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    Springfield, IL – Judge Allows Challenges to Illinois Same-Sex Marriage Ban to Proceed – 9.27

    An Illinois judge has allowed two lawsuits challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to proceed, possibly setting the stage for state courts rather than the legislature to decide whether same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in Illinois. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sophia Hall ruled that lawsuits brought by same-sex couples have a chance of succeeding, arguing that the state’s ban on gay marriage discriminates against them. The ruling is a boost for Illinois supporters of same-sex marriage trying to legalize gay nuptials through the courts because efforts through the state legislature fell short.

    The Illinois state Senate voted on Valentine’s Day in February this year to legalize gay marriage, but the state House of Representatives never scheduled a vote.

    Civil unions for gay and lesbian couples are legal in Illinois, but gay activists said this does not go far enough. Gay marriage supporters plan to hold a rally and concert at the State Capitol on Oct. 22 to pressure the state lawmakers to approve same-sex nuptials.

    The judge was responding to lawsuits filed by The American Civil Liberties Union and pro-gay rights group Lambda Legal on behalf of 25 same-sex couples in May 2012. “Loving same-sex couples in Illinois can’t wait any longer for the freedom to marry,” said Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal. “We’re excited to get to the next step and make the case for equality.”

    Opponents said they would continue efforts to block legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois. “Marriage between one man and one woman is constitutional, and we are confident that Illinois’ marriage laws will ultimately be upheld,” said Paul Linton, a lawyer for the Thomas More Society, which is opposed to same-sex marriage.

    More is less.


    Trenton, NJ – Judge Orders New Jersey to Allow Same-Sex Marriage – 9.27

    A New Jersey judge ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry, saying that not doing so deprives them of rights that were guaranteed by the United States Supreme Court in June. It is the first time a court has struck down a state’s refusal to legalize same-sex marriage as a direct result of the Supreme Court ruling, and with lawsuits pending in other states, it could foreshadow other successful challenges across the country.

    The decision was a rebuff to Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature last year that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry. His office said it would appeal to the state’s highest court.

    “The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts,” Judge Mary C. Jacobson of State Superior Court in Mercer County wrote. “Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution.”

    Legislators had responded to the 2006 court ruling by passing a bill to allow civil unions, but same-sex couples sued again, arguing that civil unions denied them many benefits, particularly in health care decisions and financial matters.

    The same-sex couples in New Jersey pressed for a fast judgment after the Supreme Court’s decision. Judge Jacobson agreed with the plaintiffs. Legislative leaders, working with state and national gay rights groups, are pushing to override Mr. Christie’s veto, which they have until January to do.

    Christie’s Democratic opponent, State Senator Barbara Buono, called the ruling “a stark reminder that Governor Christie stands on the wrong side of history.”

    Especially if he ever wants to be President.


    Hollywood, CA – Study Finds Bias Persists Against Gay and Lesbian Actors – 9.27

    The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists study finds that, even as opportunities and conditions improve, discrimination persists against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender actors. The survey, based on responses from over 5,600 union members, showed nearly half of lesbian and gay respondents and 27% of bisexual respondents “strongly agreed” that producers and studio execs believe that lesbian and gay performers are less marketable.

    The report also found that over a third of LGBTQ performers, as well as some non-LGBTQ performers, had witnessed “disrespectful” treatment toward these minorities. And 16% of LGBTQ respondents reported they had experienced discrimination.

    “Gay men were the most likely to report they have experienced some form of discrimination, with one in five reporting an experience,” the union said. “Bisexual actors were about half as likely to report discrimination as gay or lesbian actors.”

    The report by SAG-AFTRA and UCLA’s The Williams Institute found one-third of survey respondents believed that casting directors, directors and producers may be biased against LGBTQ performers. The survey, released at the first-ever SAG-AFTRA convention, also showed over half of LGBTQ performers had heard anti-gay comments on set.

    Respondents also said SAG-AFTRA members provide a supportive environment for LGBTQ performers. Additionally, many lesbian and gay respondents said they would encourage others to come out.

    “We were pleased to see that our membership is overwhelmingly supportive of LGBT actors, and that many LGBT actors found benefits in coming out,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s chief administrative officer and general counsel. “Nonetheless, coming out remains a significant and consequential decision for many performers, and we are committed to supporting our members in living honest and authentic personal and professional lives.”

    In other words, stop acting straight!


    Atlanta, GA – New Report Finds Workplace Discrimination, Wage and Health Disparities for Transgender Workers – 9.16

    A new report offers the most comprehensive analysis to date of the inequities facing transgender workers in the American workforce – from finding and keeping good jobs, to having equal access to job-related benefits, to obtaining adequate health insurance coverage. Out & Equal Workplace Advocates have acted as partners in producing “A Broken Bargain for Transgender Workers.” The report also offers specific recommendations for policymakers and employers to reduce and eliminate inequities for transgender workers and help restore America’s basic workplace bargain of fairness and equality.

    “From our beginning, Out & Equal has been committed to creating more equitable work environments and more employment opportunities for the transgender community. We are proud to partner in releasing this report at such an important time in our movement’s history,” said Selisse Berry, founder and CEO, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. “An ENDA inclusive of both sexual orientation and gender identity, when passed, will be the prelude to our greatest work and our greatest challenge – creating cultures of inclusion that permeate all our workplaces.”

