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    Sacramento, CA – California Calls on Federal Government to Provide Equal Benefits for LGBTQ Vets – 9.11

    Large bipartisan majorities of the California State Senate and Assembly have approved AJR 19, a resolution authored by Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) urging the President and Congress to provide full and equal benefits for LGBTQ veterans who served their country in the United States Military.

    “Today California is united in recognizing the service of every veteran and correcting the injustices our LGBT veterans have endured for so long,” Dr. Pan said. “I applaud recent efforts by the Obama Administration to provide equal benefits for all veterans, but there is still much work to do. I am hopeful that our leaders in Washington will heed this bipartisan call for equality and do right by the veterans who have put their lives on the line defending our country.”

    “AJR 19 raises all of California’s voice in demanding that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans be treated equally,” said John O’Connor, EQCA executive director. “These veterans risk their safety to defend all of our equality, and California has a duty to demand equal treatment for them. We hope the rest of the country will follow.”

    From 1980 until the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in 2011, over 32,000 service personnel were separated from the U.S. Armed Forces under DADT and its predecessor policies. Because these discharges were sometimes characterized as “dishonorable” or “other than honorable,” many of these service personnel and their spouses became ineligible for veterans benefits.

    In 2012, the legislature passed Pan’s AB 1505, establishing that if the federal government acts to reinstate benefits to discharged veterans who were denied those benefits solely on the basis of sexual orientation serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, California shall also reinstate to those veterans any state-offered benefits. The federal government has yet to broadly reinstate such benefits.

    Now that DADT and DOMA have died, this is just plain wrong. Do it!


    NYC, NY – Freedom to Work Hosts First Ever “ENDA Situation Room” – 9.12

    “Freedom to Work,” the leading advocacy organization for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), hosted the first-ever “ENDA Situation Room” at the New York Law School in TriBeca to plot a path forward for the historic LGBTQ legislation. The event brought together, for the first time, a bipartisan group to publicly discuss the problem of workplace discrimination and the Congressional strategy for the path towards victory as we move toward historic winning of the LGBTQ vote in the U.S. Senate.

    Freedom to Work is a national organization committed to banning workplace harassment and career discrimination against LGBTQ Americans.

    The Who’s Who was impressive: Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work; Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry; Brad Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute at UCLA Law; Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans; Melissa Sklarz, president of Stonewall Democrats of NYC; and Dave Montez, acting president of GLAAD.

    “I’m honored hosting this bipartisan group of leading experts and advocates for this first of a kind event,” said Tico Almeida. “I’m confident we’re going to win on ENDA and grant all Americans the freedom to work without discrimination. This event focuses on how we get there and get there quickly.”

    “For almost 125 years, New York Law School has been a leader in fostering discussion and change on issues that stand at the intersection of the law, public policy and social movements,” added Anthony Crowell, dean of the New York Law School. “And on LGBT issues, we take immense pride that we have consistently been at the forefront of efforts to achieve greater equality with our cutting edge scholarship, advocacy and service. Indeed, this work is what makes us New York’s law school.”

    So, let’s END the stalling on ENDA!


    Salt Lake City, UT – Ex NFLer Wants to Build Bridges with Queers – 9.15

    Footballer Steve Young spoke to about 400 people attending the New Frontiers conference of the group “Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons.” The former BYU quarterback said his goal “is to build bridges with my gay brothers and sisters. We need to see each other as Jesus sees us.”

    Young also reminisced about winning the Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers, and spoke about relying on faith. “(Faith is the) fundamental fuel for the human experience,” he said. “If the experience is to return to our Heavenly Father, faith is the fuel from beginning to end.”

    He introduced his wife, Barb, as an advocate for the LGBTQ community. “There is not a day that goes by that you are not on her mind. She has spent countless hours advocating for you,” Young said.

    Barb Young, a Mormon convert whose older brother is gay, actively opposed California’s Proposition H8 in 2008, even though leaders of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enlisted members to work for its passage. The measure banning same-sex marriage was passed by voters. She urged attendees to be “patient like Jesus” and to love LDS church members as they move toward understanding of their LGBTQ family members. “If we consciously embrace Jesus’ teaching of empathy, compassion, and love, the future world will be different,” she said.

    Judy Finch, who has a son and two grandchildren who identify as being gay, said she sees mostly LDS church members in her private practice as a psychotherapist. “In my role (as a therapist) I provide hope and reassurance and encouragement,” Finch told the crowd. “Heavenly Father loves our gays exactly the way they are – exactly the way he created them.”

    The Mormon church teaches that same-sex attraction is not a sin, but acting on it is. Sorry, I can’t support this until being sexually active is accepted too.


    Albuquerque, NM – New Mexico Supreme Court Order Sets Hearing on Same-Sex Marriage Statewide – 9.6

    The New Mexico Supreme Court has issued an order setting a hearing for October 23, to consider a request by the New Mexico Association of Counties that the court immediately decide whether New Mexico law permits same-sex couples to marry. All 33 county clerks in the state joined in the Association’s request that the Supreme Court resolve the issue.

    The counties’ request to the Supreme Court was filed in response to a case brought by six same-sex couples represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, the national ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and local attorneys. Judge Alan Mallot of the Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque issued a declaratory judgment against all 33 county clerks, ruling that the New Mexico Constitution requires issuance of marriage licenses to otherwise-qualified same-sex couples. The counties requested the Supreme Court to immediately review Judge Mallot’s order in order to resolve several pending cases around the state concerning the issue of marriage for same-sex couples.

