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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

President Obama Signs Historic Hate Crime Legislation - Statement from Judy Shepard

After a decade of debate, persistent advocacy and 14 separate congressional floor votes, President Barack Obama today signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in a White House ceremony attended by the Shepard and Byrd families.

When Dennis and I started calling 10 years ago for federal action to prevent and properly prosecute hate crimes against gay, lesbian and transgendered Americans, we never imagined it would take this long,” said Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother and the president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors.

The legislation went through so many versions and so many votes that we had to constantly keep our hopes in check to keep from getting discouraged,” she continued. “But with President Obama’s support and the continually growing bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate lining up behind the bill this year, it became clear that 2009 was the year it would finally happen.”

The legislation allows federal authorities to pursue charges in violent crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability, in cases where local authorities cannot or will not secure appropriate convictions. It also opens up federal aid to local law enforcement for training, prevention and investigation.

We are incredibly grateful to Congress and the president for taking this step forward on behalf of hate crime victims and their families, especially given the continuing attacks on people simply for living their lives openly and honestly,” Shepard added. “But each of us can and must do much more to ensure true equality for all Americans.”

The Matthew Shepard Foundation’s work for an inclusive society continues after passage of this landmark legislation. In addition to advocating for workplace and housing equality, equal rights for same-sex couples, and an end to the ban on gay and lesbian military service, the Foundation continues to reach out to schools and corporations nationwide to encourage respect for human dignity and differences.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Report on Domestic Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Communities in U.S. to be released

Thursday October 29   11:00 am PST   2:00 pm EST
Call-In Number:  888.208.1711 code: 2548669


Report on Domestic Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Communities in U.S. to be released

3,419 cases of domestic violence reported; Police misconduct reports rose by 93%


What:  Audio Press Conference 
Release of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Domestic Violence in the U.S. in 2008: A Report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs

Who:  National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program (NCAVP) representatives
Terra Slavin, Lead Staff Attorney, Domestic Violence Legal Advocacy Project, Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center
Sharon Stapel, Executive Director, New York City Anti-Violence Project
Kristin Tucker, Program Manager, Northwest Network of Bisexual, Transgender, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse, Seattle
TBA:  Survivor(s) of domestic violence, client service provider

When:  Thursday October 29, 2009
11:00am PST 2:00 pm EST

Where:  Call-In Number:  888.208.1711 code: 2548669

Why:  Report findings reveal a total of 3,419 domestic violence incidents reported in 2008; reported incidents of police misconduct rose 93%.  Anti-violence programs across the country reported an increasing demand from LGBTQ communities of color, young, elder, disabled, and immigrant victims of domestic violence.  Culturally competent services and well resourced anti-violence programs addressing the needs of LGBTQ survivors of violence are a critical necessity. 

This report is a product of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), a network of over 35 anti-violence organizations that monitor, respond to, and work to end hate and domestic violence, HIV-related violence, and other forms of violence affecting LGBTQ communities.

Also join Sharon Stapel, Terra Slavin, Kristin Tucker and moderator Darren Mitchell for the training “Understanding and Addressing LGBT Domestic Violence” at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute on Thursday, October 29 from 6:30-8:30pm.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

HRC Applauds Creation of LGBT Elders Resource Center at Department of Health and Human Services

Grant Program Will Assist LGBT Organizations, Mainstream Aging Service Providers


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to establish a national resource center to help communities support and serve their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders.  Through its Administration on Aging, HHS will award a single resource grant in the amount of $250,000 annually, depending on the availability of funds.  According to HHS, the center will provide resources to LGBT organizations, as well assisting mainstream aging services providers in developing cultural competence in serving LGBT elders.

Despite the many advances our community has seen, LGBT elders face significant discrimination from senior care providers, including in places where we are most vulnerable, such as assisted living facilities and end-of-life care,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.  “As more and more openly LGBT people reach their later years, it is incredibly important to ensure that we are treated with dignity, respect and fairness.  We applaud HHS for taking this important step on behalf of older LGBT Americans.”

HRC and Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) host a collaborative forum on LGBT aging issues, available at www.hrc.org/issues/aging/.  As part of the New Beginning Initiative, coordinated by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, SAGE has advocated for policy changes that would benefit LGBT elders.  Earlier this month, the Administration on Aging issued the first-ever grant focused on LGBT aging to the Los Angeles LGBT Community Service Center. 