    Recent polling shows that 73% of voters support protecting transgender people from discrimination in employment. Despite this strong public support, no federal law provides explicit legal protections for transgender workers based on gender identity/expression – and only 17 states and the District of Columbia offer these protections. As a result, transgender workers face higher rates of unemployment and are at greater risk of poverty.

    “Transgender people face among the highest unemployment rates of any population in the United States,” wrote Maggie Stumpp in the anthology, Out & Equal at Work: From Closet to Corner Office. “To make change in this area it’s imperative to find ways to overcome the hurdles that transgender people face during the hiring process.”


    Washington D.C. – National Poll Finds Huge Support
    for ENDA – 9.30

    New polling by a prominent Republican pollster shows a supermajority of voters – 68%, including 56% of Republicans – support a federal law protecting LGBTQ employees from discrimination in the workplace.

    The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on such a law – the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) – in the coming weeks. Currently, there are no state laws prohibiting an employer from firing or refusing to hire someone simply because he or she is LGBTQ in a majority of states.

    “ENDA is common-sense legislation that rings true with the overwhelming majority of voters, including Republicans,” said Target Point Consulting’s Alex Lundry, one of the country’s leading experts on voter analytics who has worked for several Republican presidential candidates. “The American people believe in the values of hard work and the Golden Rule – these are the reasons why support for ENDA is off the charts.”

    In addition to the national poll, Lundry utilized new modeling techniques to estimate support for ENDA in all 50 states, finding majorities in each state back a federal law to protect LGBTQ employees.

    Americans for Workplace Opportunity, which is the campaign to pass ENDA, and Project Right Side commissioned the national poll of 2,000 registered voters conducted by Lundry on Sept. 3-8.

    The poll also found eight in 10 Americans believe it’s already illegal to discriminate against people simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he wants to bring the bill to the floor. ENDA passed out of a key Senate committee this past summer by a 15-7 bipartisan vote – with support from Republican Senators Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Orrin Hatch (Utah).

    It seems some Republicans DO have beating hearts!



    Local News Briefs

    Street Wise Self Defense Seminar Offered

    Many people in the queer community are concerned with rising crime and increasing reports of people being assaulted for their smart phones and valuables. A little more awareness, and some forethought about what people’s options are when faced with a difficult situation, can make all the difference. The latest self-defense seminar will offer some invaluable information and insights.

    Castro Community On Patrol (CCOP) is working with the Metropolitan Community Church to present a community self-defense seminar at the church on Saturday Oct. 19 from 1pm to 5pm at 150 Eureka Street.

    The seminar is open to anyone 18 years of age or older (no upper age limit) and is designed to be low impact, fun, information packed, easily accessible and suitable for everyone.

    The seminar will cover important, intriguing topics such as: self-defense versus defending yourself; the BEWARE plan; street ”smartz” and awareness; pre-planning and preparing; recognizing and avoiding trouble; the importance of the Lizard Brain (CCOP says people will find out just what that’s about in the seminar); becoming a sheep dog; de-escalating situations; and simple physical defensive techniques if all else fails.

    The seminar will be led by Ken Craig, who is a Grand Master ranked martial artist with more than 25 years of combined martial arts experience. Craig is also one of the original founding members of Castro Community On Patrol and holds the vice chair position with CCOP as well as serving as their director of Volunteer Training and Emergency Services Liaison.

    This event is a fundraiser for MCCSF hosted by Castro Community on Patrol, sponsored by MCCSF, and coordinated by Brian Stevens, Board of Directors. The suggested minimum donation is $25, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. To sign up, browse

    Story by Dennis McMillan

    Activists Urged to Tell Governor Brown the Queer Community Counts

    Various studies have shown that health disparities impacting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are real and costly, but they can’t be fixed until there are effective statistics about the queer community’s unique health needs. If they aren’t counted, they aren’t considered.

    Last week, the California legislature took an important step to address this by advancing Assembly Bill 1208, an incredibly important LGBTQ data collection bill authored by Assemblymember Dr. Richard Pan and sponsored by Equality California.

    The bill is now on the Governor’s desk, so activists need to tell him that the queer community must be counted. The bill, which has bipartisan support, will result in valuable public health information by adding voluntary questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to applications Californians fill out for programs such as Medi-Cal and Obamacare.

    AB 1208 will help California lead the way in addressing inequality in health care for the LGBTQ community. By including optional questions on standardized forms Californians complete for programs such as Medi-Cal and Obamacare, information will be collected that will help guide efforts to increase health care equality in California and nationally. Health departments leveraging millions and millions of federal and state dollars will be able to better target health disparities with the data collected. By investing a little in the way queer LGBTQ information is collected, a lot can be saved down the road by making sure that queer people get the care they need and want.

    “Tell Governor Brown that we count, and urge him to sign AB 1208 because it’s important to the health of our community,” said John O’Connor, Equality California executive director. “You can call his office at (916) 445-2841, send him a support email at or tweet @JerryBrownGov directly at asking him to sign AB 1208.”

    Story by Dennis McMillan