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    Topeka, KS – Hundreds Protest “Religious Freedoms” Bill at Kansas Statehouse – 2.16 

    “Shock,” “fear” and “embarrassment” were among the words protesters used to describe their reaction to legislation that would allow Kansans to cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples. Over 250 people attended a rally outside the Statehouse in Topeka to show their opposition to House Bill 2453, which was approved last week by the House but halted in the Senate.

    “This is a time when we need to take a stand,” said the Rev. Peter Luckey, senior pastor of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence. Luckey said he couldn’t believe the House would approve such legislation. He said people who disagree about whether same-sex marriages should be recognized “understand that discrimination is wrong” and called the bill hurtful and mean-spirited.

    Supporters contend the bill, approved 72-49 by the House, is needed in case a federal court strikes down Kansas’ constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, as has happened in other states.

    Last week, Senate leaders put the brakes on the bill, saying it went beyond protecting religious beliefs and would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gays and lesbians. A number of leading businesses and business groups also voiced opposition.

    Although Senate GOP leaders said they wouldn’t consider HB 2453, they said they would propose alternative legislation to protect religious beliefs.

    During the protest, which was organized by the gay rights advocacy group, Equality House of Topeka, participants formed two lines behind signs labeled “Second Class Citizens” and “Straight People.” The lines went up the south steps of the Capitol.

    Jeremy Morgan, a Topeka resident, said when he first heard about the bill, it frightened him that he and his spouse, who were legally married in Iowa, could be denied services. “We don’t want to be humiliated. We want to be treated like everybody else,” Morgan said.

    Why, they’re just trying to protect those god-fearing, conservative, morally upright business owners from those vile sodomites that Jesus spoke against…somewhere besides the Bible, apparently.

    Source: ljworld.com

    Springfield, MO – Newly Out Footballer Michael Sam Prompts ADs, Coaches to Review Policy – 2.14

    Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has coached gay players before during his 20-year career. Though Freeze declined to name the players he coached, he said there is no exact protocol for how to handle a situation like the one that arose with Michael Sam.

    But since the Missouri All-American defensive end publicly said he was an “openly, proud gay man,” college athletic directors and coaches have been forced to review protocols on their campuses.

    “It does cause you to go back and evaluate,” said Atlanta’s Troy University athletic director John Hartwell. “One of the first things I did was go back to our senior staff and say, ‘OK, let’s look at our policy. Let’s make sure we don’t have any issues here.’”

    Like many of 10 athletic directors who responded to inquiries, Hartwell said Troy believes in nurturing diversity and fostering respect for every individual. “Because at the end of the day, you’re going to have teammates that are of a different race than you are, of a different nationality, of a different economic background, possibly of a different sexual orientation – with a whole variety of beliefs.”

    Still, football locker rooms lend themselves to being ripe with machismo and bravado – places where jabs involving one’s sexual orientation are fairly commonplace, even if meant in a harmless manner. But the jabs could lead to potential conflicts, as evidenced by the Richie Incognito scandal in Miami.

    Among the questions facing administrators in the wake of Sam’s announcement is not only how to teach tolerance and acceptance of gay athletes within the athletic department, but also how to enforce it.

    “In all cases, there is never a time that making someone feel bad is the way to go about it, regardless of what your view is,” Freeze emphasized. “People deserve respect, and we preach that daily. Hopefully that is the way we attack every situation.”

    Which is certainly not the way those anonymous a-wipes have gutlessly responded negatively.

    Source: edgeonthenet.com

    Las Vegas, NV – Chelsea Clinton Calls LGBTQ Rights “Unfinished Business” of This Century – 2.16

    Adapting a line from her mother, Chelsea Clinton said that shedding light on LGBTQ issues should be a major focus for human rights advocates this century. “My mother has often said that the issue of women is the unfinished business of the 21st century,” she said of Hillary Clinton, the former New York senator and secretary of state. “That is certainly true. But so too are the issues of LGBTQ rights the unfinished business of the 21st century.”

    Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton was the keynote speaker for a Human Rights Campaign conference in Las Vegas. Despite her famed political lineage, Clinton, 33, has said she has no plans to run for public office; unlike her mother, who is seriously considering running for president in 2016.

    Clinton said, in response to a question about her mother’s political aspirations, “I will support my mother in whatever she chooses to do. And my crystal ball is no more clear than yours.”

    In her address, Clinton pushed for more progress in combating bullying of gay youths. She pointed to celebrities such as Jason Collins, the NBA veteran who announced that he was gay in a Sports Illustrated story in April, and actress Ellen Page, who came out as gay at the same Las Vegas conference, as role models changing the LGBTQ narrative.

    “Changing laws and changing the political dialogue, while necessary, is insufficient to ensure that bullying stops; to ensure that every young person is supported by their parents and their teachers as they question who they are and they discover who they are regardless of the sexuality,” Clinton said.

    Clinton appeared with her mother last week in New York to launch a new partnership between the Clinton Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to analyze women’s advancement internationally. She will also speak on women’s issues at an event at the University of Missouri-Kansas City later this month.

    My crystal ball says Hillary WILL be President!

    Source: politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com

    Houston, TX – Court Revives Transgender Widow’s Legal Fight – 2.13

    A Texas appeals court overturned a judge’s ruling that had voided the marriage of a transgender widow whose firefighter husband died battling a blaze.

    The 13th Texas Court of Appeals sent the case of Nikki Araguz back to the lower court, saying “there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding (Araguz’s) sex and whether the marriage was a same-sex marriage.” In 2011, state District Judge Randy Clapp in Wharton County had ruled that the marriage between Nikki Araguz and her husband Thomas Araguz was “void as a matter of law.”

    Thomas Araguz’s mother and his first wife had challenged the marriage’s validity, arguing the fallen firefighter’s estate should go to his two sons because Nikki Araguz was born a man and Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage. Nikki Araguz, 38, had argued in court she had done everything medically and legally possible to show she is female and was legally married under Texas law, and that she’s entitled to widow’s benefits.

    “This decision recognizes that transgender Texans have the right to marry the person that they love,” said Kent Rutter, Nikki Araguz’s attorney.

    Nikki Araguz, who remarried in 2013, has insisted Thomas Araguz fully supported her through the surgical process to become a woman. She underwent surgery two months after they were married in 2008. Thomas Araguz died in July 2010 while fighting a fire 60 miles southwest of Houston. He was 30.

    In its 26-page ruling, the three-judge panel of the Corpus Christi-based appeals court wrote that Clapp erred by essentially saying in his ruling that Nikki Araguz was a man at the time of her husband’s death. The three-judge panel also wrote that changes made in 2009 to the Texas Family Code that allowed transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to get a marriage license legislatively overruled a previous court decision that had been used as legal precedent in such cases.

    A firefighter’s widow deserves every legal compensation possible. Period. 

    Source: sunherald.com

    Richmond, VA – Federal Judge Declares Virginia’s Marriage Ban Unconstitutional – 2.14

    A federal judge in Virginia has struck down the state’s prohibition on same-sex marriage, joining a growing list of state and federal courts that have granted gay and lesbian couples the right to marry following two landmark Supreme Court rulings in June.

    U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen’s ruling had been expected since the case was heard in her Norfolk courtroom last week. Also as expected, she blocked it from taking immediate effect until appeals are heard. As a result, same-sex marriages in Virginia cannot begin yet.

    “Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships,” Wright Allen said. “Such relationships are created through the exercise of sacred, personal choices- like the choices made by every other citizen, that must be free from unwarranted government interference.”

    Her decision follows similar rulings in Oklahoma and Utah, even more conservative states, where federal judges recently struck down gay marriage bans. Those cases are scheduled to be heard a week apart by a federal appeals court panel in April; the Virginia case now joins them in a race toward the Supreme Court.

    And in recent days, Nevada state officials decided they could no longer defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban, and a judge in Kentucky ruled that the state must recognize gay marriages from other states.

