Philadelphia, PA – Will Philly Become the Most Queer-Friendly City on Earth? – 10.28
When Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed legislation to afford equal rights to queers, he said he hoped Philadelphia would become “the most LGBT-friendly” city in the world.
Part of that comprehensive legislation requires that new or renovated city-owned buildings include gender-neutral bathrooms in addition to traditional men’s and women’s restrooms.
But wait. There’s more. Nutter, city and state lawmakers and gay rights advocates said the legislation makes Philadelphia the first city in the U.S. to offer tax credits to companies that extend the same health care coverage to LGBTQ employees’ domestic partners and their children as they provide to heterosexual spouses and their children.
This also makes Philadelphia the first city to offer businesses tax credits as a way to encourage providing transgender-specific health benefits.
“My goal is for Philadelphia to be one of, if not the most, LGBT-friendly cities in the world and a leader on equality issues,” said Nutter, adding that his friend, the late City Councilman John Anderson, was a gay man and a mentor who inspired him 30 years ago to pursue a life of public service.
In addition to the business tax incentives, the legislation revises Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination law to include transgender people, extends decision-making rights to life partners on medical and other issues and changes city forms and websites to offer options for same-sex couples and transgender people.
Councilman Jim Kenney, the bill’s sponsor, called it, “the next iteration of civil rights and freedom in the U.S.” He added, “Equal protection under the law means equal protection under the law. It doesn’t mean sanctioned by religion or custom or anything else.”
“This is a city that is truly respecting all its citizens,” said state Philadelphia Democrat Representative Brian Sims, the first openly gay candidate to be elected to the Legislature.
In a state having a law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, this is a pretty good start towards equality.
New York, NY – Queer Nation Protests Anti-Queer Policies in Russia – 10.28
Members of Queer Nation directly confronted Russian government officials over that country’s anti-LGBTQ laws during a NYC forum to promote US investment in Russia. “In my experience, anti-gay bigots are dishonest and corrupt as well,” said Queer Nation member Duncan Osborne to the panel. “What assurances can you give investors that their money will be safe in a country with minimal, if any, rule of law?”
The protestors were met with disdain by the panelists from the Moscow Department for Foreign Economic and International Relations. The department head, Sergei Cheremin, laughed openly. “This is not funny,” shouted protestor Mark Milano. “You should be divesting, not investing in Russia.” One American audience member shouted back, “Gays will be the cultural death of Russia.” Five security guards escorted out the protestors. There were no arrests.
The protest occurred at the Princeton Club at 15 West 43rd Street, and featured leading Moscow government officials. For the past eight years, Moscow has banned LGBTQ pride marches and demonstrations. This year, Moscow’s highest court barred such events for 100 years. When LGBTQ activists have defied the bans, Russian police have responded with violence and have allowed Russian nationalists and religious conservatives to attack queer activists with impunity.
In June, the Russian government enacted legislation that effectively bans any pro-LGBTQ statement in public or private and on the Internet. In July, a law banning adoptions of Russian children by people from any jurisdiction that allows same-sex marriage took effect. A law allowing the state to remove children from the homes of queer couples is still in play.
“Russian government officials are learning that they can’t come to New York City without being held responsible for their complicity in the oppression of Russian gay men and women,” said protestor John Weir. Yet Russia will host the Olympic Games, and Moscow is the site of the Miss Universe pageant on November 9. Revolting!
Fairfield, CA – Jelly Belly Candy Is Trick, Not Treat for Transgender Kids – 10.28
Jelly Belly Chair Herman Rowland Sr. is using some of his fortune to fund an effort to overturn California’s new School Success and Opportunity Act, which ensures that transgender students are allowed to participate in school programs and activities as do any other boys and girls. Too often, these young people are prevented from participating in gym classes and can’t get the credits they need to graduate. In some schools, transgender students are singled out and treated differently and not allowed to participate in the same activities or use the same facilities as other students.
Records show that, so far, Rowland has donated $5,000 to Privacy for All Students, a group whose sole purpose is to repeal California Assembly Bill 1266, allowing transgender students the opportunity to participate in sex-segregated activities and use restroom facilities consistent with their stated gender identities instead of the one on their birth certificates. It was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown in August.
But Privacy for All Students is mounting a huge effort to acquire enough signatures to have AB 1266 repealed. Privacy for All Students is run by Frank Schubert, a press activist for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which recently claimed that “forcing boys and girls to share bathrooms is bullying.” Contrary to NOM’s statement, AB 1266 did not “force boys and girls to share bathrooms.”
A Change.org petition sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is already actively acquiring support, and needs more activists to sign on.
This Halloween, Jelly Belly candies should not be in anyone’s trick or treat bag!
Nashville, TN – Same-Sex Couples File Marriage Recognition Lawsuit in Tennessee – 10.21
Four legally married same-sex couples who live in Tennessee filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Nashville, challenging Tennessee laws that prevent the state from recognizing their marriages and treating them the same as all other legally married couples in Tennessee. The couples – who include a full-time Army reservist and his husband and two professors of veterinary medicine – all formerly lived and married in other states and later moved to Tennessee to pursue careers and make new homes for their families. Tennessee law currently prohibits recognition of their marriages and treats the couples as legal strangers.
The lawsuit argues that Tennessee’s laws prohibiting recognition of the couples’ marriages violates the federal Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process and the constitutionally protected right to travel between and move to other states.
“Tennessee is the volunteer state – it is our tradition to honor and applaud those who voluntarily move here to enjoy the benefits of this great state – not deny them benefits and respect afforded them in other states,” said attorney Abby Rubenfeld. “Tennessee traditionally values fairness and family. The time has come for Tennessee law to be true to those values by including same-sex couples who legally married before moving to Tennessee, because this state is as much their home as it is ours.”
