that men who have sex with men, particularly those with HIV, be vaccinated against invasive meningococcal disease (IMD). IMD is a rare bacterial infection of the blood, spinal cord, and/or brain lining that can be fatal. The department has identified 24 cases in the past 17 months, 7 of those among gay and bisexual men. Eight cases reported this year alone included four gay and bisexual men, three of whom had HIV infection. Three of the four have died. The county and the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center are offering free vaccination.

COURT UPHOLDS LARGE AWARD: A state appeals court in New York on March 20 upheld a $1.6 million award to a lesbian chef whose boss who made repeated anti-gay statements, including saying all gay people were going to hell. A lower court judge granted the award for Mirella Salemi in 2012 against Edward Globokar, who owned the Manhattan restaurant at which she worked. The appeals panel said Globokar violated the New York City Human Rights Law by staging mandatory prayer meetings at work and “subjecting [Salemi] to an incessant barrage of offensive anti-homosexual invective.”

BALDWIN INTROS FAIR EMPLOYMENT BILL: U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin introduced the Fair Employment Protection Act (FEPA) March 13, to improve the law for the victims of workplace harassment. FEPA is specifically aimed at expanding an employer’s liability for workplace harassment. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, an employer’s liability for harassment perpetrated by a supervisor is greater than if perpetrated by another employee. But last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that for a court to consider an employee to be a supervisor, the employee must be authorized to take tangible actions against an harassment victim. If the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is ever passed, LGBT workers would be able to benefit from the anti-harassment laws strengthened by FEPA.

NEW MEXICO BLASÉ: A Public Policy Polling survey of 674 registered voters in New Mexico between March 20 and 23 found that 76 percent said the legalizing of marriage for same-sex couples has had either no impact or a positive impact on their lives. The poll also found voters closely split on whether they support (47 percent) or oppose (45 percent) allowing same-sex couples to marry. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percent.

SCRUTINY DECISION RE-HEARING?: At least one judge on the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals bench has asked the full appeals court to review an historic panel ruling in January that said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor, which struck the Defense of Marriage Act, “requires that heightened scrutiny be applied to equal protection claims involving sexual orientation.” The court last week asked both parties in SmithKline v. Abbott to submit briefs on whether the case should be reheard by the full court. But Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, he seriously doubts a majority of the Ninth Circuit would vote to rehear the case.

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Speed Read: Mississippi bias

The Mississippi legislature passed a religious bias bill Tuesday which many think will be used to justify discrimination against gays and blacks. Gay federal court nominee has smooth sailing in confirmation hearing. Federal judge cancels trial for one of the lawsuits challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex couples marrying.

 

MISSISSIPPI PASSES BIAS BILL: The Mississippi House and Senate Tuesday adopted a final version of a religious bias bill, sending the measure to Republican Governor Phil Bryant for his signature. The final Mississippi Religious Freedom Act will enable any “person” to violate any state or local law or regulation (such as non-discrimination laws) by asserting the law burdens his free exercise of religion. The act carves out business exceptions, saying, “Nothing in this act shall create any rights by an employee against an employer if the employer is not the government.” If signed by Bryant, the bill goes into effect July 1. Opponents say some people will use the law to refuse services gays, blacks and others. There are no laws in Mississippi to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but the Human Rights Campaign says some universities have non-discrimination policies and the new law could allow pharmacists to refuse to provide HIV and hormone replacement drugs. Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi, said her group remains “hopeful that courts throughout the state will reject any attempts to use religion to justify discrimination.”

GAYLES’ GETS SMOOTH HEARING: Openly gay U.S. District Court nominee Darrin Gayles had smooth sailing Tuesday in his confirmation hearing. Senator Bill Nelson, in introducing Gayles and other nominees, noted that there was an emergency need for a judge in the Southern District of Florida, where Gayles is nominated. Senator Marco Rubio said Gayles has “dedicated himself to public service,” including two years at the Immigration Naturalization Service. Gayles noted that his life partner Raymond Zayas and other family members had accompanied him to the hearing. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Gayles what model he would use when interpreting the constitution. Gayles replied that he’s always “followed the law and never interjected my own personal beliefs.”

GAY D.C. COUNCILMAN LOSES: Four-term D.C. Councilman Jim Graham lost his Democratic primary Tuesday night to newcomer Brianne Nadeau. Graham, an openly gay councilmember who once led the LGBT community’s Whitman-Walker Clinic, was apparently hurt by a reprimand he was given by the D.C. Council last year for improperly involving himself in a lottery contract dispute.

JUDGE CANCELS VA. TRIAL: A federal judge hearing a class action suit against Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage announced Monday he was scratching the June 2 trial date and putting the matter on hold, pending a ruling from the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in another case. The plaintiffs in Harris v. Rainey, represented by the ACLU and Lambda, are now considered intervenors in the Fourth Circuit case, Schaefer v. Bostic, a case led by Ted Olson and David Boies and several Virginia attorneys. The Bostic case comes before the Fourth Circuit on May 13.

VIRGINIA IS FOR MARRIAGE: A poll of Virginia voters March 19-24 found 50 percent support allowing same-sex couples to marry in Virginia, 42 percent oppose, and seven percent are undecided. The poll was conducted by Quinnipiac University with 1,288 voters and a margin of error at plus or minus 2.7 percent. Similar to other polling, the survey found that people under 30 and Democrats were much more supportive (69 percent each) and people over 65 and Republicans were more opposed (56 percent and 70 percent, respectively).

ASSAULT IN MICHIGAN: A young woman who was in the news in Ypsilanti, Michigan, as being among the first same-sex couples to marry during a brief window of opportunity was assaulted in her neighborhood Monday evening by three men who identified her as being in the news. According to the Ypsilanti Courier, the men used anti-lesbian slurs.

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Speed Read: Rewriting Windsor

Two openly gay nominees to the federal bench are pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. One, Darrin Gayles, has his confirmation hearing today. The other, Staci Yandle, had to respond to additional questions from one Republican concerning the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision.

