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    Compiled by Dennis McMillan

    Boise, ID – No Military Burial for Wife of 74-Year-Old Lesbian Navy Veteran – 4.24

    An Idaho cemetery for veterans is refusing to bury the ashes of a lesbian couple together because the state does not recognize same-sex marriages. Madelynn Taylor served in the US. Navy from 1958 to 1964. She was discharged, along with several other women in her unit, after another recruit told superiors that they were gay. But Taylor later petitioned to have her discharge documents read “honorable.”

    When Taylor—now, 74 years old, and in failing health—presented those documents along with a certificate of marriage to her late wife Jean Mixner, the Idaho Veterans Cemetery refused to reserve a joint-spot for the two women’s ashes, something the cemetery allows heterosexual couples to do. That’s because the Idaho Constitution defines marriage as an institution between one man and one woman, and as such, does not consider Taylor and Mixner’s 2008 union valid. (The two legally wed in California before Proposition 8.)

    “We have to follow the Idaho definition of spouse,” said Tamara Mackenthun, deputy administrator at the Idaho Division of Veterans Services. Taylor disagrees with that logic. “I don’t see where the ashes of a couple old lesbians is going to hurt anyone,” she said.

    Idaho is one of 33 states that currently prohibits gay couples from marrying, and does not recognize same-sex marriages performed anywhere else. Four gay couples have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s 2006 voter-approved amendment limiting marriage rights exclusively to heterosexual couples. A hearing is scheduled in that case for May 5.

    Taylor said that if she died before the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery agreed to accept her ashes along with Mixner’s, someone else would keep them together until the law changes. “Eventually I’m going to be there. It’ll happen,” she said. “They might as well give up and let us go now.”

    It would seem some people would like to discriminate against queers, even in the afterlife!


    New York, NY – Opponents Scrambling As “Reform the Platform” Initiative Launches – 4.25

    Two anti-freedom-to-marry organizations released an advocacy poll this week showing the Republican base opposes marriage for gay couples. The poll was a response to the new $1 million effort launched last week by the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry to remove divisive, anti-gay language from the GOP party platform in advance of the 2016 GOP Convention.

    Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry is a campaign to highlight and build support for the freedom to marry among young conservatives across America. They represent the rapidly growing numbers of young conservatives across the country that agree all Americans should be able to share in the freedom to marry.

    “Those who oppose this unifying effort to improve the platform are on the wrong side of history and on the wrong path to winning back the White House in 2016,” said Tyler Deaton, campaign manager for the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry. “In my lifetime, Republicans have only won the national popular vote twice. It’s time to broaden the base. Opposition to the freedom to marry is crumbling in the Republican Party—and that includes among young evangelicals who comprise the base of the party. The entire party is, thankfully, moving toward more freedom, less government, and a more consistent conservatism.”

    Non-partisan, scientific polls show opposition to the freedom to marry among conservatives declining as support rises. 64% of millennial evangelicals support marriage for gay couples. A Pew poll earlier this year shows 61% of Republicans under the age of 30 are supportive, as are a majority of Republicans under 45.

    The new campaign, called “Reform the Platform,” reflects pro-freedom grassroots activity already seen in states like Nevada, Indiana, California, Oregon, and New Mexico. “Reform the Platform” will begin touring the early primary states of New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina this spring and summer.

    Conservatives are making their voices heard in the fight for the freedom to marry across the country. In the states, conservatives have cast key votes in favor of marriage bills and made powerful statements in states like Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York and Washington.

    Increasingly, young conservatives are seeing the freedom to marry as something that protects all families. Alas, the old conservatives are standing in the way—like the stubborn elephants they are!


    Los Angeles, CA – Gay Judge in Prop 8 Case Once Underwent Conversion Therapy – 4.23

    Coming out from Jo Becker’s controversial new book on marriage equality, Forcing the Spring, is news that the federal judge who struck down California’s Proposition 8 as unconstitutional once underwent therapy to cure himself of being gay.