    The order by the Supreme Court invited the six plaintiff couples to respond to the counties’ request by September 23 and to appear at oral argument October 23. The couples will argue that the Court should accept the counties’ request and immediately extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples statewide.

    “Now is the time for New Mexico to treat same-sex couples with the same dignity and respect as all other couples and fully respect their lifelong commitments to each other and their families,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “We look forward to presenting the strongest possible arguments on behalf of our clients and all New Mexico same-sex couples.”

    NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter said, “We are grateful to the New Mexico Supreme Court for recognizing the importance of this issue and putting the case on a fast track.”

    Get ready, New Mexico, for some really warm weddings!


    Columbus, OH – Marriage Pushed in Ohio for Equality – 9.13

    “Why Marriage Matters Ohio,” a marriage equality education campaign supporting the right for any loving, committed Ohio couple to marry, has launched. The launch announcement was held in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus simultaneously. The launch introduced the campaign and its founders: Equality Ohio Education Fund, Freedom to Marry, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Ohio.

    “All Americans should be able to marry the person they love, and they should be able to celebrate that love in Ohio,” said Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. “Full rights should not vary by geographical lines. Marriage Matters Ohio will bring this issue of equal rights to the forefront.”

    “Marriage matters,” said Elyzabeth Holford, executive director of Equality Ohio Education Fund. “There are couples in Ohio living in legal limbo. It’s time to change that. Marriage Matters Ohio is part of our roadmap to fairness and dignity for all Ohioans.”

    Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, noted, “Personal stories are the best conversation starter – and conversation is the best way to help people understand that all loving and committed couples in Ohio, gay and non-gay alike, should be able to share in the freedom to marry and the security and meaning marriage brings.”

    A recent poll of voters in Ohio by the Public Religion Research Institute shows support for marriage equality in a dead heat at 47% on both sides. Why Marriage Matters Ohio was created to bring marriage equality to the forefront.

    “We are committed to bringing full equality to every Ohioan in
    all aspects of life. That means employment equality, housing equality, and marriage equality,” said ACLU Foundation of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “The Supreme Court’s DOMA decision sounded the call that these inequalities will no longer stand. Any couple who commits to marriage should receive the same rights, privileges and responsibilities.”

    Oh hi, Ohio, looks like you’re next for wedding bells!


    Local News Briefs

    California Legislature Passes Bill to Aid Transgender Californians with Name Changes, Identity Documents

    Assembly Bill 1121, authored by Assemblymember Toni Atkins and co-sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, passed the Assembly by a bipartisan vote of 56-18, with an official vote count pending. The bill will help ensure people who are transgender have better access to legal name changes and identity documents that accurately reflect their gender identity. The bill will continue to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.

    “My bill provides transgender people with a simple, inexpensive, and private process for changing their names and documents to be consistent with their gender identity,” said Assemblymember Atkins.

    “Every Californian deserves the freedom to live as their authentic selves, and AB 1121 removes significant barriers to that freedom,” said John O’Connor, EQCA executive director. “Having documents that reflect who you really are is crucial to achieving full equality, and EQCA is proud to see this bill advance to the Governor’s desk.

    In 2011, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that 44% of transgender people reported having been denied service, harassed or assaulted when presenting identity documents that did not match their gender presentation.

    “As a transgender man myself, I have experienced both the discrimination that often accompanies having identity documents that do not match one’s gender identity as well as the burdensome process of revising identity documents. This important bill will mean more transgender people will be able to go about their daily activities – from voting to applying for jobs – without being unfairly outed or put in danger,” said Masen Davis, TLC executive director.

    AB 1121 will allow individuals to bypass the court and apply directly to the Office of Vital Records to amend a birth certificate. AB 1121 would also make the name change process more private and affordable for transgender people, exempting them from the requirement that a person pay to publish a notice of the intended name change in the local newspaper for four weeks.

    Story by Dennis McMillan

    Senate Approves Resolution Condemning Russian Anti-Gay Laws

    Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a draconian law threatening to arrest, detain and imprison individuals or groups that publicly support LGBTQ equality or spread positive “propaganda” about “non-traditional lifestyles.” Punishable offenses could include public acknowledgment of one’s sexual orientation, displays of affection between same-sex partners, statements in support of LGBTQ rights and the use of symbols, such as rainbows, that are connected to the LGBTQ community. Russia also recently enacted a law that prohibits same-sex couples from adopting children.

    SR 18 was introduced in response to Russia’s new laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people. In addition to asking the state’s two largest pension funds to stop making direct future investments in Russia, the resolution calls on the International Olympic Committee to withdraw its position that expressing support for LGBTQ people and their rights is a violation of its rules, and to seek a written guarantee from the Russian government that athletes and other visitors to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will not be prosecuted under the anti-gay laws. SR 18 also urges other organizations holding large internationally televised events in Russia, including the Miss Universe Organization and its owner Donald Trump, to move their events to countries without such virulently anti-gay laws.

    The full Senate approved a resolution urging CalPERS and CalSTRS not to invest future resources from their pension plans in Russia. SR 18, authored by Senator Mark Leno, passed with a 29-1 bipartisan vote. SR 18 now becomes the official position of the Senate. It does not require Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

    “Recent news reports confirm that violence against LGBT people has increased since these new anti-gay laws took effect, reinforcing our belief that the host country of the Winter Olympics aims to promote continued discrimination against its citizens and international visitors based solely on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Senator Leno. “We must not tolerate, nor invest in, such blatant violations of human rights.”

    Story by Dennis McMillan