Springfield, IL – Illinois House Approves Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act – 11.9
The Illinois House of Representatives voted to approve the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, affirming the freedom to marry for all same-sex couples in the state. The bill passed the state Senate in February and will soon go to Governor Pat Quinn, who has expressed strong support for marriage and will sign it into law.
“Today’s vote by the Illinois House means the Land of Lincoln will be our nation’s fifteenth freedom to marry state,” said Marc Solomon, Freedom to Marry’s national campaign director. “This is great news for the thousands of committed same-sex couples in Illinois who will now be able to make the ultimate vow before their friends and family, protected and supported by their marriage. It also represents tremendous momentum, with another victory in the heartland and our sixth state victory in 2013.”
This is all because of the tireless leadership of lead bill sponsors in the House and Senate, Representative Greg Harris and Senator Heather Steans as well as House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, Governor Pat Quinn, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – all of whom played crucial roles in advancing the legislation.
In other marriage equality news, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed into law a bill that legalizes same-sex marriage in his state. In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court’s ruling in the historic Baehr case made it the first court in the world not to rubberstamp gay couples’ exclusion from marriage, holding that the denial of the freedom to marry was presumptively unconstitutional unless the government could show sufficient reason for its discrimination. The decision launched the ongoing global movement for the freedom to marry that has resulted in 15 states with the freedom to marry and 18 countries on five continents.
Trenton, NJ – Court Upholds New Jersey Law Prohibiting Ex-Gay Therapy – 11.8
Judge Freda Wolfson of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey upheld a 2013 New Jersey law prohibiting licensed therapists from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity or expression of a patient under 18 years old. The ruling dismissed a legal challenge to the law filed on behalf of therapists who wish to engage in these dangerous and long-discredited practices. The judge also granted a request by Garden State Equality, the state’s largest civil rights organization and the leading organization supporting passage of the law, to intervene in the case in defense of the law.
Judge Wolfson concluded that the New Jersey law “restricts neither speech nor religious expression.” She noted that the therapists’ challenge to the law “runs counter to the longstanding principle that a state generally may enact laws rationally regulating professionals, including those providing medicine and mental health services.”
In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision upholding a similar law in California protecting youth from these harmful practices by licensed therapists. Judge Wolfson’s decision applied similar reasoning in ruling that the New Jersey statute does not violate therapists’ constitutional rights.
On August 19, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a law – the nation’s second – prohibiting state-licensed therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a minor. Every leading medical and mental health organization in the country has warned that these practices do not work and put young people at risk of serious harm, including depression, substance abuse and suicide.
An anti-LGBTQ legal group immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new law on behalf of two New Jersey therapists and two organizations that support the use of these harmful practices. Garden State Equality filed two motions to uphold the law.
When will these unscrupulous therapists stop harming queer youth?
Colorado Springs, CO – “Queer” Is Accepted New Category
for Colorado College – 11.8
At Colorado College, an optional question seeking gender information now lists five choices: Not disclosed. Male. Female. Transgender. And the fifth: Queer.
Homophobes and some uptight homosexuals are not in favor of the latter category. And despite being in a community filled with many conservative religious entities, Colorado College officials believe they have nothing to apologize for.
“I’m proud to work for a school that doesn’t just talk the talk, we walk it, too,” said Barbara Wilson, the college’s director of human resources. “In the midst of the volume of conservatism in this city, we’re almost a safe haven.”
As far as Colorado College is concerned, using the term on applications is “intended to represent the college’s commitment to and acknowledgment of diversity related to gender,” according to a statement from the school. “Colorado College is very much committed to diversity, and is very open about sexual orientation.”
The school’s office of Minority and International Students uses the following definition of queer in its training: “An umbrella term describing people who have a non-normative gender identity, sexual orientation or sexual anatomy – includes lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, asexual people, transgender people, intersex people, etc.” While the school acknowledges that the term is used as a slur by some, it adds: “Others have reclaimed it and are comfortable using it to describe themselves.”
About a year ago as part of its long-term strategic plan, Colorado College surveyed its faculty and staff regarding issues such as race, employment status and gender. In the process, the company doing the survey told school officials that the climate at more universities has opened up to the point where the term “queer” has grown in acceptance.
Charles Irwin, the executive director of Colorado Springs Pride, a gay rights organization in the city, said that age may be the reason behind the differing viewpoints. “Queer is a challenging word, a word that’s in transition,” he said. “But today’s youth embraces it very well.”
Three cheers for queers!
Richmond, VA – Virginia’s New Governor Is Hero to LGBTQ Community – 11.5
As expected, Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated antigay Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the race for Virginia governor. The Virginia race was unexpectedly close, as polls had shown McAuliffe with a big lead over Cuccinelli, the state’s ultraconservative attorney general. By about 10 p.m. Eastern,CBS News, Fox News and some other outlets had called the race for McAuliffe, in what CBS termed “a surprisingly razor-thin victory.” The virulently antigay Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia, E.W. Jackson, also went down to defeat.
LGBTQ issues figured prominently in Virginia. As Virginia’s attorney general, Cuccinelli had sought unsuccessfully to reinstate the state’s anti-sodomy laws, even though the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 ruled all such laws unconstitutional.
“My personal beliefs about the personal challenge of homosexuality haven’t changed,” Cuccinelli told PBS’ Judy Woodruff at the Virginia Bar Association’s gubernatorial debate. Woodruff had asked for clarification from the would-be governor if he still believes that “same-sex acts are against nature and harmful to society,” as he stated when he was a state senator running for attorney general in 2009.