    Vaughn Walker only came out as gay after he formally retired from the bench, but it was an open secret that he was gay while he was hearing the Prop 8 case. What no one knew apparently is that Walker’s long journey as a gay man included trying to rid himself of his feelings. In Becker’s book, Walker recounts how in the late 1970s, when he was in his 30s, he chose “to see a psychiatrist about my … affliction.”

    Ultimately, the shrink declared Walker cured because he had never had sex with another man. Walker says he “badly wanted to believe it was true,” in no small part because of the harm being gay might have meant to his career. Walker continued to date women, and only entered into his first relationship with a man when he was in his late 30s. After becoming a judge, he “began to live a little more openly,” visiting a gay bar and bringing his partner to social events.

    Walker’s therapy sessions came back to him during the Prop 8 trial when Ryan Kendall testified about having to undergo conversion therapy as a 14-year-old, finally running away from home and struggling with depression for a decade. Kendall testified as evidence that sexual orientation is immutable. Walker said the testimony was “the most touching” of the trial.

    Needless to say, Walker has been vilified by anti-marriage forces for not recusing himself from the Prop 8 trial. Walker dismissed the complaints as unfounded. African American judges hear race discrimination cases all the time, while female judges hear cases charging gender bias, he argued. Why shouldn’t a gay man hear the challenge to Prop. 8? The objection was heard, but ultimately dismissed, by a judge.

    Still more reasons to call Judge Walker a hero!


    Las Vegas, NV – LGBTQ Legal Town Hall with Nevada AG to Take Place – 4.23

    On May 28, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and others will join the local Las Vegas LGBTQ community for a conversation about the state of legal equality for LGBTQ Nevadans. This is a unique opportunity for the Nevada LGBTQ community to interact with the top legal official for the state, and to surface some of the most urgent needs of the community.

    The event will be at the LGBTQ Center of Southern Nevada, but will also include a social media component that will allow LGBTQ folks from across the state to submit questions, offer thoughts, and interact with panelists. Topics to be covered: the impact of immigration law on LGBTQ immigrants, the targeting of the transgender community by law enforcement, various issues related to the legal rights of same-sex committed partners, and much more.

    “In what we hope will result in a regular series, we are thrilled to bring together a diverse group of attorneys and leaders facing the reality of the ever-changing climate of LGBTQ legal issues,” said co-moderator Marek Brute, a local attorney recently named one of the “Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40” by the National LGBT Bar Association, and a plaintiff in Nevada’s marriage equality case. “As the battle for marriage equality looks like an inevitable victory, we want to take time to explore some of the other existing and developing legal issues that face the LGBTQ community in an accessible and interactive forum that we hope will inspire some real dialogue.”

    “While it may be true that marriage equality is inevitable, it is not a freedom that queer Nevadans can celebrate fully today,” said Holly Huth of Gender Justice Nevada. “For me, equality protection does not begin or end with marriage equality…not by a long shot. I am hopeful that our town hall with the Attorney General will allow us to gain knowledge of how to approach the discrimination that is currently affecting our community on a daily basis with little to no regard for the laws that are currently in place.”

    What an honor that AG Masto has graciously made room for this historic LGBTQ Legal Town Hall, especially given that there are so many legal issues affecting the queer community in Nevada!


    Baton Rouge, LA – Twelve States Still Ban Sodomy a Decade After Court Ruling – 4.24

    A dozen states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books ten years after the US. Supreme Court ruled they are unconstitutional.

    One such state is Louisiana, where gay rights groups contend police have used anti-sodomy laws to target gay men. But state lawmakers sided with religious and conservative groups in refusing to repeal the law last week.

    Of 14 states that had anti-sodomy laws, only Montana and Virginia have repealed theirs since the Supreme Court ruling, said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights organization. Warbelow says that in addition to Louisiana, anti-sodomy laws remain on the books in Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

    The Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 that it is unconstitutional to bar consensual sex between adults, calling it a violation of the 14th Amendment.

    Last year, police in East Baton Rouge Parish arrested gay men for attempted crimes against nature using the anti-sodomy law in a sting operation that caused a national outcry. The district attorney wouldn’t bring charges against the arrested men, saying the law was unenforceable.