NOMINEE HEARING TODAY: President Obama’s openly gay African American nominee for the U.S. District Court in Miami goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning. A Committee spokesperson said both of Florida’s senators have indicated they support state circuit court Judge Darrin Gayles.  President Obama dropped another openly gay African American nominee for Miami in January after Senator Marco Rubio objected to the nomination.

LESBIAN NOMINEE WAITING: President Obama’s nomination of openly lesbian African American Staci Yandle for the U.S. District Court in southern Illinois was up for a Committee vote last Thursday. But the committee held over her nomination and that of four others in a group of 10. Her nomination is now slated for a committee vote this Thursday.

REWRITING HISTORY? Two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee submitted questions in writing for federal court nominee Staci Yandle. Senator Charles Grassley grilled her over how she would interpret the Supreme Court’s ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, which overturned DOMA. Several LGBT legal activists said Grassley’s goal seemed to be to promote a narrow interpretation of Windsor. “They are trying to get her to say that the federalism discussion in Windsor means that the federal courts should not strike down state marriage bans – that they don’t have the authority to do so,” said GLAD Civil Rights Director Mary Bonauto.  Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry, noted that Grassley “chose not to ask about the explicit passages in the [Windsor] decision making clear that the ruling turned on equal protection, not federalism.” Lambda Legal’s Eric Lesh said Grassley has made the Windsor questions a routine line of inquiry for all federal court nominees now.

SUPREME BYPASS: The U.S. Supreme Court, for two weeks in a row, has given no indication of whether it will hear a New Mexico dispute pitting New Mexico’s non-discrimination law against a commercial photographer’s claim that she has a First Amendment right to deny public accommodations to a same-sex couple based on her religious beliefs. The photographer filed Elane Photography v. Willock in November. The case was on the relatively short lists for the justices to discuss in private conference March 21 and 28. But on the subsequent Mondays, when the court announced which cases it would and would not take, Elane was not mentioned. The next conference is April 4.

SEEKING RELIEF IN INDIANA: Lambda Legal on Monday filed an emergency motion in federal district court seeking an order that would allow a lesbian couple’s marriage to be recognized by Indiana. In the motion, Lambda adds couple Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler to the plaintiffs in its Baskin v. Bogan lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying. Quasney and Sandler were married in Massachusetts last August. Quasney has late-stage ovarian cancer and is concerned that, without a court order to recognize their marriage, their children will be “denied important benefits” upon Quasney’s death and Sandler will be considered a legal stranger.

UGANDAN CHILDREN IN SONG: Thousands of people turned out yesterday in the capital city of Uganda to stage a “thanksgiving” celebration for President Yoweri Museveni’s signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in February. According to an Associated Press report, many in the crowd were schoolchildren “who sang and danced to anti-gay tunes that also railed” railed against U.S. and European con tries.

HRC STAFFER JOINS MICHAUD OFFICE: The Human Rights Campaign’s associate director of communications, Dan Rafter, left that organization to take over Monday as communications director for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s Congressional office.

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Speed Read: Hobby or agenda?

The Hobby Lobby chain seeking a religious exemption at the U.S. Supreme Court last week funds an organization that is funneling millions of dollars to smaller groups “to advance an agenda that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians….” Attorneys defending Virginia’s ban on same-sex couples marrying worry about brothers marrying.

DEFENDING VIRGINIA’S BAN: Attorneys for the Virginia county clerks who are defending the state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying submitted their brief to the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Friday. The case, Schaefer v. Bostic, will be argued in May and is on track to be the first post-Proposition 8 case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. In the brief, the attorneys assert that, by not ruling on the merits of last year’s Proposition 8 case, the Supreme Court “continued to leave such an option to the state.” And by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in U.S. v. Windsor, argues the brief, the high court signaled “that state laws respecting same-sex marriage are protected from federal intrusion.”

A ROSE IS A ROSE IS A WHAT? Like many briefs opposing same-sex marriages in the last several years, this latest one in the Virginia case bases much of its argument on a premise that a marriage between two people of the same sex is not just a “marriage” but rather is a “same-sex marriage.” And while the Supreme Court has found “marriage” to be a fundamental right, it has not pronounced “same-sex marriage” to be a fundamental right. It’s a little like saying a car with a convertible top is not a car but rather a convertible. The brief also cautions that allowing same-sex couples to marry will open the door to allowing brothers to marry or allowing marriage between “any two persons who can fill out an application and pay a fee….”

HOBBY LOBBY’S HIDDEN HOBBIES: An article in Salon.com March 27 says the national arts and crafts store chain that was before the U.S. Supreme Court last week seeking a religious exemption to certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act has an anti-gay agenda. According to the article, Hobby Lobby funds an organization that is funneling millions of dollars to smaller groups “to advance an agenda that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians….” Hobby Lobby reportedly pours millions into the National Christian Charitable Foundation that, among other things, helped fund the recent attempt to pass a religious exemption in Arizona aimed at gays. NCCF also funds a large chunk of the budgets for the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Center for Arizona Policy, which have led a number of anti-gay efforts.

HOLDER GIVES MICHIGAN A LIFT: As he did for Utah in January, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday the U.S. government will recognize marriage licenses obtained by same-sex couples in Michigan. An estimated 323 couples were able to marry during a one-day period before a federal appeals court issued a stay of a district court ruling striking down the state’s ban. “These families will be eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” said Holder.

BALDWIN INTROS NEW BILL: Openly gay U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) introduced a bill March 27 to require that universities receiving federal aid establish anti-harassment policies aimed at curbing bullying of students based on their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion. The bill is named after Rutgers student Tyler Clementi who jumped to his death in his first year of college in 2010 after his roommate surreptitiously recorded Clementi’s intimate activities with another man and made fun of him over the internet. U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) joined Baldwin in introducing the measure. The bill was introduced last year by then Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who passed away last June.

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Speed Read: Hate tour continues

The Westboro Baptist Church issued a press statement Friday vowing to take its “God hates fags” hate troupe to picket outside the NCAA’s Final Four games in Texas April 5. Billy Graham biographer suggests anti-gay statements Graham’s son is attributing to the Baptist evangelist are uncharacteristic.