Cuccinelli also had advised public universities in the state to rescind LGBTQ-inclusive antidiscrimination policies.
Cuccinelli sent a fund-raising email from his campaign invoking the threat of ministers being imprisoned for teaching “Christian morals,” something often used as code for anti-LGBTQ sentiments.
McAuliffe, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, is a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights, including marriage equality. In another debate, McAuliffe denounced Cuccinelli’s “mean-spirited attack … on gay Virginians.” McAuliffe and his wife formally came out for marriage equality after the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2011. “The idea we could send men and women across the globe to fight for us and then they come back and they don’t have the same equal opportunities and equal rights I just think was plain wrong,” said McAuliffe.
Washington D.C. – ENDA Passed the Senate! Will President Obama Lead? – 11.7
The passage of ENDA in the Senate is a tremendous symbolic victory for the LGBTQ community, though we have paid a high price for its passage. The version of the bill that passed the Senate contains broad religious exemptions – meaning that people like Carla Hale, fired from a Catholic school after mentioning her partner in her mother’s obituary, still would not have workplace protections.
In a recent op-ed, President Barack Obama said that firing people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is “offensive” and “wrong.” That’s why activists are again calling on President Obama to show leadership on this issue, and to sign an Executive Order that would make it illegal for any company contracting with the federal government to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
This Executive Order was promised while Obama was campaigning for the office of president back in 2008, and has been sitting on his desk without his signature for over a year. As we continue to face a monumentally uphill battle in the House of Representatives to get ENDA passed (Speaker Boehner refuses to even bring ENDA up), now is the moment for President Obama to show leadership, and protect nearly one-quarter of the American workforce from discrimination.
Every day, millions of LGBTQ Americans live in the workplace closet. Every time someone like Carla Hale is fired, our country is weakened. LGBTQ workplace discrimination compromises our country’s values, and President Obama has a real opportunity to show the House of Representatives that he means business about ending these discriminatory practices.
Activists are urged to sign the petition at org2.salsalabs.com. As President Obama said in his 2012 re-election campaign, “We can’t wait!” Now is the time for the president to put his pen to paper and to sign the federal contractor Executive Order!
Forget Boehner! The time is now!
Local News Briefs
New Exhibit Spotlights 50-Year Career of Iconic Transgender Drag Performer
A new multimedia exhibit opening November 15 at The GLBT History Museum, 18th and Castro Streets, spotlights the life and career of Vicki Marlane, a transgender woman and drag performer who got her start as a carny in the early 1950s, rose to fame as a female impersonator in the 1960s and in her third act, became a beloved San Francisco community icon leading shows at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge in the Tenderloin until her death at age 76 in 2011.
“No matter what anybody said, Vicki Marlane always thought of herself as beautiful,” says Felicia Elizondo, the community curator for the show and a close friend of Marlane. “She lived a hard life, but the stage was her home. It was where she felt love and gave it back. Vicki opened a lot of doors for transgender girls. She gave us courage to become ourselves and live our own lives.”
Titled “Vicki Marlane: I’m Your Lady,” the exhibit features never-before-displayed video, artifacts and photographs from the performer’s estate that tell a remarkable life story. The show is part of an ongoing series in The GLBT History Museum’s Corner Gallery that partner community curators with exhibitions professionals to create new perspectives on Bay Area queer history.
During her half-century show-business career, Marlane performed around the United States, appearing everywhere from carnival sideshows to big-city cabarets. In the 2000s, she at last received a host of accolades, including being named a San Francisco Pride Grand Marshal in 2003 and honored as “best drag queen” in a local paper in 2009.
Marlane is the subject of the 2009 documentary Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight, shown in film festivals across the country.
“Vicki Marlane: I’m Your Lady” runs Nov. 15 through Feb. 28, 2014. An opening reception is set for Friday, November 15, 7- 9pm at the museum.
Story by Dennis McMillan
Community Health Alert: Krokodil, Flesh-eating “Zombie Drug,” Showing Up
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have started an action intervention group, Sisters Addressing Meth and Krokodil, to alert our communities that a new street drug is invading the U.S. As Sister Maudlin Masscara, who called for action, states, “There are some drugs that should never be touched; my fear is that krokodil will gain a foothold in our community just as crystal meth has.”
“You will literally die to get high,” stated Sister Kitty Catalyst OCP, who did the initial research for this effort. Krokodil users’ life expectancy is 2-3 years or less. Seeing their flesh rot and their bones exposed is not enough to stop them, as they seek avoidance of withdrawal pain. Non-permanent symptoms go away after a month or so, but addicts will shoot up more to avoid the withdrawal pain. Drug experts say bathroom chemists make the drug with crushed codeine tablets, gasoline, iodine and match heads. The cheap, brutal cocktail reportedly creates an intense but brief heroin-like high. In just an hour or two, a user will feel an intense need for another fix.
Krokodil (Russian for “crocodile”) is named for the green scaly sores that show up on users’ skin. It’s called the zombie drug because it also neurologically affects people’s speech and mobility, which makes them act like zombies. The Sisters call on all community members to help spread the word that this drug is serious and will kill users after it ravages their flesh. Health experts warn if someone takes this drug, they could lose a limb and eventually lose their life.
The DEA has confirmed no local cases as of yet, and they might never be able to – as the drug breaks down in the human body fairly quickly and might not even show in blood and urine samples. If someone is dealing with a possible krokodil poisoning, call the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222.
Story by Dennis McMillan