    This led Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, to file the bill that would repeal Louisiana’s anti-sodomy law, saying it would make the system fairer and more efficient. “We don’t need inefficient laws on the books,” she said. Her fellow representatives, however, disagreed and voted 66-27 on April 15 to keep the law in place.

    It’s sad to me that sodomy is ever considered a crime, and that rhymes!


    Local News Briefs

    LGBTQ Youth Rally in Sacramento for Opportunity to Stay in School

    More than 50 high school students from across California were on Sacramento’s Capitol lawn to advocate for three bills that would help ensure all youth, including LGBTQ youth, have the opportunity to be themselves at school, do well and graduate. The youth were gathered for the 9th annual Queer Youth Advocacy Day, which unites LGBTQ and straight ally youth activists from Gay-Straight Alliance clubs across state.

    “Our goal is the same as our peers’: we wish to graduate high school and be successful, but bullying and unreasonable school discipline policies stand in the way of our every chance,” said Pat Cordova-Goff, a Gay-Straight Alliance Network youth leader who partly credits the School Success and Opportunity Act, a law passed after last year’s Queer Youth Advocacy Day, with her ability to be herself and do well in school this year. “There is no excuse to deny LGBTQ students or any youth the same opportunities to learn as their peers, and we are asking legislators to take a stand in support of all California youth.”

    Speakers included Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), and Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles).

    Following the rally, students visited their representatives’ offices to advocate for three bills that would help students stay in school: Reducing the Use of Costly and Harsh Discipline (AB 420), Ensure School Safety (SB 840), and Fair and Successful School Transfers (SB 1111). More than 75 visits have been scheduled to take place.

    SB 840, authored by Senator Ricardo Lara, improves the handling of bullying and bias-based harassment. The bill was prompted by a report released by the State Auditor last August, “School Safety and Nondiscrimination Laws,” which found that school bullying prevention efforts are falling short. Senator Lara also authored SB 1111, which helps ensure that students being temporarily placed in county community schools have a successful transfer to and from those schools. Assemblymember Dickinson’s AB 420 would limit the use of suspension and expulsion for “willful defiance,” a category used in 40% of California suspensions that can mean anything from a lesbian student holding her girlfriend’s hand to a gender nonconforming student breaking the school’s dress code.

    Why are there so many barriers to getting a decent education?

    Story by Dennis McMillan 

    Supervisor Wiener Calls for Hearing on Funding for HIV/AIDS Services

    Supervisor Scott Wiener is calling for a hearing at a Board of Supervisors meeting to discuss funding proposals for HIV services in the upcoming 2014/2015 San Francisco budget, including expected federal budget cuts for HIV care and prevention services. San Francisco has experienced huge HIV funding cuts from the federal government in recent years. Supervisor Wiener has worked each year with the community, the Mayor, and city staff to backfill those cuts in the city budget.

    At the hearing, the Department of Public Health, the Mayor’s Budget Office, and community organizations will report on what the projected funding shortfalls will be for HIV services, what the impacts of these shortfalls will be, and how the city can work to fill them.

    “Ensuring continued funding for HIV services in San Francisco has been one of my top priorities since I took office,” said Supervisor Wiener. “Any interruptions or cutbacks in treatment can be devastating for our most vulnerable citizens who are living with or at-risk for HIV. Through the last two budget cycles, we’ve successfully fought to ensure that our city budget continues to fully fund HIV services, and this year we will make sure we do it again. Lives depend on it.”

    Federal budget cuts for HIV care (Ryan White Care Act) and prevention (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) services in the upcoming fiscal year are estimated to amount to $2.7 million.

    “Due to the federal level funding reductions for this upcoming year, San Francisco faces an anticipated budget shortfall that will destabilize our current continuum of HIV prevention, testing, and care services,” said Lance Toma, Vice President of the HIV/AIDS Providers Network. “This system of care is life-saving for thousands of San Francisco residents who are living with and at-risk for HIV. The HIV/AIDS Providers Network will continue to work hand in hand with Supervisor Wiener, Supervisor Campos, and our Mayor to ensure that San Francisco continues to be a national leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS and maintains our commitment to those in San Francisco whose lives are impacted by HIV.”

    HIV services should never be on the budget chopping block.

    Story by Dennis McMillan