HATE TOUR SHOWS CONTINUE: The death of virulently anti-gay protester Fred Phelps has done nothing to soften the Westboro Baptist Church’s activities. The group on Friday issued a press statement vowing to take its “God hates fags” hate troupe to picket outside the NCAA’s Final Four games in Texas April 5. The problem with basketball, says the church’s website, is that it is now “the sport known the world over for its newest fag superstar Jason Collins of the filthy Brooklyn Nets.”

QUIET ‘POINTS OF TENSION’: Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, the national LGBT Catholic group, said LGBT equality was probably one of the “points of tension” between President Obama and Pope Francis when the two met at the Vatican Thursday. “But it seems these issues were left to secondary meetings, and I expect they will continue to be a theme of U.S.-Vatican discussions,” said Duddy-Burke. “I believe LGBTQ Americans can be very proud of the President’s commitment to equality, and the way he speaks about the important role of faith in his commitment to justice. As Catholics, we will continue to work until the leaders of our Church come to the same place. Fortunately, we are seeing ordinary Catholics stand up for their LGBTQ friends and family members, and teaching Church leaders that this is absolutely consistent with our faith.”

AN ISLAMIC STRUGGLE: Faisal Kutty, an assistant professor teaching Islamic law at Indiana-based Valparaiso University, said in a March 27 essay in Huffington Post, that while Islamic law prohibits pre- and extramarital activity as well as same-sex sexual activity, it does not attempt to “regulate feelings, emotions and urges….” Kutty said many Islamic scholars have “even argued that homosexual tendencies themselves were not haram [prohibited] but had to be suppressed for the public good.” “Though not what the LGBTQ community wants to hear,” wrote Kutty, “it reveals that even classical Islamic jurists struggled with this issue and had a more sophisticated attitude than many contemporary Muslims.” Kutty wrote that “most Muslims have no problem extending full human rights to those – even Muslims – who live together ‘in sin’.” “[T]his is not about changing Islamic marriage (nikah), but about making ‘sure that all citizens have access to the same kinds of public benefits’.” Asked about the emergence of new anti-gay laws in such countries as Uganda and Nigeria, Kutty said, “Even when [laws are] based on religious sources, there is human agency involved in interpreting the divine will.  This interpretation will be colored and shaped by the social, economic, political and cultural contexts as well as customs and traditions passed on from forefathers.”

BILLY GRAHAM’S VOICE: Billy Graham, the 95-year-old minister who came to fame by broadcasting sermons to massive television audiences, is now said to be quite feeble and bed-ridden. But his son Franklin is going public with positions that he claims his father would be making “in the exact same way.” Franklin Graham says gays will spend an “eternity in hell.” He praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for the anti-gay laws passed in that country last year. And he’s criticized President Obama for “shameful” support of the rights of LGBT people. He’s called adoption by gays as “recruitment” and “exploitation.” In 2012, Franklin Graham issued a statement in North Carolina, quoting his father as supporting an anti-gay marriage initiative there. But Graham’s biographer, William Martin, said the statement was uncharacteristic of the senior pastor. “In the past,” said Martin, “I have heard him say with respect to homosexuality, there are greater sins.”

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Speed Read: No schism talk

President Obama downplayed any discussion about gay-related issues he may have had with Pope Francis during their first meeting Thursday. The Maryland legislature sent a bill to add gender identity to the state human rights law to the governor, who has said he will sign it. And an unlikely co-sponsor signed onto to a Congressional bill to address bullying of LGBT students.

NOT A LOT OF ‘SCHISM’ TALK:  President Obama said Thursday that he and Pope Francis “didn’t talk a whole lot about social schisms.” In fact, the president seemed to studiously avoid saying the word “gay” during his press conference briefing about his Thursday morning meeting with the global leader of the Catholic Church. “I think His Holiness and the Vatican have been clear about their position on a range of issues, some of them I differ with, most I heartily agree with.” Reporters asked about “gay” issues twice during the briefing, but President Obama did not go beyond saying, “the largest bulk of the time was discussing two central concerns of his.  One is the issues of the poor, the marginalized, those without opportunity, and growing inequality.”

DOJ LAUNCHES TRANS TRAINING: The U.S. Department of Justice hosted a training session for 70 invited “stakeholders” in transgender sensitivity training for law enforcement officers. The idea for the session sprang out of a meeting early last year between DOJ Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez and LGBT leaders. From the LGBT community, participants in Thursday’s session included policy directors of NGLTF, Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays and the National Center for Transgender Equality. A DOJ spokeswoman said the session was a “national launch of the training program and in the coming months [DOJ] staff at regional offices around the country will be offering this training to interested law enforcement entities, including local and federal officials.”

MARYLAND ADVANCES TRANS BILL: The Maryland House of Delegates voted 82 to 57 Thursday to approve a bill adding gender identity to the state’s non-discrimination law. The state senate approved the bill March 4. It now goes to Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley who says he will sign it. The state human rights law covers public accommodations, housing, and employment. Opponents made liberal use of the “bathroom scare” tactic in the senate debate. Maryland will join 17 other states and the District of Columbia that have laws banning discrimination based on gender identity.

WEDDING DAY IN THE UK: A new law allowing same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales takes effect after midnight tonight. According to the Times of London, rainbow flags will fly over the infamous Whitehall stretch between Trafalgar Square and the parliament building. The parliament passed a law last July allowing same-sex couples to marry. Separate legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry in Scotland takes effect this fall.

FROM ZERO TO CO-SPONSOR: Republican U.S. Rep. Peter King has earned only single digit scores from the Human Rights Campaign for his voting record on LGBT issues. In the last Congressional Session, it was a zero. That’s why Log Cabin Republicans was particularly excited yesterday to announce King was signing on as a co-sponsor for a piece of pro-gay legislation. “His co-sponsorship is important because this is the first time the Congressman has formally co-sponsored legislation including protections for LGBT individuals,” said Log Cabin national president Gregory Angelo. “I think anytime we grow the ranks of Republicans standing on the right side of these issues is reason to celebrate.” King signed on as co-sponsor to the Safe Schools Improvement Act that seeks to address bullying and harassment for students.

