Weekly Political Roundup

  • FlagsThe much-debated Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the U.S. House without protections based on gender-identity or expression. Its fate in the Senate is unclear, and President Bush has said he will veto it in any case, so it is unlikely ENDA of any sort will pass before the next administration (and let’s hope it’s a pro-LGBT one). This week’s action is progress of a sort—with many reservations. To me, the best thing the ENDA debate has done is to put the LGBT-activist community through a process of self-examination. It hasn’t been pretty, and there are still many open wounds. It could also be seen as the worst thing ENDA has done. I hope, however, it has given us the wake-up call necessary to pull together and make sure it passes—with gender protections—next time around. Bay Windows has a blow-by-blow of the action; Queerty has a good summary of the aftermath; Marti Abernathy’s piece at Bilerico is also worth a read.
  • The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund reports that of the record 71 candidates endorsed by the group this year, at least 31 won their races on Tuesday, while 10 were elected earlier in the year. At least three more advanced to runoff elections.
  • A new ABC poll shows that 55 percent of Americans favor allowing same-sex couples to form legal civil unions (up from 45 percent in 2006) with the same rights as married couples in health insurance, inheritance, and pension coverage. Democrats were the most in favor, at 66%, but even about a third of those identifying as conservative were supportive.
  • The “Whoops” award of the week goes to Mitt Romney’s campaign, for accidentally running an ad for the anti-LGBT candidate on Gay.com.
  • The Los Angeles Police Department reinstituted a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation, and agreed “to improve training for officers on gay and lesbian issues, change questions on background checks and develop an outreach program to various organizations to recruit new officers.” (Thanks, Gay and Lesbian SmartBrief.)
  • The Los Angeles City Council has called for a repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, making it the ninth major city to do so.
  • Brian Bates became Georgia’s first openly gay, Republican elected official. Michelle Bruce, the state’s only openly transgender politician, is in a runoff to keep her seat.
  • MassEquality, the coalition that led the fight for marriage equality in Massachusetts, said it will to expand its mission and help bring equal marriage rights to other states as well as work with local LGBT organizations to pass additional LGBT legislation within the Bay State. Some, however, question the Board’s vote to disband MassEquality’s coalition governance.
  • The Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case to decide whether a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman prevents public employers from offering health care benefits to same-sex domestic partners of employees.
  • A Rochester, Minnesota judge ruled that the Rochester Athletic Club (RAC) did not discriminate against a lesbian couple by refusing to sell them a family membership, which is available to legally married spouses. He added that the RAC’s definition of family was “morally and legally defensible yet unrealistically narrow” and “fails to recognize the underlying stability and commitment of the Monsons’ relationship.” The RAC nevertheless has a legal right to limit their membership to those who are legally married, he said, and it is up to the legislature, not the courts, to determine if same-sex relationships deserve statutory protection. (Thanks, PageOneQ.)
  • Councilman Joe McNamara (D) of Toledo, Ohio, introduced a bill to allow same-sex couples to register as domestic partners with the clerk of Toledo City Council. The partnerships would not provide any city benefits, but would “give employers some assurance that people seeking benefits under that heading have a legitimate relationship.”
  • The President of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives said in the January 2008 legislative session, the House would take up the issue of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage as well as civil unions even for opposite-sex couples.
  • A federal appeals court in Seattle, Washington, heard the case of a decorated Air Force nurse dismissed when it was revealed she is a lesbian. The case is one of the first two to question “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Lawrence v. Texas, confirming the right of adults to engage in consensual sex, and could have broader implications for the military’s policy.

Around the world:

  • The government of Australian Prime Minister John Howard said that if re-elected it would give same-sex couples the same pension rights as married couples. The LGBT community sees the move as no more than an election ploy.
  • A transgender woman in Sydney, Australia has taken a lesbian support group to an equal opportunities tribunal, claiming they discriminated against her by refusing her entry to a lesbian event.
  • The Catholic Church in Italy told a couple that they must disinvite a cousin of the bride, a member of Italy’s Communist Party and of Prime Minister Prodi’s ruling coalition, because she is transgender and supports gay rights.
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has granted asylum to a gay Jamaican man who feared persecution because of his sexual orientation.
  • A Swiss right-wing political party will not face charges over ads that called same-sex couples infertile. The Geneva prosecutor said Swiss law “does not protect ‘indistinct’ groups such as homosexuals from insults,” but only covers “ethnic, racial and religious groups.” In a May referendum, 83% of voters nevertheless chose to grant same-sex couples equal inheritance rights and other benefits.
  • In the U.K. a bill will be introduced next week that would treat both women in a same-sex relationship as legal parents when one of them gives birth following fertility treatment, even if they are not in a civil partnership. The sperm donor cannot be treated as a father. If passed, the Bill would also allow children born from donor sperm or eggs “to have limited access to information about other children from the same donor.”