Senate Achieves Cloture on DoD Conference Report Including Hate Crimes Provision

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate today achieved cloture on the Department of Defense Authorization Conference Report of which the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is a part by a vote of 64 to 35.  The Senate will now proceed with debate on the Conference Report followed by a vote on final passage.  Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese released the following statement:

While there is strong support for the hate crimes provision, today’s cloture vote in the Senate demonstrates that those in the civil rights community need to remain ever vigilant.  While the Senate achieved cloture, it is clear that the opposition remains strong.  We look forward to final passage when the critical hate crimes legislation will be on its way to the President’s desk.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Victory! Appellate Court Strikes Down “Doctor's Note” Requirement for Transgender Name Changes

A New York State appeals court today struck down a lower court's requirement that transgender people seeking to change their names provide medical evidence of their need for the name change. The ruling was handed down in an appeal we filed on behalf of Olin Winn-Ritzenberg, a transgender man whose petition to change his name to Olin was denied by the lower court because he had failed to provide a letter from a doctor, therapist or social worker establishing his need to change his name.

But the appellate court wrote, "[t]here is no sound basis in law or policy to engraft upon the statutory provisions an additional requirement that a transgendered-petitioner present medical substantiation for the desired name change." The court's decision sends a powerful message that transgender people must be treated equally and that they cannot be subjected to different legal requirements than everyone else. People's names are fundamental to their identities. This decision confirms that each one of us has the right to be known by a name we choose. That decision can't be second-guessed by doctors, therapists or anyone else simply because someone is transgender.

Upon learning of the ruling, Olin said, "This means that I can finally change my name and move forward with my life. My gender transition has been a very personal journey, and no one is in a better position to decide that I need to change my name than I am."

We were lucky to have the assistance of some incredibly talented lawyers, including Brenna DeVaney, Benjamin Edwards, Daniel Gonen, and Janson Mao, who served with us as Olin's co-counsel. Daniel admirably argued the appeal. And our friends at Debevoise & Plimpton and Lambda Legal submitted a stellar brief in support of Olin's appeal. You can read the appeal brief we submitted on Olin's behalf here.

We'd be remiss if we failed to acknowledge Olin's perseverance throughout the long appeal process. Instead of complying with a lower court requirement that we all knew was unjust (and that had been imposed upon many other people), he chose to fight it, delaying his own name change for many months to finally put an end to the practice of subjecting transgender name change applicants to this burdensome and demeaning doctor's note requirement. Thank you, Olin!

Olin changed his name through TLDEF's Name Change Project, which provides free and low-cost name changes by matching transgender community members in New York City with lawyers in private practice who provide their services free of charge. If you or someone you know needs help with a name change, please contact us.

Many months ago, when we first filed this appeal, we asked the question, "Who Decides?" Who decides what your gender identity is? Doctors, government officials, and agency administrators? Or each one of us as autonomous individuals? After many months, we're very happy to have closed the circle with a victory for freedom and self-determination.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gays Prefer Working in States with Marriage Equality


Published on October 19, 2009
 
Other factors being equal, 71% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) adults would prefer a job with an employer based in a state where marriage equality is recognized over an employer based in a state that does not yet recognize marriage equality for same-sex couples, according to the 2009 Out & Equal Workplace Survey, conducted jointly by Harris Interactive, Out & Equal, and Witeck-Combs Communication.
When the same question is asked of lesbian and gay adults only, 79% would prefer working for an employer based in a state allowing same-sex marriage:

Read on...

Family Equality Council eager to work with Rep. Stark on the Every Child Deserves a Family Act




Statement from Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler;

Boston, MA (October 19, 2009)—Family Equality Council, the national organization working to secure equality for LGBT families, is eager to work with Representative Stark (D-CA) on the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (HR 3827). Non-discrimination in adoption is a national child welfare issue of utmost importance and needs to be addressed at the federal level. Currently there are an estimated 500,000 children in the United States foster care system and over 129,000 are legally available for adoption. Unfortunately nearly 25,000 foster children a year are “aged out” of the system and never find a permanent family. These children vary in age, race, and family history but all share a common need for loving homes with loving parents.