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Speed Read: A pulpit for bullies

The Tennessee legislature this week sent to the governor’s desk a bill the ACLU says the measure will make it easier for bullies to target LGBT students. The mega-charity World Vision said yesterday that it made a “mistake” Monday when it announced it would hire gay married employees.

TENNESSEE BUILDS THE BULLY PULPIT: The Tennessee legislature this week sent to the governor’s desk a bill to allow public school students to “express beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions.” The “Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act” passed the House on March 10 with a 90 to 2 vote and passed the Senate unanimously on Monday. Right-wing proponents of the legislation said it was aimed at enabling students to express their views against homosexuality. The ACLU says the measure will make it easier for bullies to target LGBT people. Republican Governor Bill Haslam is expected to sign the bill.

NOT ADJUSTING WELL: That multi-denominational Christian organization that said Monday it was “adjusting” to the reality that many churches allow a more charitable approach to same-sex marriage than others announced Wednesday that it would nix that adjustment plan. World Vision’s statement yesterday said its board had made a “mistake” and the group would revert back to its old policy. That old policy requires that any unmarried employee be celibate and that any married employee would have to be married to a person of the opposite sex.

NOT RECOGNIZING MUCH: Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder said Wednesday that, since a federal appeals court granted a stay of a decision striking the state ban on same-sex couples marrying, the state would not be recognizing any of those 323-some marriages that took place before the stay was granted. “The couples with certificates of marriage from Michigan courthouses last Saturday were legally married and the marriage was valid when entered into,” said Snyder. “Because the stay brings Michigan law on this issue back into effect, the rights tied to these marriages are suspended until the stay is lifted or Judge Friedman’s decision is upheld on appeal.”

PRESIDENT MEETS POPE: President Obama was set to meet with Pope Francis this morning (5:30 EDT) at the Vatican. Two human rights groups sent a letter to President Obama Tuesday urging that he use the meeting “to reinforce Pope Francis’ positive statements on the inherent dignity of LGBT people.” The letter, from Human Rights First and the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights First, noted that the Pope will be traveling to Uganda later this year.

PRESIDENT TO EUROPEAN YOUTH: President Obama told an audience of young people in Brussels Wednesday that the difficulties of globalization and integration have enabled a type of “politics that too often targets immigrants or gays or those who seem somehow different.” But, he said in his “Address to European Youth,” “Instead of targeting our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, we can use our laws to protect their rights.  Instead of defining ourselves in opposition to others, we can affirm the aspirations that we hold in common.  That’s what will make America strong.  That’s what will make Europe strong.  That’s what makes us who we are.

NOT LAUNCHING PARTISAN ATTACK: Illinois’ Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk told the Chicago Sun Times that he will not get involved in the campaign to unseat the state’s other senator, Democrat Dick Durbin. Republican State Senator Jim Oberweis is challenging the three-term incumbent. “I’m going to be protecting my relationship with Dick,” said Kirk, “and not launching into a partisan jihad that hurts our partnership to both pull together for Illinois.” Durbin, who has a very strong record of supporting equal rights for LGBT people, is considered to have a relatively safe seat this election. Kirk, who is in his first term as senator, has been one of the few Republicans to vote for LGBT equal rights, including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

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Speed Read: Michigan ban stays

The Sixth Circuit continues a stay on a decision striking Michigan’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. White House official visits L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. California Assembly approves lesbian as its next speaker.

SIXTH CIRCUIT CONTINUES STAY IN MICHIGAN: Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s issuance of a stay in the federal district court ruling striking Utah’s ban on same-sex couples marrying, a Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel issued an order Tuesday it would grant a similar ruling by a district court in Michigan. The stay will continue until the federal appeals court reviews the district court decision in DeBoer v. Snyder.

SUPREME CONCERN FOR SLIPPERY SLOPES: Observers of Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court arguments over giving religious exemptions from the Affordable Care Act to for-profit corporations all agreed the decisions will likely come down to how Justice Anthony Kennedy votes. Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood v. HHS are lawsuits brought by the owners of commercial enterprises (not religious institutions) who object to the ACA’s requirement that employer health plans cover contraception. Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jenny Pizer said she fears the majority of the court may well require that at least some closely held companies be able to gain exemptions by claiming religious beliefs. Read full story.

SUPREME COURT HEARING PROTEST CASE: The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a case deciding whether Secret Service agents guarding the president have immunity from a lawsuit when they violate the First Amendment rights of protesters based on their political views. The case, Wood v. Moss, sprang out of protests for and against then President George W. Bush in Oregon in 2004, while he was campaigning for re-election. Secret Service agents ordered local police to drive anti-Bush protesters farther away from where Bush was arriving.

VALERIE JARRETT VISITS L.A. CENTER: Senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett toured the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center Monday. Jarrett met with Lorri Jean, head of the Center, toured the largest LGBT community and health center in the world, and met with a number of homeless youth who are residing in the Center’s Transitional Living Program.

NEW WHITE HOUSE HIV DIRECTOR: The White House announced Monday that President Obama has appointed a new director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. Douglas Brooks was originally appointed as a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.  He comes to the current position from the Massachusetts-based Justice Resource Institute, which focuses on social justice in health services and education. He replaces Grant Colfax, who announced in January that he was leaving to lead the HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis program of PATH, an international non-profit global health organization.

NEW SPEAKER IN CALIFORNIA: The California Assembly last week voted lesbian Assemblywoman Toni Atkins of San Diego as its new speaker. Atkins, who has been serving as majority leader, won the top spot with a unanimous vote of the Democrats in January. She will take the gavel from openly gay Speaker John Pérez later this spring.

HARASSMENT SUIT DISMISSED: A federal judge in Jackson, Mississippi, on March 13 dismissed a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former female secretary against the female director of athletics at Jackson State University. Lolita Ward filed the lawsuit against her former boss, Vivian Fuller, in August 2012. Ward claimed Fuller made inappropriate comments and advances to her and that, when Ward rebuffed those advances, Fuller fired her. U.S. District Court Judge William Barbour Jr. dismissed the lawsuit.

