Weekly Political Roundup

  • FlagsSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA.) dropped a gay- and transgender-inclusive hate crimes bill, aka the Matthew Shepard Act, from the National Defense Authorization Act, bowing to pressure from House Democratic leaders. House democrats are now asking the Senate to pass a standalone hate-crimes bill.
  • The Scottsdale, Arizona City Council voted to extend the city’s equal employment protections to LGBT people.
  • The number of civil unions in Connecticut has dropped sharply this year, with only 372 as of the end of October. After civil unions became legal on October 1, 2005, there were 649 during the next three months. There were 729 in 2006. Some speculate that the drop is because couples are waiting for the Supreme Court to decide if denying full marriage equality is unconstitutional.
  • Michelle, Bruce, a transgender city council member in Riverdale, Georgia, lost a runoff reelection bid after an opponent filed a lawsuit claiming that she misled voters by identifying as female. A judge threw out the suit the day before the election, but Bruce says the damage was done.
  • A three-judge federal panel heard the arguments of two sets of parents from Lexington, Massachusetts, who objected to the reading of King & King in their child’s class. A U.S. District Court Judge dismissed their case in February, saying that parents do not have the right to dictate public school curriculum. Now, the parents claim they do not want the book removed from the curriculum, but they wish to be notified before such books are used so they may opt-out their children. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Do they really want me to notify the teacher every time my son brings in a picture of his family for show-and-tell, so they can opt-out their children from listening to him talk of “Mommy and Momma”? Sigh.
  • Michigan added protections for state employees on the basis of gender identity or expression. It already protected them based on sexual orientation, among other things.
  • Garden State Equality chairman Steven Goldstein says the New Jersey Legislature is just a few votes short of a majority in support of marriage equality. Right-wing groups confirm this. (Thanks, PageOneQ.) If it does pass, the question remains whether New Jersey would open it up to out-of-state couples, thereby depriving Massachusetts of a golden tourism opportunity.
  • Oklahoma State Representative Al McAffrey (D), the Legislature’s only gay member, has proposed a bill to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s hate crime law, and to increase the penalty for hate crimes from a misdemeanor to a felony. (Thanks, PageOneQ.)
  • Anti-LGBT advocates in Oregon filed a lawsuit in federal court to try and overturn the invalidation of a petition to stop Oregon’s Domestic Partnership law that goes into effect on January 1, 2008. They claim errors in the procedures used to verify signatures on the petition; LGBT group Basic Right Oregon says their case is without merit.
  • The City of Philadelphia will eject the Boy Scouts from their city-owned building on June 1, 2008, after the Scouts refused to admit gay youth or to pay market value (about $200,000) to rent the building, instead of the token $1 they pay now.
  • The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Family Court does not have jurisdiction to recognize a same-sex couple’s Massachusetts marriage for the purpose of granting them a divorce. Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) said in a statement (PDF link): “We are dismayed that the Court has gone out of its way to make an apparent gay exception to the rule and tradition of respect for valid out-of-state marriages, and has opted to place obstacles before this couple that other Rhode Island couples do not face. As stated in the dissenting opinion in today’s decision, this ruling ‘places the parties, and all those similarly situated, in an untenable position. They are denied access to the Family Court and thus are left in a virtual legal limbo.’”
  • LGBT-rights groups in Olympia, Washington, after getting domestic partnership legislation last year, have decided to focus their current efforts on extending the benefits of such registration, rather than trying for full marriage or “equal in all but name” civil unions.

Around the world:

  • 100 LGBT youth from across Europe are meeting in Málaga, Spain, for a three-day meeting of International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Queer Youth and Student Organisation. Among other things, they will launch new guidelines for LGBT-friendly schools.
  • South Australia Senator Penny Wong Ying Yen has been appointed minister for water and climate change, making her the first Asian-born Cabinet minister and the first lesbian one.
  • The state government of Victoria, Australia has said it will introduce new legislation in Parliament for a relationship register. The human rights group Civil Union Action welcomed the move, but said “the register should include equal substantive rights and the option for official ceremonies.”
  • New Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said he will not block the Australian Capitol Territory (ACT) from enacting a same-sex civil partnership bill. The bill now allows couples living outside the ACT to have a civil union, although the ACT Attorney General has suggested restricting them to residents only, if the government preferred.
  • New Australian Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson says he supports equality for same-sex couples in terms of taxation, social security, and pensions, but does not believe in same-sex marriage, adoption, or access to fertility services.
  • Brazil’s President Luiz Inazio Lula da Silva has called a summit for next May between LGBT-rights leaders and federal politicians to discuss LGBT rights legislation and fighting homophobia. It may also look at same-sex relationship recognition, adoption rights, and ways of combating HIV/AIDS in the LGBT community.
  • The government of Nova Scotia, Canada may soon recognize common-law and same-sex spouses under the province’s pension plan.
  • The Grenada Government affirmed it would allow several cruise ships carrying gay passengers to dock at Port St. George, after rumors of a ban on the ships led to hotel cancellations and a call for Canada to cut aid to St. George. (Thanks, PageOneQ.)
  • Iran executed Makvan Moloudzadeh on the charge of sodomy, although he and all the witnesses claimed their admission of the “crime” was given after torture. Makwan was accused of having sexual relations with other boys his own age when he was 13, under the 15 years required for someone to be executed for sodomy, and under the 18 years required for the death penalty under two international treaties to which Iran is a signatory. There was no evidence the sex was not consensual.
  • The Irish Minister of State for Equality said he supports civil partnerships for same-sex couples, but “the special protection afforded to marriage under the Constitution meant it could not legislate to re-define marriage to include same-sex couples.” (Yeah. And same-sex couples are the ones who want “special” rights.) The Minister of Justice concurred.
  • Israel’s Supreme Court will rule on whether an American-Israeli lesbian couple should be registered as joint parents of their child. The boy is the biological son of one and adopted by the other under California law. A 2000 ruling said they should be thus registered, but the Interior Ministry has refused to do so. (Lesbian mom trivia: Pinknews.co.uk informs us “The Prime Minister of Israel’s lesbian daughter, Dana Olmert, became mother last September when her partner gave birth to a baby girl. 34-year-old Dana lives with her life partner Dafna Ben Zvi and, according to Ynetnews the Olmert-Ben Zvi couple has an excellent relationship with the Prime Minister.”)
  • To followup on my piece about donor custody battles: Pinknews.co.uk notes that legislation now before Parliament would allow civil partners both to be named parents of a child, whether conceived through a clinic or less formally. For those who use a clinic, the sperm donor would be registered, would not be on the birth certificate, and would not be responsible for the child’s welfare or upkeep. Information about him could be released to the child at age 18, with the legal parents’ consent.
  • Two years after civil partnerships became legal in the U.K., many are expressing reservations about the way CP’s are being handled on forms such as loan applications, where applicants must check a box separate from “Marriage.” While many are proud to state their sexual orientation thus, some worry about how the information will be used. Others say “they don’t know how to refer to their circumstances in social situations, due to a lack of conversational terms that are equivalent to the terms of the traditional marriage.” Yep. Language is power.
  • In the U.K., the Northamptonshire County Council is launching a “Tackling Diversity and Sexuality Resource” to be used in the county’s schools as a tool to fight homophobic bullying.