Currently there are an estimated 2 million children being raised by lesbian or gay parents, 65,500 of which are adopted. Lesbian and gay parents live in 99.9% of counties across the U.S. Adoption policies with regards to LGBT parents vary from state to state. Although Florida is the only state with an express ban on adoption by LGBT individuals, as of 2008, seven states either expressly restrict adoption by LGBT couples or had laws and policies that may have the effect of restricting LGBT parents from adopting. State laws and regulations are not the only barriers facing LGBT individuals. One-third of child welfare agencies currently reject LGBT applicants, citing state law, a policy of placing children with married-heterosexual only couples, or a conflict with the religious beliefs associated with the agency,.

LGBT families are also raising an estimated 3% of children in the foster care system. As of 2007, four states also restrict LGBT individuals from becoming foster parents. To learn more on state specific LGBT adoption and foster care policies and laws visit http://www.familyequality.org/resources/publications.html.

Thirty years of scientific research shows overwhelmingly that children raised in same-sex headed households do just as well emotionally and psychologically as children raised in heterosexual households. Leading child welfare organizations support adoption by lesbian and gay men, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Child Welfare League of America, North American Council on Adoptable Children, American Psychological Association, American Bar Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychoanalytic Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Statement of Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director, Family Equality Council:

All decisions concerning the health and welfare of the country’s most vulnerable children should be made solely with their best interest in mind. Family Equality Council looks forward to working with Congressman Stark and House Bill 3827 as an opportunity to educate members of Congress and the public about why non-discrimination in adoption is a national child welfare issue that needs to be addressed.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mr. President here's the LGBT timeline

By Mark Segal

There are 2.7-million active servicemembers and reservists in the U.S. military. For debate purposes, let’s say 5-percent (use whatever figure you wish here) are gay, lesbian or bisexual and come under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” If every one were discharged, that’s 135,000 possible casualties of the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers.
       
Now, let me give you another number. The U.S. population is about 300 million. Let’s use that same 5 percent figure for the LGBT community and do the math — presto, you have a figure of about 15 million LGBT U.S. citizens. Now, 21 states and the District of Columbia have passed nondiscrimination laws, meaning that 29 states give no job protection to LGBT workers. Given population stats, let’s say that translates to about 50 percent of the U.S. population. Take that 15 million and divide in half, and we now know that 7.5 million LGBT U.S. citizens have no job protection against discrimination.
   
Now, we could go state by state and attempt to give job security to our community that way, but guess what? There are states that will not protect our citizens, and therefore we need the national law. We’re not the first community that came to that conclusion. In the 1960s, the black civil-rights movement understood this, and it resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, then the National Voting Rights Act of 1965.
   
So we have the facts, we have the figures: How do we proceed? Once again, it’s time for us to be creative.
   
The pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act legislation has a section that specifically exempts “members of the Armed Forces.”
   
So, we remove this section, or we change the wording; maybe: “The President will confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Congress regarding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The legislation is passed and the president signs it and adds a signing statement, such as, “It is my understanding that this includes the U.S. military and voids ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’” You read that right. The president can keep his promise to repeal the ban and we can end both forms of discrimination in one bill.
   
Doing it this way will give the moderates who want to vote for nondiscrimination but not repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” a way to do that. It all falls on the shoulders of the president. It’s completely legal and done with a wink and a nod. Also, Washington appreciates a move like this: It lets so many off the hook. They get to say to their constituents — either us or the right wing — they were for it, but not for the other half. They can’t lose.
   
So whatever your position or priority is, it’s time to do the math and strategize on how to take action. You can yell all you want, but passing legislation takes planning, strategy and knowing your priorities, and most of all, knowing how to count the votes you need to achieve them.
   

One last thought. I’m not willing to wait seven years for this work to be completed. If the White House and HRC won’t give a deadline, then we should. Maybe three years is an appropriate deadline since we’ll have to decide by then whether to vote or just sit on our hands. n


Mark Segal is the former President of both the National Gay Newspaper Guild and the National Gay Press association.  He served on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Publishers associate and is on boards at Suburban newspapers of America.  He is the longest serving member of the LGBT press celebrating 34 years as publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News.

Monday, October 12, 2009

SENATOR LENO’S LGBT BILLS ARE SIGNED INTO LAW

California Becomes First State to Recognize LGBT Leader

SACRAMENTO – Two bills by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) to bring recognition to Harvey Milk and out-of-state same sex marriages were signed into law late yesterday.  Governor Schwarzenegger approved SB 572 (Chapter 626) to create Harvey Milk Day, a day of special of special significance in California honoring the state’s first openly gay elected official.  Also approved by the Governor was SB 54 (Chapter 625) which resolves ambiguities about how out-of-state same-sex marriages will be recognized in California.