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Speed Read: ‘Adjusting’ to reality

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning will hear oral arguments in two cases asking whether, under a religious exemption in the Affordable Care Act, employers can deny certain medical coverage by citing the religious objections of the companies’ owners. And a multi-denominational Christian ministry, World Vision, announced Monday that, after several years of deliberation, its board of directors has voted to “adjust” the organization’s Employee Standards of Conduct policy “to allow a Christian in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed at World Vision.”

EMPLOYMENT RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION: The U.S. Supreme Court this morning will hear oral arguments in two cases asking whether, under a religious exemption in the Affordable Care Act, employers can deny certain medical coverage by citing the religious objections of the companies’ owners. The companies bringing the challenges in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood v. HHS are not religious institutions. One is an arts and crafts store, the other is a furniture maker. Complicating matters, the owners of the Hobby Lobby stores also operate a Christian bookstore. Both sets of owners claim to have religious beliefs against the use of contraception. Neither case involves any LGBT-specific health coverage, but the decisions in both may affect whether employers will be able to cite religious beliefs to deny such services as alternative insemination and gender reassignment.

RELIGIOUS TRANSFORMATION: A multi-denominational Christian ministry, World Vision, announced Monday that, after several years of deliberation, its board of directors has voted to “adjust” the organization’s Employee Standards of Conduct policy “to allow a Christian in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed at World Vision.” In an undated, unsigned two-page memo to employees, World Vision’s U.S. President Richard Stearns says, “I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage” and that the organization is not “sliding down some slippery slope of compromise.” “Each of us has his or her own views on a wide range of potentially divisive issues, and the board and I are not asking anyone to change their personal views. We are asking, rather, that you not let your differences on this issue or others distract us from our work.” The Religious News Service notes that World Vision U.S. is headquartered in Washington State, where voters voted for marriage equality in November 2012. World Vision identifies itself as a Christian humanitarian organization working to help children and families on issues of injustice and poverty.

JUGGLING AID TO UGANDA: A White House blog yesterday announced the U.S. was both sending aid to Uganda and “shifting” it away in response to the African nation’s enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. The blog post came one day after the Washington Post reported that the U.S. would send additional military equipment and personnel to Uganda to help in the capture of a warload and his supporters who have brutally attacked many central African villages. The White House blog post characterized the move as simply basing the equipment in Uganda for deployment throughout central Africa. Acknowledging that “many” would have “concerns” about the delivery of aid to Uganda in light of the anti-gay laws, the post said the U.S. would take “immediate steps while we continue to consider the implications” of the anti-gay law. The steps include suspending or canceling “Certain near-term invitational travel for Ugandan military and police” and shifting $6 million of $8 million in funding for an Inter-Religious Council of Uganda HIV program to “other partners.”

NOMINEE NOTES GOP LINKS: President Obama’s new African American openly gay male nominee for the U.S. District Court in Miami notes on his requisite questionnaire to the Senate Judiciary Committee was appointed to his state court positions by two of Florida’s Republican governors. In responding to his questionnaire to the Committee, Judge Darrin Gayles noted he was appointed to a Florida county circuit bench by then Governor Jeb Bush, and to a state circuit court seat by then Republican Governor Charlie Crist.

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Speed Read: ‘Reasoned consideration’

About 100 same-sex couples were able to marry in Michigan Saturday before a federal appeals court issued a temporary stay of a ruling that the state ban on same-sex couples marrying is unconstitutional. Vice President Joe Biden set the bar high for Democrats who might be pitch for the LGBT vote in 2016.

SIXTH CIRCUIT STAYS MICHIGAN: The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued a stay at 5 p.m. Saturday of a district court decision Friday that struck down Michigan’s ban on same-sex couples marrying, but hundreds of couples had already married by that time. The appeals court indicated the stay would remain in place until Wednesday, March 26, so there could be “a more reasoned consideration of the motion to stay.” Briefs from the plaintiffs’ attorneys are due Tuesday. Read full story.

COUPLES MARRIED IN MICHIGAN: Michigan’s first marriage of a same-sex couple took place just after 8 a.m. Saturday morning in Mason, just south of Lansing, Michigan. The couple was Marsha Caspar and Glenna DeJong, both in their 50s, who have been together for 27 years. The Detroit Free Press reported that at least four other counties had hours on Saturday and issued an estimated 300 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In Oakland County, the paper said, a line stretched out the door when the office opened at 9 a.m., and marriages were being performed in auditoriums and hallways. About 100 of those couples were able to marry before the Sixth Circuit issued its stay.

OREGON IS ‘PREPARED’: Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a brief last week saying “the state is prepared to implement” a ruling that the state ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. Such a ruling has not yet been made in Oregon, and Rosenblum announced last month that she could not defend the constitutionality of the ban in federal district court in Geiger v. Kitzhaber. Rosenblum’s brief last week said “Oregon’s interest in stable opposite-sex couples would not be affected by same-sex marriages and therefore does not provide any justification for the ban.” But she said it should be left to the legislature to determine whether existing domestic partnerships are to be automatically transformed into marriages.

GAY SPEAKER RESIGNS FOLLOWING RAID: The openly gay speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, Gordon Fox, abruptly resigned his leadership position Saturday following a raid by state and federal investigators on his home and State House office Friday. The subject of the investigation has yet to be disclosed. The Providence Journal reported Saturday night that federal and state police agents with search warrants entered Fox’s home and State House office Friday and took away “boxes of evidence.” Read more.

BIDEN SETS THE BAR: As the 2016 presidential primaries begin to creep into view on the political horizon, Vice President Joe Biden sounded well prepared to take on all comers for the LGBT vote Saturday night. Speaking to an audience of one thousand people at a Human Rights Campaign fundraiser in Los Angeles, Biden reminded the crowd of his remarks on Meet the Press in 2012 which many believe led President Obama to announce his support for same-sex couples marrying much sooner than he had planned. He also prodded Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and denounced draconian laws and practices in Russia and African countries. And he praised the LGBT community for its efforts in standing up for and demanding equal rights. “Many of you paid a personal and professional price for stepping up and speaking out,” said Biden, but the effort has “bent the moral arc of this nation.”