“Tennessee recognizes the marriages and families of all other couples that were married out-of-state,” argued attorney William Harbison. “It is wrong and unfair for Tennessee law to single out these legally married couples and treat them as legal strangers to one another simply because of who they are.”
“Married couples should be able to travel and to live in any state knowing that their family is protected,” added NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter. “Tennessee’s current law hurts same-sex couples and their children without helping anyone.”
So Tennessee better “volunteer” to legally marry same-sex couples.
Washington, D.C. – Senate Will Soon Consider Employment Non-Discrimination Act – 10.28
The Senate will take up legislation in the coming weeks that would bar discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would expand protections against discrimination already offered on basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability to LGBTQ individuals. The bill has stumbled in the past, but has recently gained several key GOP supporters in the Senate.
“We tried; it failed in the House of Representatives before,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday. “But we’re going to take it up here again.”
The legislation is sponsored by 53 sitting senators, including Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois. It passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in July with a 15-7 vote, with help from Kirk and fellow Senate Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Orrin Hatch of Utah.
“Ensuring that our workplaces are free from discrimination is a key part of equality and full rights for all Americans,” Senator Tom Harkin, the chairman of the HELP committee, said. “I am pleased to see that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will soon come before the full Senate for consideration.”
A Senate Democratic leadership aide was “pretty confident” that the bill’s backers could round up the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural hurdles in the chamber. The earliest that ENDA could see a floor vote is next week; this week will primarily be filled with votes on nominations, the aide said.
Following Senator Bill Nelson’s announcement Tuesday in support of ENDA, Freedom to Work is teaming with MoveOn.org to pressure the remaining two Democratic Senators, Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) to publicly support ENDA. The group is also applauding Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) for co-sponsoring ENDA.
According to data from the Senate HELP Committee, 88% of Fortune 500 companies had discrimination policies that included sexual orientation, while 57% had language banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
So what are the odds that the House will pass ENDA?
Local News Briefs
Milk Club Stages Sleep-in to Protest Possible New Restrictive Legislation
In response to Supervisor Scott Wiener’s proposed legislation to set uniform, citywide park closure hours, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club hosted a dramatic sleep-in at Dolores Park. It happened the night before the legislation went before the Board and was meant to draw attention to what some feel is an unnecessary and misguided policy.
San Francisco prides itself on being a place that is welcoming and open to all. Our parks remain one of the City’s greatest public treasures and are spaces of recreation, sport, entertainment and leisure. Opponents of this proposed legislation believe that it threatens the accessibility and openness of our parks and comes on the heels of a rash of recent policies at City Hall that have sought to regulate public spaces, to police bodies and to criminalize homelessness.
With almost 30% of San Francisco’s homeless population identifying as LGBTQ, and many living on our streets and in our parks, we know who the real targets of this legislation are. Many believe that this is yet another attack on the homeless, on queer people, poor people, and people of color, and on the right to exist in public space in our society. The Harvey Milk Club said it has had enough: “Parks are for people, and we believe this policy to be another step in the wrong direction for San Francisco.”
The Milk Club staged a sleep-in in one of the finest parks in Supervisor Wiener’s district, Dolores Park, as they took a stand against the attack on homelessness, on public access to public spaces and on “the San Francisco we have come to know and love.” Activists were encouraged to: “Bring a sleeping bag, a protest sign and a piece of your mind!”
Because the SF Park Code prohibits intoxication in public parks and acts that could be deemed violent or destructive to property in public parks, the protestors did not risk violating these ordinances. The Harvey Milk Club, before the event, said, “We are engaging in acts of civil disobedience, and don’t intend to needlessly muddy the waters.”
Story by Dennis McMillan
Castro Community on Patrol Celebrates Seven Years of Watchdogging
Directors and patroller volunteers of Castro Community On Patrol celebrated their 7th anniversary of service to the Castro/Duboce Triangle community on October 22 at Magnet. Over 4,500 hours of donated volunteer time were given, and more than 300 volunteers trained in the one and only community safety patrol organization within the City and County of San Francisco.
Donna Sachet emceed as CCOP recognized some significant members of the Patrol and from the community with special “Pillar of the Community” awards to Sister Eve Volution and Sister Pat n Leather for education efforts with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and the Stop the Violence campaign, and distribution of safety whistles and information; Castro Country Club for their support of CCOP and allowing CCOP to use their garage as their assembly area for three years; and Lieutenant Chuck Limbert, SFPD, for his outreach and education efforts while at Mission Police Station.
“Sergeant Chuck” was honored for being a liaison with the police department for dozens of events. Sachet was also awarded. Others received “Community Guardian” awards: Captain Bob Moser, SFPD, for his outstanding command of Mission Police Station, his unwavering support of CCOP, and taking special care to be sure the Castro is safe as possible; Seth Hemmelgarn for his tenacious and consistent coverage of the community and his consistent support of CCOP; and San Francisco SAFE (Safety Awareness for Everyone).
The Castro Partnership with SAFE in the formation of the new Castro Business Watch brings yet one more layer of communications needed to keep the Castro safe and fun. Ptlr. Phillip Huff, CCOP, received “Patroller of the Year” as the CCOP patroller who has undertaken the most patrols to date. Huff is also their part-time staff person. His patrolling efforts, however, are not a requirement of his work assignment.
CCOP offers volunteer training on November 7. For questions or more information, email training@Castropatrol.org.
Story by Dennis McMillan