I am pleased the Governor recognized the historic and international nature of Harvey Milk’s contributions and legacy” said Senator Leno, Chair of California’s LGBT Legislative Caucus. “Milk is an inspiration to people worldwide who believe in fairness and equality and he fought for many of the issues we value today, including access to education, public transportation, affordable housing and protecting the environment.”

SB 572 recognizes Harvey Milk’s life and contributions to the state by designating May 22 as a day of special significance.

Senator Leno’s bill to establish the legal status of out-of –state marriages was also signed into law.  Senate Bill 54 will clarify that same-sex couples who married outside of California before Proposition 8 went into effect last year are recognized as married spouses, not unlike the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed in California. The legislation also confirms that same-sex couples who married outside California after Prop 8 went into effect on November 5, 2008, or plan to do so in the future, must receive the same rights, protections, benefits, obligations and responsibilities afforded to opposite-sex spouses, with the sole exception of the designation of “marriage.”

I applaud the Governor for ending the legal limbo in which many married same-sex couples are finding themselves.  When California offered marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2008, spouses who were already married in another state or country were prohibited from re-marrying in California,” said Senator Leno. “Now those couples and their families will receive the rights and protections under the law to which they are entitled. This legislation ensures that same-sex couples are protected by existing California law that recognizes all marriages equally, regardless of where they are performed.”

Both bills were sponsored by Equality California and were co-authored by members of the LGBT Legislative Caucus, including Senator Christine Kehoe and Assemblymembers Tom Ammiano and John A. PĂ©rez.  Both bills take effect on January 1, 2010.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Log Cabin Republicans Respond To Obama's HRC Speech

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION HAS FAILED TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON PROMISES MADE TO LGBT COMMUNITY AND INSTRUCTED JUSTICE DEPT TO BLOCK EFFORTS TO OVERTURN 'DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL' POLICY

(Washington, DC) - Log Cabin Republicans issued the following statement in response to President Obama's speech Saturday at the Human Rights Campaign's gala:

"President Obama may have the highest level of respect for our community, but his lack of actual progress overshadows any kind of campaign-style promises he may make," commented Terry Hamilton - Log Cabin Republicans National Board Chairman. "Barack Obama is the President now - he gave the same speech tonight that we have heard many times before. Being an ally means that you need to need to not just 'have gay friends' but know what we are experiencing, and most importantly to do something about it."

President Obama tonight promised to repeal the damaging & dangerous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Currently, Log Cabin Republicans is the only organization with an active lawsuit given standing by the federal courts challenging the military's discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and was the first case introduced on the issue after the landmark Lawrence decision.

Despite the President's promise this evening, he has instructed his Justice Department to fight Log Cabin's lawsuit, as well as other court cases challenging this LGBT discriminatory policies. Find more information at :
http://www.logcabin.org/logcabin/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=25795643

"If President Obama is serious about repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", he can take action tomorrow and instruct his Justice Department to drop its challenge to our case," says Hamilton.

Log Cabin Republicans National Spokesperson Charles T. Moran comments -

"Gays and lesbians are not looking for the same 'hope and change rhetoric' that we've heard for so long.  The President's speech tonight rings of hollow promises that we have all heard before. While he gives his speech tonight at the HRC, his senior aides in the White House are engaged in a political game shutting down and putting the breaks on any substantive progress in efforts to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell', 'Defense of Marriage Act' and pass employment non-discrimination through legislative and judicial channels. It is time that President Obama stops talking about bringing forth a 'better America' and starts making it happen."

Mitchell Gold Statement On Obama

President draws a line in the sand and spits in the eye the religious bigots
that do us harm, says founder of Faith In America


President Obama's speech last evening at the HRC dinner drew a clear line in
the sand for the world to see: this administration believes in and will work
with the LGBT community and our allies to achieve full equality under the
law for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. President Obama’s
presence and words represented his recognition that LGBT people are a normal
part of our diverse society.

This speech, in front of over 3000 people attendees and viewed by millions
around the world, made it abundantly clear that we are looking at a new era
for civil rights for LGBT people. We want to highlight one of the most
important parts of President Obama’s speech that might be overlooked in the
policy-oriented and political language of incremental progress and change.