GAY CANDIDATE SNUBS GOP CON-FAB: Massachusetts Republican Congressional candidate Richard Tisei took the unusual tact Saturday of snubbing his state party convention. Tisei said he decision was in protest of the party’s platform, including its support of “traditional marriage.” Tisei is making a second bid to unseat Democratic incumbent U.S. House Rep. John Tierney. Tisei lost to Tierney in 2012 by less than one percentage point.

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Speed Read: Straight is great

Heritage (NYC) Pride group announced Thursday that it will allow a right-wing Catholic group, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, to march in the June 29 Pride parade carrying a banner saying “Straight is Great.” A federal judge in Tennessee denied the state’s request for a stay of her order that it recognize the out-of-state marriage licenses of three same-sex couples.

STRAIGHT IS GREAT: LGBT people with straight friends and family will have a hard time complaining about a message of “Straight is Great.” It rhymes, and for the majority of people who are attracted to the opposite sex, living their lives consistent with that attraction makes sense. Organizers of New York City’s annual Pride Day parade have a rhyme too: “We’ve Won When We’re One.” In the spirit of this year’s parade theme, Heritage (NYC) Pride group announced Thursday that it will allow a right-wing Catholic group, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, to march in the June 29 Pride parade carrying a banner saying “Straight is Great.” Parade Director David Studinski said “Straight is great, as long as there’s no hate.” Interestingly, Catholic League President Bill Donahue issued a press release earlier this month, complaining that gays were “bent on crashing” the Boston and New York St. Patrick’s Day parades when they should be willing to just “blend in like everyone else.”

TENNESSEE JUDGE DENIES STAY: A federal judge in Tennessee Thursday denied the state’s request that she put a stay on a narrow temporary order she issued last week, requiring the state to give recognition to the out-of-state marriage licenses of three couples. Responding to the state’s request in Tanco v. Haslam, Judge Aleta Trauger noted that courts ruling on the issue of marriage for same-sex couples since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last June “have uniformly found that bans on the consummation and/or recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional under rational basis review…and (3) the court found no basis to conclude that Tennessee’s Anti-Recognition Laws would merit different treatment under the United States Constitution than the laws at issue in these other cases.”

GEORGIA TRIES AGAIN: There was a brief attempt to revive Georgia’s failed “religious freedom” bill on the last day of the session Thursday, but the effort was withdrawn due to continued strong opposition. State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) tried to attach the bill as an amendment to two separate pieces of legislation. After withdrawing his proposals, he posted a message on Twitter saying he was opposed by “large moneyed special interests.”

NO DATA SUPPORTS BATHROOM SCARE: The most common and potent argument raised against adding “gender identity” to non-discrimination laws, including the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has always been the worry that men would dress up as women in order to harass or attack women in public bathrooms. The liberal Media Matters think tank contacted relevant officials in 12 states that include gender identity in their non-discrimination laws, and not one of them had seen or heard of any evidence that such a problem exists. The group’s report, published Thursday, turned up not one case of alleged bathroom abuse since the states added gender identity to their laws.

CATHOLIC SCHOOL CRACKDOWN: More than 2,200 teachers at Catholic schools in Cincinnati will be prohibited by their contracts from expressing any “public support of/or homosexual lifestyle,” reported the Cincinnati Enquirer  this month. A spokesman for the Archdiocese downplayed the newly worded contract for the school year 2014-2015, saying it is “just more explicit in that it lists examples of behaviors that are unacceptable as contrary to church teaching.” Last year, the archdiocese fired an assistant principal who expressed support in his blog for same-sex couples marrying.

 

Fred Phelps, notorious for hate, dies

The leader of a small Baptist church in Westboro, Kansas, who made a name for himself by traveling the country to hoist up “God Hates Fags” placards, is dead.

A spokesman for Westboro Baptist Church, whose website address is godhatesfags.com, told CNN today that Fred Phelps, 84, died of natural causes.

The leader of a small Baptist church in Westboro, Kansas, who made a name for himself by traveling the country to hoist up “God Hates Fags” placards, is dead.

A spokesman for Westboro Baptist Church, whose website address is godhatesfags.com, told CNN today that Fred Phelps, 84, died of natural causes.

Although certainly appalled by Phelps’ tactics and tenacity, the LGBT community came to ignore the man and his family that referred to themselves as a church. But Phelps did manage to secure some historic notoriety for himself in 2011, when the church escaped millions of dollars in liability for picketing outside the funeral of a straight soldier killed in Afghanistan. The high court ruled, in Snyder v. Phelps, that the free speech clause of the First Amendment protects public speech, which includes speech related to “any matter of political, social, or other concern to the community.”

Phelps’ targeting of LGBT people sprang into visibility in 1987 at the March on Washington for LGBT Rights in Washington, D.C. Phelps and a few followers stood on the curb along Pennsylvania Avenue waving giant colorful placards with their bluntly hateful messages.

“Fred Phelps will not be missed by the LGBT community, people with HIV/AIDS and the millions of decent people across the world who found what he and his followers do deeply hurtful and offensive,” said the Rev. Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Through his actions, he brought needless pain and suffering to thousands of families, including to military families, at their time of greatest pain and grieving. While it is hard to find anything good to say about his views or actions, we do give our condolences to his family members at what must be a painful time for them.”

In an interview with CBC Television March 18, Phelps’ son Nathan, who was estranged from his father, said he learned from a nephew who recently left the church that Fred Phelps was in hospice care and nearing death. His son left home at age 18, saying there had been considerable violence and dogma in the family.

Nathan Phelps, now 55, said he learned from other family members that Phelps was kicked out of the Westboro church recently when a Board of Elders took control.

Speed Read: Booted from the closet

Oregon group is seeking religious belief exemptions through ballot measure. Congressional Black Caucus pressures U.S. to do more about anti-gay laws in Uganda and other countries. And a former Idaho state senator loses her visiting privileges after being found hanging out in a “closet.”

