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    News Map Briefs

    Compiled by Dennis McMillan

    Salem, OR – Oregon Senator Is Optimistic for GOP Support for ENDA – 4.26

    Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley (Oregon) said he has been having talks with key Republicans in the Senate about supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and which he reintroduced in the Senate last Thursday. Those conversations have included GOP Senator Rob Portman (Ohio), who came out for marriage equality in March, announcing that he’d reversed his position two years after his son came out as gay.

    “I’ve had an initial conversation with him and told him I’d be following up as we filed the bill,” Merkley said of Portman, who has still not indicated how he would vote on ENDA, which was introduced with bipartisan support, including co-sponsorship with Republican Senators Mark Kirk (Illinois) and Susan Collins (Maine). “But I can tell you I’ve sat down with a number of Republicans who have not come out publicly yet. They’re still mulling over what they’re going to do; but I think there’s a very good chance they’re going to be supporting this bill.”

    “In 1996, we came within one vote of getting the employment non-discrimination passed,” Merkley continued, referring to the last Senate vote on the issue, in which ENDA was voted down, 49-50. “That was 17 years ago, and the world’s changed quite a bit since then. This bill is way overdue. This is about equality under the law. This is about fundamental fairness. How can you possibly be a full member of society if you’re discriminated against in getting a job?”

    Merkley acknowledged, however, that in a Senate in which the Republican minority uses the filibuster rule to try to stop just about every Democratic bill, 60 votes would be needed to pass ENDA. When will we repeal filibustering?



    Columbus, OH – Watterson Students Protest in Support of Fired Teacher – 4.29

    About a dozen Roman Catholic high school students gathered outside the downtown offices of the diocese of Columbus, holding signs in support of a fired gay teacher. The Bishop Watterson High School students are among those who seek reinstatement of physical education teacher Carla Hale, who was fired in March.

    As cars passed the offices on Gay Street (ironically named), the students held poster board signs with messages: “ Come together,” “We are all children of God” and “#halestorm,” the Twitter hash-tag used to support Hale. Many wore rainbow ribbons or buttons incorporating an equals sign into the Watterson crest. Students at the Clintonville school had the day off.

    Senior Zac Simmons said he was demonstrating because he wanted his voice to be heard. “She’d always be there for us, and I just want to be there for her,” he said of Hale, who was fired after a letter signed “a concerned parent in our Catholic schools” complained to the diocese that the name of Hale’s partner was listed in an obituary for the teacher’s mother that was published in The Dispatch in February.

    The Catholic Church considers sex between members of the same gender harmful and wrong, and a contract between the diocese and the union that represents Catholic-school teachers says they can be terminated for immorality or serious unethical conduct.

    Hale, 57, of Powell, wants her job back and has filed a grievance with the union. She is also asking the Columbus Community Relations Commission to review her firing under a city ordinance that makes it a crime for employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation. More than 62,000 people have signed a petition asking the diocese to reinstate her. Where is the love, diocese?



    Lafayette, IN – New Morality Clause Ends Openly Lesbian Teacher’s Career – 4.3 

    A new morality clause that is now included in diocese of Lafayette teachers’ contracts bars teachers from engaging in homosexual activity, using birth control or being married outside the church. The new clause has led to the end of the career of at least one teacher who is gay at Our Lady of Fatima School.

    “Fatima School did not ask me to leave. It was because I could not sign my contract and be honest to its content,” teacher Jane Riviere said. Riviere, a longtime art teacher at Fatima, will not be returning to the school next year because of the contract. It is unclear whether any other teachers have declined to sign a contract as a result of the new morality clause.

    The new clause is not sitting well with everyone associated with Fatima. Parent Jaci Russo, the president of Our Lady of Fatima Advisory Council, said Fatima has an amazing group of educators. “I would hate to think we would ever not renew the contract of a teacher who is an outstanding teacher because of something to do with her personal life,” Russo said.

    Louisiana’s state employment discrimination law covers all the grounds covered by Federal law, and a few others, but not sexual orientation. While Louisiana law says it’s legal for morality clauses to include sexual orientation, on the Federal level, employment discrimination also doesn’t include sexual orientation.

    “It’s been proposed at the Federal level a number of times to amend the Federal employment discrimination statute to include prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation,” LSU law professor William Corbett said. “It’s come very close to passage, but never quite made it.” Yes, thanks to Catholic dioceses, ignorant Democrats and Republican’ts.



    Miami, FL – James Franco Receives Ally Award at Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival – 4.27

    Celebrating 15 years of fierce and fabulous film, the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival hits the silver screens around Miami through May 5. The highlight of the festival will be a personal appearance by actor-author-director James Franco, accepting the HBO Latin America Ally Award for his career accomplishments and his unwavering support of the LGBTQ community.

    “We are thrilled to host an actor of James Franco’s caliber at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival,” said MGLFF executive director Franc Castro. “His multi-faceted talents coupled with his contributions to LGBT film both in front of the camera and behind the scenes have helped shine the spotlight on LGBT cinema and a filmmaker’s right to free expression.”

    Franco’s performance alongside Sean Penn in Gus Van Sant’s MILK earned an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor. “At HBO Latin America, we are committed and proud to support diversity and promote equality of rights in the community, and it is with great honor that we are presenting this year’s awards to James Franco, Travis Mathews, David W. Ross and Heather Winters for their great contributions to the LGBT community,” said Miguel Angel Oliva, vice president of Public Relations and Corporate Affairs for HBO Latin America. “HBO is recognized for including subjects that affect the LGBT community, and we have been constantly showcasing diversity in many of our original programs.”

    Franco’s next film, Interior. Leather Bar., recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and at the MGLFF on April 28. It stars Franco and Mathews as themselves working on a film project that re-imagines and attempts to recreate the 40 minutes of deleted sexually explicit footage from the controversial 1980 film, Cruising. Hmmm, was that footage homophobic propaganda or just documentary?



    Washington D.C. – NBA Veteran Center Jason Collins Comes Out – 4.29

    NBA veteran Jason Collins set aside years of worry and silence to become the first active player in one of four major American professional sports leagues to come out as gay. In a first-person article posted on Sports Illustrated‘s website, Collins begins: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

    Collins has played for six teams in 12 seasons, most recently as a reserve with the Washington Wizards after a midseason trade from the Boston Celtics. He is now a free agent and wants to keep playing in the NBA.

    “I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation,” he said. Saying he had “endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie,” Collins immediately drew support for his announcement from President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, the NBA, current and former teammates, a sponsor, and athletes in other sports.

    Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant tweeted he was proud of Collins: “Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others,” followed by the words “courage” and “support.”

    “We’ve got to get rid of the shame. That’s the main thing,” said Billie Jean King, a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame who confirmed she was gay after being outed in the early 1980s. “And Jason’s going to help that. He’s going to help give people courage to come out.”

    The Wizards, whose season ended April 17, issued a statement from President Ernie Grunfeld: “We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly.” Hey sports world, take notice!