President Obama specifically condemned the lies and divisiveness used by our
opponents – such as those used in anti-marriage equality ads from Maine to
California and from Washington State to the nation’s Capitol. His statements
in this regard were a direct rebuke and rejection of the religion-based
bigotry that causes direct harm to LGBT individuals and families every day.
President Obama called out the “pink elephant” of religion based bigotry
which is the major obstacle to our community achieving full civil equality

The James Dobsons, Rick Warrens, Bishop Harry Jacksons and others of their
ilk are now officially on notice. The religion-based bigotry they use to
harm our families and community every day will have no sway on this White
House. It is now in our hands to continue to educate the public, tell our
stories and stand up to bigotry.

Does this mean I am satisfied by this one speech? Of course not. Does this
mean we have come anywhere close to achieving our goals? Absolutely not.

Nevertheless, in his first speech as a Nobel Laureate, President Obama made
it clear to the world that his administration will do everything in its
power to ensure the passage of federal legislation needed to combat hate
crimes, to protect LGBT people in the workplace, to allow us to serve openly
in the military, and to recognize our relationships are equal to those of
heterosexuals under the law.

As President Obama said himself, LGBT people and our allies have waited far
too long for equality and that we should be impatient. He also renewed his
call on us to continue to challenge our leaders. We have a responsibility in
this ourselves. We must – during today’s National Equality March and every
day thereafter - continue to tell our stories to our families, friends,
communities and our elected officials, to pressure our Congressional
representatives, and to hold this President accountable for his promises.

We fully expect to see historic change in the status of LGBT people in this
country, accomplishments worthy of a people with a Nobel Laureate as our
President. The world is watching and is expecting nothing less.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

HRC Welcomes Obama at National Dinner




WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, released the following statement tonight after President Barack Obama spoke at the 13th Annual National Dinner.

"Tonight, President  Obama told LGBT Americans that his commitment to ending discrimination in the military, in the workplace and for loving couples and their families is 'unwavering.'  He made it crystal clear that he is our strongest ally in this fight, that he understands and, in fact, encourages our activism and our voice even when we’re impatient with the pace of change.  But these remarks weren’t just for us, they were directed to all Americans who share his dream and ours of a country where “no one is denied their basic rights, in which all of us are free to live and love as we see fit.

"And we heard unequivocally  about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: 'I am working with the Pentagon, its leadership and members of the House and Senate to end this policy. I will end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  That is my commitment to you.'



"Finally, we heard something quite remarkable from the President:  'You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman.'

"This was a historic night when we felt the full embrace and commitment of the President of the United States. It’s simply unprecedented."

Solomnese Gets A Whipping By Gay Blogger

Queerty was all up in arms regarding HRC President, Joe Solomnese's recent email to supporters on Obama.

Solomneses writes:

I am sure of this: on January 19, 2017, I will look back on the President's address to my community as an affirmation of his pledge to be our ally. I will remember it as the day when we all stood together and committed to finish what Senator Kennedy called our unfinished business. And I am sure of this: on January 19, 2017, I will also look back on many other victories that President Barack Obama made possible.

Queerty responds with:

--should be self-evident. That note, from HRC's Joe Solmonese, effectively lets Obama off the hook for your LGBT rights until the last day of his (not definite) second term. Yes, Solmonese is saying we will judge Obama's legacy on that date. But you know who can't wait for 2017 for Obama to come around? The same people who supposedly aren't facing "immediate threats" to their civil rights: American soldiers, parents who yearn to adopt, couples who are not attached under the law, employees who can be fired at a moment's notice because they are queer.

It's preposterous that an organization charged with defending and demanding the rights of LGBT Americans — and already facing allegations of telling Obama to give preference to some gay rights legislation while ignoring others — just told the entire world that the gay community can wait until Obama is moving out of the White House to expect our rights. The ramifications of HRC's message are dire; the media and other gay organizations around the world take cues from this organization, and if this is the agenda they are pushing, we worry it'll reverberate into a message the "gay community" is behind.

Read on....

Friday, October 9, 2009

GLTNewsNow has arrived!

After much planning and development, GLTNewsNow – your new daily GLBT news source for San Diego County and beyond – has launched and is now online at GLTNewsNow.com.