OREGON RELIGIOUS BALLOT BATTLE: A group seeking to exempt citizens in Oregon from non-discrimination laws by allowing them to claim a religious motive for doing so have until tomorrow to file a protest with the state supreme court over petition language prepared by the attorney general. The language characterizes the proposed initiative as “Religious belief exceptions to anti-discrimination laws for refusing services, other, for same-sex ceremonies.” The Oregonian newspaper reported that Friends of Religious Freedom, the group seeking the ballot measure, said it will likely appeal the language because the use of the word “discrimination” is “politically charged.” The group has until July 3 to gather 87,213 signatures to put the question on the ballot this November.

BLACK CAUCUS URGES REFUGE: The Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter Tuesday to Secretary of State John Kerry urging that U.S. embassies “protect individuals endangered by anti-gay laws.” The letter, signed by 41 members, says laws such as those passed by Uganda and Nigeria “not only violate human rights, they endanger lives and undermine public health….” The Caucus urges the U.S. to reassess its relationship with all 78 nations that penalize same-sex sexual relations, “reprogram assistance” away from those that support discriminatory laws, and help build pressure for those countries to repeal their laws.

ILLINOIS PIONEER SUCCUMBS: The activist whose terminal illness persuaded a federal judge to order Illinois to issue her a marriage license ahead of the June 1 enactment date of a marriage equality law died of cancer Tuesday. When Vernita Gray, 65, married her partner Patricia Ewert last November, they became the first same-sex couple to marry in the state. Gray had been a pioneer in the Chicago LGBT community since 1969, setting up a hotline, launching a lesbian newspaper, and founding a lesbian caucus of the Chicago Gay Liberation Network.

KENTUCKY COURT STAYS: Following the lead of other federal judges, a Kentucky federal district court judge Wednesday issued a stay of his February order that the state recognize out-of-state marriage licenses granted to same-sex couples. U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn noted that the U.S. Supreme Court had ordered a stay of a similar decision in a Utah case, adding that it is “best that these momentous changes occur with full review, rather than risk premature implementation or confusing changes. That does not serve anyone well.” Kentucky is appealing Heyburn’s order in Bourke v. Beshear, and Heyburn will also hear arguments on a second question posed by the lawsuit –whether the state’s ban against issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples is constitutional.

IDAHO ACTIVIST EAVESDROPPING?  The Idaho Senate on Wednesday voted 28 to 6 to suspend the privileges of former State Senator Nicole LeFavour to visit the Senate offices and floor. The vote took place one day after she was found sitting in a closet space adjacent to a private lounge used by the Senate president and other lawmakers. The Statesman quoted one current Senate leader as saying “she was able to eavesdrop on private discussions and telephone conversations” from that spot. LeFavour offered only a “no comment” on her Facebook page, but her comments to the Spokesman-Review suggested she was there for more than five hours as part of a protest: “There are lots of people in closets out there, and they’re not comfortable. LeFavour has been leading a growing number of LGBT supporters in a quiet protest over the state senate’s refusal to address a bill seeking to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people. The 2014 legislative session adjourns next week.

Speed Read: Voluntary appeal

Tennessee’s attorney general on Tuesday asked a federal judge in Nashville to stay enforcement of her injunction to require the state to recognize the marriages of three same-sex couples, and is appealing the order to the federal appeals court. A lesbian golf coach won a lawsuit against the University of Minnesota for discriminating against her.

TENNESSEE SEEKS STAY: Tennessee’s attorney general on Tuesday asked a federal judge in Nashville to stay enforcement of her injunction to require the state to recognize the marriages of three same-sex couples. He also filed notice with the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that the state will appeal the order of Judge Aleta Trauger (a Clinton appointee) that the state recognize the marriage licenses obtained out-of-state by three same-sex couples in Tennessee. The case, Tanco v. Tennessee, was filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

COLLEGE COACH WINS LAWSUIT: A judge in Minnesota Tuesday ordered the University of Minnesota to pay a women’s golf coach $359,589 in back pay plus interest for discrimination she suffered because of her sexual orientation. Judge Thomas Sipkins of the Minnesota district court for Hennepin County ruled that newly hired women’s golf coach Kathryn Brenny was “intentionally subjected to disparate treatment based on her sexual orientation,” including demotion, removal of coaching duties, and creating a “working environment plainly intolerable.”

ILLINOIS CANDIDATES DIFFER: Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner won the Republican primary for governor Tuesday in Illinois, setting a clear contrast between candidates this November. Incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn was a strong advocate for equal rights to marriage for same-sex couples. Rauner said he would have vetoed the marriage equality bill passed by the legislature.

DIALOGUING WITH UGANDA: Secretary of State John Kerry told a press briefing Tuesday that Uganda President Yoweri Museveni agreed to meet with “some of our experts” on homosexuality to understand why his signature on the Anti-Homosexuality Act “could not be based on any kind of science.”

PASTOR GETS TO APPEAL: A Committee on Appeals for the northeastern jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church has agreed to review a lower panel decision that stripped a minister of his pastor credentials because he performed a wedding ceremony for his son and his son’s same-sex spouse. Frank Schaefer, who had been pastor of a small church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, will get a review of this case in June.

FRED PHELPS OUT OF ACTION: The leader of the tiny Kansas Westboro Baptist Church, which has made a name for itself by traveling around the country to hold up signs saying “God Hates Fags,” is in a “care facility” receiving treatment for unspecified health problems, according to an Associated Press report.

BIBLE BALLOT MEASURE FAILS: An effort to put a “Free Exercise of Religion” initiative before California voters failed to turn in enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The Yes Jesus Is Lord.Org measure sought to declare that “it is not discrimination, a crime, hate crime or unlawful” to “engage in street witnessing” and other public expressions against wide range of topics, many of which were specific to LGBT people. To qualify for the ballot, the measure needed 504,760 valid signatures by March 14. Last month, a ballot measure failed to qualify a referendum to repeal a newly enacted law that allows students to use facilities and participate in programs “consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”

 

Speed Read: ‘Revenge for my views’

President Obama’s second executive order calling for sanctions against the Russian government over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula identifies Yelena Mizulina, author of the anti-gay laws, as one of seven individual Russian leaders for specific sanctions. New Hampshire is considering a pro-gay constitutional amendment.