    Seventeen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. Since the high court last June restored gay marriage rights in California and struck down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Hawaii and Illinois joined the passed new laws, and state courts in New Jersey and New Mexico legalized the practice. Nearly four dozen lawsuits remain pending in 24 states.

    Yes, the bipartisan momentum for marriage is building at an extraordinary speed. Thankfully, a fundamental shift in the legal landscape is happening.

    Source: usatoday.com

    Local NewsBriefs
    Supervisor Farrell to Double Homeless Outreach Team and Add 100 Beds

    Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced a targeted supplemental appropriation to the Board of Supervisors to double the capacity of the Department of Public Health’s Homeless Outreach Team and give the Department of Public Health the opportunity to add 100 additional stabilization beds for individuals living on San Francisco’s streets. Statistics show that 30% of homeless are LGBTQ.

    “We need new solutions and targeted investments in programs and services for individuals living on the streets of San Francisco,” stated Supervisor Farrell. “I firmly believe that a greater investment in our Homeless Outreach Team will drive a positive impact for our homeless population and start pulling people off our streets.”

    The Homeless Outreach Team is the Department of Public Health’s main outreach and case management program, consisting of City civil service employees and nonprofit contractors, performing outreach to bring homeless persons with health, mental health and substance abuse issues into DPH’s emergency stabilization rooms and other temporary settings, and case management to link them with appropriate treatment and housing opportunities.

    An expanded Homeless Outreach Team will be better poised to address the most difficult chronically homeless individuals who are in need of complex care management and will be able to better respond to neighborhood needs for short-term localized interventions.

    “If we are serious about addressing our City’s homeless issue, this targeted investment is a strong first step to get people off our streets and into treatment services and shelter,” said Supervisor Farrell. “Over the past five months, I have met with stakeholders, City department heads, medical professionals, and outside experts and will continue to work with everyone who is dedicated to reducing homelessness in San Francisco through tangible, data-driven solutions that will continue to move the needle forward.”

    The Homeless Outreach Team focuses their efforts to areas of the City which have the highest need and the largest concentration of individuals living on the streets. Many of the team members have clinical and case-management experience. Some are formerly homeless, and have shown a great propensity to compel individuals living on the streets to accept treatment services and housing opportunities that are proven to better their lives.

    The supplemental appropriation is expected to be assigned to the Board’s Budget and Finance Committee soon, where it will be discussed before heading the full Board in March.

    Story by Dennis McMillan

    Seven Proposals Submitted from Tenants Convention to Board of Supervisors

    As made by Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1977, an anti-speculation tax would impose a tax on windfall profits garnered by speculators who buy up housing and then sell it off without maintaining ownership for at least six years. It would be structured in such a way that the quicker the “flip,” the higher the tax. This would require voter approval.

    Eviction moratorium would put a yearlong freeze on certain kinds of “no-fault evictions,” instances where a tenant is ousted regardless of compliance with lease terms. State law would prohibit it from applying to Ellis Act evictions. It might potentially require voter approval.

    A Department of Rent Control Enforcement and Compliance, which could be created by local legislation, would form a new city department with the mission and mandate to enforce existing tenant-protection laws and conduct research on eviction trends.

    While Supervisor David Campos is working on legislation to upgrade relocation assistance payments to displaced tenants who face eviction under the Ellis Act, relocation assistance would do the same for all other forms of “no-fault” evictions. This would require voter approval.

    While the Costa-Hawkins state law does not allow for cities to control rents in vacant units, “excessive rents” tax would create a tax on new rental agreements where rents exceed an affordability threshold.

    A housing balance requirement would make it so that approval of new market-rate housing would be restricted based on whether affordable housing goals were being met. It would create new incentives to build affordable housing.

    Legalizing illegal units would provide a way to legalize the city’s “illegal” housing units that nevertheless provide a safe and decent source of affordable housing. Board President David Chiu has already introduced a version of this proposal.

    Story by Dennis McMillan