The new site features news, politics, lifestyle, social and entertainment columns from many well-known and well-connected contributors including Councilmember Todd Gloria, City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez, Aaron Heier, Stephen Whitburn, Kurt Cunningham, Joseph Rocha, Michael Kimmel, Steven Petrow and others.

Visit GLTNewsNow.com for continuing coverage of this weekend's National Equality March in Washington, D.C., brough to you by N.E.M. co-chair Nicole Murray-Ramirez.

U.S. Court of Appeals Hears Arguments in Lambda Legal's Case Seeking Birth Certificate for Child Adopted by Two Fathers

Lower court ruled state must issue birth certificate to same-sex adoptive
parents of baby boy


(New Orleans, October 7, 2009) – A three-member panel of federal judges in
the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard today from attorneys on both sides
regarding Lambda Legal’s lawsuit against the Louisiana Registrar of Vital
Statistics for refusing to respect the New York adoption by a same-sex
couple of a Louisiana-born baby boy.

"Decades ago, our U.S. Supreme Court rejected as unconstitutional the
premise that a state may inflict harm on children solely as a way to
express disapproval of their parents,
” Ken Upton, Supervising Senior Staff
Attorney for Lambda Legal, told the court.  "Ironically, one of the
earliest of those cases was against the State of Louisiana.  The Registrar's policy
appears to be a throwback to that long discredited conduct."


Lambda Legal represents San Diego residents Oren Adar and Mickey Smith in
their case against Louisiana State Registrar Darlene Smith.  Adar and Smith
are a gay couple who adopted their Louisiana-born son in 2006 in a New
York, where a judge issued an adoption decree.  When the couple attempted
to get a new birth certificate for their child, in part so Smith could add
his son to his health insurance, the registrar’s office told him that
Louisiana does not recognize adoption by unmarried parents and so could not
issue it.

"You really have to wonder why the attorney general is fighting this so
doggedly,
" said Upton.  "The U.S. Constitution spells out that state
officials must respect final judgments entered in other states.  This
includes adoption decrees.
"

Lambda Legal filed suit on behalf of Adar and Smith in October 2007, saying
that the registrar was violating the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the
U.S. Constitution by refusing to recognize the New York adoption.  The
Constitution requires that judgments and orders issued by a court in one
state be legally binding in other states as well.  The Louisiana attorney
general disagreed, and advised the registrar that she did not have to honor
an adoption from another state that would not have been granted under
Louisiana law had the couple lived and adopted there.  Last December, U.S.
District Judge Jay Zainey ruled against the registrar and issued a summary
judgment ordering her to issue a new birth certificate identifying both
Oren Adar and Mickey Smith as the boy’s parents, saying her continued
failure to do so violated the U.S. Constitution.  The attorney general
appealed the case.

Upton also represented Lambda Legal before the 10th Circuit in Finstuen v.
Crutcher, another case involving same-sex couples with adopted children.
The court  rejected the Oklahoma Department of Health’s challenge to a
lower court decision striking down an Oklahoma law so extreme that it
threatened to make children adopted by same-sex couples in other states
legal orphans when the families are in Oklahoma.  The ruling is important
not only in Oklahoma, but also to families across the United States,
including in Seattle and Houston, home to two of the families who joined in
the suit.

Kenneth D. Upton, Jr., Supervising Senior Staff Attorney is handling the
case for Lambda Legal. He is joined by Regina O. Matthews and Spencer R.
Doody of Martzell & Bickford in New Orleans.  The case is Adar v. Smith.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

President Obama to appoint openly gay U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa






WASHINGTON –  The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today issued a statement on reports that David Huebner has been selected as the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.  Huebner, who is the head of the China Practice and the International Disputes Practice of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, is also a founding board member and former board co-chair for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

"The selection of David Huebner as Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa is not only good for the LGBT community, it is good for America,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “The appointment of openly gay and lesbian Americans, by this Administration, continues show their dedication to diversity and making decisions not based on someone’s sexual orientation, but based on their qualifications.  We congratulate David on his appointment and look forward to his service to our country.”

 “As the American people have learned from my experience, sexual orientation has nothing to do with ones ability to represent our country abroad in the foreign service,” said Jim Hormel, the first openly gay U.S. Ambassador appointed to Luxembourg by President Bill Clinton and a founder of the Human Rights Campaign.  “I am pleased that President Obama has chosen David Huebner who will serve as an excellent ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.”

