Weekly Political Roundup

Flags

  • Congressman Joe Sestak, the highest-ranking veteran in Congress, called for a repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told graduating West Point cadets that Congress, and not the military, is responsible for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
  • Some say transgender rights could be the next big civil rights battle of our time, and the Nashua Telegraph has a good overview of where some of these rights stand around the country.
  • The Alabama House passed a Hate Crimes Bill inclusive of sexual orientation, and an anti-bullying bill. Both now go to the Senate, where their fate is uncertain.
  • In California, the lawyer for Brandon McInerney, the teen accused of killing fellow student Lawrence King, says the school system is to blame for King’s death because it allowed him to come to school in feminine clothes and makeup and ignored the “turmoil” this caused. Contrast this with the support given to a New York transgender teen. Several of her classmates came to school dressed as the opposite sex in order to support her, after an apparently incorrect rumor that school officials had threatened suspension for crossdressing. The administration now says they merely warned her about an inappropriate camisole, but would never suspend anyone for crossdressing. The student’s mother commented, “I’ve always encouraged him to be who he is,” she said. “So if this is who he is, then I support it.”
  • The Los Angeles Fire Commission is forcing the city fire department to drop part of its cadet program administered by Learning for Life, an affiliate of the Boy Scout, because the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy violates the city’s anti-discrimination policy.
  • The California Court of Appeal unanimously ruled in favor of a gay man trying to dissolve his domestic partnership, after his former partner said he had never mailed the DP registration form. The ruling gives him the same protections as opposite-sex spouses who discover that, for whatever reason, their marriage is not valid.
  • A Denver court found a lesbian couple guilty of trespassing when they staged a sit-in at the city Clerk and Recorder’s Office after being denied a marriage license. They were sentenced to 28 hours of community service each and ordered each to pay $41 in court costs.
  • The Michigan Supreme Court voted 5-2 that a state constitutional amendment banning recognition of unions other than that of a man and a woman “for any purpose” also prohibits same-sex partner benefits. Employers who provide such benefits recognize those relationships in a way “indistinguishable from the way a marriage is recognized,” and thus cannot offer them. The Detroit Free Press says, however, “There is likely to be no immediate impact from the ruling because public employers in Michigan who had offered such benefits already had changed their policies to ensure their employees’ partners would remain covered. But lawyers and gay rights advocates said the ruling sends a ‘devastating’ signal about the state’s attitude toward gays, lesbians and their children.” Yes—and bodes ill for LGBT rights in other states with such amendments.
  • New York’s highest court declined to review an appellate court’s decision to legally recognize the relationship of a same-sex couple married in Canada. This also leaves in place the lower court’s decision to allow the state legislature to address same-sex marriage in the future.
  • The North Carolina court of appeals upheld a county court decision to award joint custody of a child to former lesbian partners, a bio mom and a non-bio mom.
  • The Pennsylvania State Senate tabled a bill that would amend the state constitution to ban marriages and civil unions of same-sex couples, after the bill’s sponsors said the measure would face a tough fight in the House. State law already defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
  • The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee heard testimony about a bill that would allow same-sex couples married in other states to divorce in Rhode Island. The state Supreme Court ruled last year that the Family Court had no jurisdiction to grant a divorce to one such couple. A Superior Court judge yesterday said she needs to know more before deciding whether to ask the state Supreme Court if her court may grant this divorce.
  • A Dallas lesbian is suing for joint custody of her four-year-old daughter after her former partner, the biological mom, cut her off from the girl nearly a year ago. (Thanks, PageOneQ.)
  • Virginia gained its first out, black public official as Lawrence Webb was elected to the Falls Church City Council.

Around the world:

  • The Australian Capital Territory abandoned its plans to recognize same-sex civil union ceremonies, and will now amend the legislation to offer civil partnerships without ceremony. The federal government said that the original plan too closely resembled marriage and would be overturned. This seems the height of pettiness. Wouldn’t the long-term commitment of two people “resemble” a marriage regardless of whether there was a ceremony? Why deny us that?
  • An American tourist from Amherst, Massachusetts was detained by the Royal Cayman Islands Police after kissing his boyfriend on the dancefloor of a hotel. The incident apparently caused a meltdown of the Web servers for the Islands’ newspaper, as American bloggers linked to their coverage. The Cayman Island Department of Tourism has now issued an official apology.
  • The U.K. House of Lords passed into law a bill in favor of making incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation a criminal offense. The bill retains an amendment so people may attempt to avoid prosecution by citing a religious defense.
  • In the U.K., the new mayor of London appointed Richard Barnes, a gay man and member of the Conservative party, as one of his deputies.