Weekly Political Roundup

Flags

  • This evening, HRC released the following statement regarding ENDA:

    The Human Rights Campaign has collaborated with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to craft a solution to the controversy surrounding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Today, in a meeting with HRC and other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy groups, Speaker Pelosi took an unprecedented step and committed to giving H.R. 2015, the fully-inclusive version of the bill, a floor vote in the House once enough support for it to pass has been secured. This commitment by the Speaker of the House is an unprecedented departure from the usual delays seen in Congress on an issue that will have already been considered by the full House.

    Additionally, as the community continues to advocate and educate Members of Congress to secure enough commitments for final passage, the inclusive version of the legislation will receive committee hearings.

    Pam has a thoughtful analysis over at the Blend, in which she comments that “none of the advocacy groups, based on the reaction out there, in hindsight seemed prepared to deal with the level of educational foundation that needed to be laid for politicians to advocate for the original ENDA.”

  • Conservative gay journalist Andrew Sullivan says he finds himself oddly in agreement with Democratic Representative Barney Frank in support of not holding up ENDA for transgender inclusion.
  • Openly lesbian Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) expressed her support for the original, gender-inclusive version of ENDA, saying, in part:

    We must bring the strongest possible bill to the floor of the House for a vote. If our adversaries wish to erode protections in the bill, we must be prepared to face that challenge and make our case.

    However, I believe it is a mistake to concede defeat on any issue, before our opponents even raise it.

  • Howard J. Bayless III became the first openly gay man elected in the state of Alabama, winning a seat on the Board of Education to represent Birmingham’s third district.
  • As expected, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a marriage equality bill, saying that voters and the state Supreme Court should decide the issue.
  • A bill filed in the Florida legislature would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation (but not gender identity or expression). At the same time, conservative umbrella group Florida4Marriage says it expects to have enough signatures before the February deadline to put a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to voters in 2008.
  • Weeks after the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that marriage for same-sex couples was not a constitutional right, Governor Martin O’Malley (D) and House Speaker Michael Busch (D) have said they are in favor of civil unions.
  • The School Committee in Milton, Massachusetts is reviewing its diversity policies after a 9-year-old girl complained that after telling her third-grade classmates at Tucker Elementary School that her mother is a lesbian, she received verbal abuse all year, which grew into physical threats in September. (One suggestion: a diversity program building on the educational films of Ground Spark, which I discussed yesterday.) (Thanks to the Family Equality Council blog for the tip.)
  • While Massachusetts schools have been required to offer equal healthcare benefits to spouses of all married employees since same-sex marriage became legal, Boston University’s Daily Free Press reports that some schools, like the Roman Catholic Boston College, provide equal benefits but make same-sex married couples pay their own federal taxes on the benefits.
  • A Family Court ruling in Rockland County, New York said that a non-bio mom of a child she and her former partner created through donor insemination may have an obligation to pay support, even though those who are not adoptive or biological parents have no standing under New York law to seek custody or visitation.
  • Opponents of Oregon’s new same-sex domestic partnership law and the LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination law did not turn in enough valid signatures to suspend the measures and place them on the November 2008 ballot. This means the laws will take effect next year.
  • Daniel Anders, the first openly gay male judge in Philadelphia took his oath of office. The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that the Republican-dominated state Senate unanimously confirmed the Democratic judge.
  • The Rhode Island State Supreme Court heard arguments in a case involving a Rhode Island lesbian couple who married in Massachusetts but are seeking a divorce in their home state.
  • Tennessee’s Attorney General issued an opinion that nothing in the Tennessee constitution or state law prevents same-sex couples from adopting. Conservative groups are now considering pushing for a ban that would do so.
  • “Dozens” of gay and lesbian Vermonters testified in support of same-sex marriage at the first public hearing before the Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection.

Around the world:

  • France’s Le Monde newspaper has (in French) several articles on the country’s PACS, their version of civil unions. The number of PACS is growing annually by more than 20%. They are attractive not only to same-sex couples seeking recognition, but also to opposite-sex couples because they provide certain tax advantages while also allowing for easy dissolution. In 2006, 93% of the PACS were of opposite-sex couples. (Thanks to Doug Ireland.)
  • Szymon Niemiec, the founder of Gay Pride in Poland, was placed on the list of two minor Polish political parties to represent Warsaw’s District 2 in upcoming elections. (Thanks, U.K. Gay News.)
  • Britain’s Office for National Statistics reports that same-sex couples united in over 18,000 civil partnerships in the first twelve months they were legal.
  • The U.K. government said it would introduce legislation making it a crime to incite hatred based on people’s sexual orientation. [Looking across the pond at Barney Frank] Justice Secretary Jack Straw said the legislation may be extended to include gender identity.
  • Michael Cashman, who co-founded the U.K.’s LGBT equality organisation Stonewall in 1989 and is now a Member of the European Parliament, won an MEP Award from The Parliament Magazine in the Justice and Fundamental Rights Category.
  • The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) said it has uncovered evidence that the U.S. government has funded groups in Uganda that actively promote discrimination against lesbians and gay men.