Huebner, who is openly gay, is former Chairman of Coudert Brothers LLP.  A native of Pennsylvania, Huebner is a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University, where he majored at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.  He is also a graduate of Yale Law School.

 The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ABA URGES HOUSE COMMITTEE MEMBERS TO SUPPORT LGBT NON-DISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION

The American Bar Association is urging House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor members to support legislation to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees from workplace discrimination.

In a letter sent yesterday to committee Chairman George Miller and Ranking Member Howard P. McKeon, the ABA asked for support of the Employment Non Discrimination Act of 2009 , H.R. 3017, noting that "studies have found that as many as 43 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual employees experienced discrimination in the workplace.”  The letter also pointed out that in 29 states it is still legal to fire an individual because of his or her sexual orientation, and legal to fire someone on the basis of gender identity in 38 states.

Whenever any of our basic civil rights are diminished or marginalized unjustifiably on the basis of personal characteristics, all of our basic civil rights are diminished and jeopardized,” noted the letter.

A full copy of the letter, signed by ABA President, Carolyn B. Lamm, is posted at:  http://www.abanet.org/poladv/letters/additional/2009oct05_endah_l.pdf

Senate Majority Leader Reid Announces Support for National Equality March





Las Vegas, NV, October 6 –Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is supporting the National Equality March (NEM) saying in a letter addressed to steering committee members, “I write to join in your commitment to ensure equality under the law.”  The letter was delivered on September 30.

We are honored that Senator Reid has endorsed the National Equality March and our fight for full equality,” said Derek Washington, Clark County Nevada Democratic Black Caucus director and director of diversity outreach for NEM.  “Senator Reid is a man of his word and I believe he supports the LGBT community and our struggle for full federal equality.”

The full text of the letter follows.

Dear Members of the National March for Equality Steering Committee:

As you prepare to come to Washington, DC, for the National Equality March, I write to join in your commitment to ensure equality under the law.  As Senate Majority Leader, I will continue to work tirelessly to pass the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, as well as to repeal the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.  I will also continue to advocate for funding of HIV/AIDS prevention treatment research and housing programs.

I believe that every American should be treated equally under the law regardless of religion, sexual orientation, gender, race or other forms if identity.  I see your struggle for equality as part of a larger movement for peace and social justice.

My best wishes to you.

Sincerely,

Harry Reid
United States Senator
Nevada

A PDF copy of the letter can be seen here: http://equalityacrossamerica.org/blog/?p=5265           

Monday, October 5, 2009

iQreport and Live Blogging Make Debut at National Equality March

       
In a move that could change the way in which news from grassroots journalists reaches the mainstream media, NEM organizers are supporting the United Equality New Media team as they enlist volunteer bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters to participate in spreading the word about the hopes and dreams of march attendees.
       
Jay Morris, the committee chairman who produces the blog JaySays, is most excited about the live blogging, which will allow iQreporters to stream content live from the weekend's events. The live blogs will utilize some of the latest advances in new media technology and allow the iQreporters to upload videos, photos, audio clips, and real-time blog posts. The one common purpose for all of the iQreports is to document how the failure to lead in issues of LGBT equality on the part of the federal government is impacting people's lives.
       
Perhaps when our federal legislators see how much inequality exists from one coast to the other in this country, the need for equal protection at the federal level will become more evident,” Morris says. Fellow organizer Genia Stevens has similar feelings. "I'm excited to be a part of what I believe is the most aggressive, progressive and diverse gay rights movement of our time," she writes. Stevens is the producer and host of SistersTalk Radio. Waymon Hudson, who blogs with The Bilerico Project, is also a leader of the team.
           
Any new media enthusiast with a reasonable amount of blogging experience who wants to try live blogging is asked to apply for consideration by visiting the United Equality New Media registration page. Traditional bloggers may simply choose to follow the Twitter posts of user iQreport on their cell phones in order to be in prime locations for a good story. An iQreport is an LGBT derivative of an "iReport."
       
The idea of using new media was born out of necessity. Derek Washington, the NEM Director of Diversity Outreach, was struggling with how to reach a representative sampling of march attendees, and in the process was introduced to Mickey Rowe, an EEO certified investigator. Rowe's mandate was to “…create inclusion within our community as well as demand it for all LGBT people.” After Rowe and his husband, Lester Leavitt, were introduced to Morris, the idea of the iQreport was born.

Contact:
Jay Morris
iQreport@gmail.com
210-880-LGBT