U.S. SANCTIONS INCLUDES MIZULINA: The Moscow News identified State Duma Deputy Yelena Mizulina last June as the inspiration behind a new Russian law to prohibit “propaganda” about “non-traditional orientation” to children. She also sought support for a law to remove children from same-sex couples. The Moscow Times called her “Vladimir Putin’s new morality crusader.” Today, President Obama’s second executive order calling for sanctions against the Russian government over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula identifies Mizulina as one of seven individual Russian leaders for specific sanctions. Mizulina told the New York Times she thinks she was singled out by Obama as “revenge for my views” but said she has no property or assets outside Russia that can be reached by Obama’s order to freeze assets. A senior administration official said the seven were singled out for having “demonstrated support for the illegitimate actions that have recently taken place in Ukraine and have contributed to the crisis there.”

A WELCOME AMENDMENT: When the LGBT community reads about state constitutional amendments, it’s used to learning about efforts to ban same-sex couples from marrying. But that’s not the case in New Hampshire. The state senate on March 13 unanimously passed a bill that seeks to amend the state constitution to ban discrimination by the state based on sexual orientation. The amendment also changes the language of the state constitution from referring to “All men have certain” rights to “All individuals have certain” rights. Openly gay State Senator David Pierce introduced the bill, which now must earn three-fifths support from the House. If passed by the House, the question will go before voters in November where it must be approved by two-thirds of those voting.

UNWELCOME SHARING: Officials at Sheridan High School near Little Rock, Arkansas, reportedly want to pull six student profiles from the school’s yearbook because one of the profiles an openly gay student. The Student Press Law Center reported last week that school officials said they are concerned about negative repercussions for the gay student, Taylor Ellis, if the profile runs.

GUINNESS DROPS OUT IN NYC: GLAAD and Irish Queers canceled their plan to dump Guinness beer outside the Stonewall Inn in New York yesterday when Guinness announced at the eleventh hour that it was pulling its sponsorship of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. A spokesman for the company said: “Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all. We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year’s parade. As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.” Newspaper magnate Rupert Murdoch posted a Tweet urging people to boycott Guinness.

A POULTRY APOLOGY: The chief executive officer and president of the Chick-fil-A chain restaurant told the Atlanta Journal Constitution last week that he regrets having spoken out two years against same-sex couples marrying. Dan Cathy said he still doesn’t support allowing same-sex couples to marry, but that conversations with co-workers, friends, and the leader of a national LGBT student group (Campus Pride) have persuaded him to step back from the issue. The Center for American Progress’ thinkprogress.org reported earlier this month that Chick-fil-A foundations gave $3.6 million in grants to anti-gay organizations in 2011 but only $25,390 in 2012 when Cathy’s public statements against same-sex marriage triggered both a boycott and a rally by customers.

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Speed Read: Crowd cheers rainbows

The crowd at Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Sunday cheered a group of gay men who walked behind a “diversity” float, tossing rainbow-colored beads to observers. Sam Adams beer makers and Heineken withdrew their sponsorship of the parades for excluding openly gay people, but Guinness stayed on.

COLOR-CODED IN BOSTON: The crowd along the St. Patrick’s Day Parade route in Boston Sunday cheered loudly for a contingent of about 30 men who walked alongside a rainbow-colored float and tossed out green and rainbow-colored beads, reported the Boston Globe. Boston’s new mayor didn’t march in the parade organized by the Allied War Veterans (AWV), which continued to refuse to allow any contingent to identify itself as LGBT. The men, who the Globe identified as gay, marched as a neighborhood group, with AWV permission to display a banner saying “Celebrate the diversity of Boston.”

UNIFORMED MESSAGE? New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, decided not to participate in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan Saturday and attended a gay friendly one earlier in the month. But he still came under some criticism from LGBT community leaders for declining a request to bar city workers from marching in the exclusionary event in their city uniforms.

BEER BATTLES OVER PARADES: Two prominent beer producers pulled out of two high-profile St. Patrick’s Day parades, citing the refusal of parade organizers to allow openly LGBT participation. The Boston Beer Company, best known for its Sam Adams beer, withdrew as the prime sponsor of the Boston parade organized by Allied War Veterans; Heineken withdrew from the New York City parade organized by the non-profit NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade group. Guinness remained a sponsor of the New York event, and today, GLAAD and a group called Irish Queers plan to dump Guinness beer from the shelves of the Stonewall Inn in protest.

SAN FRANCISCO, SEATTLE MARCH FORWARD: An openly LGBT contingent participated in San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day parade this year; and openly gay Seattle Mayor Ed Murray participated in Seattle’s parade Saturday. The group that organizes the San Francisco parade said the SF Pride group wasn’t invited but that the parade is “all-inclusive.”

INDIANA NOW HAS FIVE LAWSUITS: Three new lawsuits were filed last Friday to challenge Indiana’s statutory ban on same-sex couples marrying, bringing to five the number of lawsuits now pending against the ban –all filed in the same week. One, Bowling v. Pence, was filed by two couples married in Iowa: one seeks recognition by Indiana in order for one spouse, a state employee, to obtain health coverage for her wife; the other seeks the ability to divorce her spouse. A second, Lee v. Pence, is four couples married in other states seeking the ability to have their spouses identified as beneficiaries in pension-related matters. The third, Fujii v. Indiana, was filed by the ACLU on behalf of 14 plaintiffs with various causes of action, including estate taxes and to gain a sense of family and security for children. Lawsuits were filed early in the week by Lambda Legal and by private attorneys.

RAND PAUL SEEKS NEUTRALITY: Potential Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul appears to be trying to stake out a neutral position on marriage for same-sex couples. In an interview with the news organization v[]cative.com, Paul said “different parts of the country” should be able to decide for themselves whether same-sex couples can marry, based on their “local mores and culture.” “But when it comes to taxes and benefits,” he said, “the [federal] government ought to take a neutral position—a way where marriage wouldn’t have an effect, positive or negative, on those things.” Human Rights Campaign spokesman Fred Sainz was unimpressed: “The same was said of race and inter-racial marriage at points in our history. The simple fact is that the denial of this fundamental right is discrimination and that’s un-American in all 50 states.”