Weekly Political Update

FlagsWas there any news this week? Things seemed kind of slow . . . .

Lots of good news on the marriage front, of course. First, some other national news:

  • President Barack Obama asked former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy to be part of his Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Dungy has actively raised money for an anti-LGBT group that gay marriage went against “the Lord’s” values.
  • John Berry was confirmed unanimously as director of the Office of Personnel Management. Berry is the first openly gay person to manage the agency that was once responsible for firing people because of their sexuality.
  • Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced LGBT-inclusive hate crimes legislation, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, aka the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act.
  • On Tuesday, more than 1,000 retired military officers issued a statement that called for the continuance of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, but Thursday, President Jimmy Carter’s former Secretary of the Army, Clifford Alexander, called it “bigotry” and an “inconsistent, foolish policy.”
  • The Connecticut legislature’s Judiciary Committee voted to update state laws to conform with a court ruling allowing same-sex couples to marry. The bill removes gender references in marriage laws and transforms existing same-sex civil unions into legal marriages as of October 2010. The bill now goes to the state Senate.
  • The Connecticut LGBT group Love Makes a Family announced that it will shut down at the end of the year.
  • The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that “The Iowa statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution,” and declared that the marriage of same-sex couples would be legal starting April 24. Everyone is covering this news, of course; Lisa Keen puts it in context at Bay Windows; lawyer Nan Hunter is one of many with useful insight on what’s next.
  • The Michigan Senate unanimously confirmed the appointment of Garnet Lewis as a trustee of Northern Michigan University, making her the first openly gay or lesbian person to be named to a state university governance board.
  • The New Hampshire House voted 186-179 to send a marriage equality bill to the Senate, after a procedural drama worthy of The West Wing.
  • New York’s highest court agreed to hear arguments in two cases brought by the conservative Alliance Defense Fund challenging the state’s recognition of same-sex marriages performed in areas where they are legal.
  • The Vermont House Thursday night voted 95 to 52 in favor of full marriage equality, following last week’s 26-4 Senate vote. Friday they confirmed the vote, but only 94-52, five short of the number needed to withstand Gov. Jim Douglas’ promised veto. Once the Senate concurs with the House action, which it is expected to do early next week, the bill could come up for veto-override votes in both houses.
  • West Virginia legislators voted down a proposed constitutional ban on the marriage of same-sex couples.

Around the world:

  • The European Parliament voted to extend anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation, age, disability or religion to cover goods, facilities and services as well as employment.
  • The Swedish Parliament voted to allow same-sex couples to marry as of May 1st.
  • The Ugandan government may make it a criminal offense to “promote homosexuality.”
  • A new survey in the U.K. found that gay and lesbian voters are now more likely to vote Conservative rather than Labour. More likely, yes, but still only 30 per cent said they would vote Conservative at the next general election. Eighteen percent said they would vote Labour, with an equal amount choosing the Liberal Democrats. Seventeen percent said they would not vote and nine percent were undecided.
  • The U.K.’s new Equality Bill will extend discrimination protection to trans people. Women’s Minister Harriet Harman explained that it will “prohibit direct discrimination and harassment based on association and perception in respect of race, sex, gender reassignment, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief and age and in relation to both employment and areas beyond this, such as goods, facilities and services.” The term “gender reassignment” sounds odd to my American ears. Transatlantic translation problems aside, I hope that the bill covers transgender people who have not transitioned.