Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Pushes for LGBT Adoption Bill

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is now pushing for federal legislation which would legalize adoption of children by LGBT parents nationwide, even though 11 states currently prohibit adoption by gay individuals and same-sex couples. According to the text of the bill, the 'Every Child Deserves a Family Act' would "prohibit discrimination in adoption or foster care placements based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of any prospective adoptive or foster parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child involved."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Supports Gay Rights

It was only last year that the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, publicly supported the radical anti-gay views of President Robert Mugabe, who has called gays and lesbians "worse than pigs and dogs." Now Tsvangirai has reversed his position on the subject, saying the rights of gays and lesbians should be protected by the new Zimbabwean constitution that is currently being drafted. In an interview with the BBC Tsvangirai said, "It's a very controversial subject in my part of the world. My attitude is that I hope the constitution will come out with freedom of sexual orientation, for as long as it does not interfere with anybody." He then added that "To me, it's a human right." This is a strong sign of progress in a nation where homosexuality is currently illegal.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Beth Robinson Nominated to Vermont's Highest Court

Beth Robinson
Gov. Peter Shumlin announced that he has nominated Beth Robinson to the state Supreme Court of Vermont. Robinson, an out lesbian, has an extensive pro-equality background. Robinson was part of the legal team that represented three same-sex couples who were being denied the rights and benefits of marriage in the 1999 case of Baker v. Vermont. The Vermont Supreme Court ruled unanimously that denying same-sex couples the same benefits bestowed upon heterosexual couples was a violation of the state's constitution and ordered the legislature produce a remedy, leading to the legalization of same-sex civil unions in 2000. Robinson also, as the head of Vermont Freedom to Marry, played a pivotal role in passing legislation which legalized same-sex marriage in Vermont in 2009. And although some LGBT rights opponents such as Craig Benson--who cites as a concern the idea that small businesses will be sued by people who are "feeling transgendered that day" and may wish to use their bathrooms--have openly criticized the nomination, Robinson has found support from many other sources including the executive director of the Vermont Bar Association.

Special thanks to Sam Charron, Career Services Assistant Director and Public Interest Coordinator, for finding the article.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Herman Cain Calls Homosexuality a "Sin" and a "Choice"

In a recent interview with Piers Morgan, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain stated that it is his belief that homosexuality is a "sin" as well as a "choice." When Piers Morgan pressed further, asking Cain if he really believed this, Cain responded by demanding scientific evidence to the contrary. While the science surrounding sexual orientation is complex, a 2006 study showed a correlation between male homosexuality and the number of older male (biological) siblings. In 2007, researchers discovered that by altering a specific gene in fruit flies they could effectively make the flies bisexual. In 2008 it was reported that a gene found in gay men caused an increase in fertility when present in women, which may partly explain the genetic components of male homosexuality as well as explain why homosexuality has survived natural selection. And just last year, a study showed that the deletion of a specific gene in female mice during the embryo stage effectively turned the mice into lesbians. In other words, science is increasingly demonstrating that same-sex attraction is far from a choice, in spite of Herman Cain's objections.

FBI Expands its Official Definition of Rape

The FBI's Uniform Crime Report Subcommittee has unanimously voted to officially change the definition of rape from "the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will" to "Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim." As the Feministing blog notes, this expanded definition now covers statutory rape, same-sex rape, rape with an object, forced oral or anal sex, male victims, transgender victims, victims with disabilities and victims whose consent has been "diminished" by alcohol or drugs. Astonishingly, the FBI had been using its previous definition of rape since 1929 without any alterations.

(Special thanks to OUTlaw VP Caitlin Childs for finding this story.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

OUTlaw Meeting This Wednesday at Noon!

OUTlaw will be having its next meeting this Wednesday at noon in Room 1 (a.k.a. the usual). Hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Progress on Repeal of the "Defense of Marriage Act"

Sen. Patrick Leahy
In July, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) chaired a hearing on a possible repeal of the "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA). Under the act, passed in 1996, a marriage was legally defined as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife", and no State may be required to recognize as a marriage any same-sex relationship recognized as a marriage in another State. Furthermore, federal marriage benefits which are granted to heterosexual married couples may not be granted to their same-sex counterparts. On October 14th, 2011, Sen. Leahy issued a press release stating that he intends to schedule Committee consideration of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal and replace DOMA. The text of the bill is as follows:

‘(a) For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State.

‘(b) In this section, the term ‘State’ means a State, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any other territory or possession of the United States.’

Friday, October 14, 2011

Out Servicemember Runs for Seat in CO House in Post-DADT America

Yesterday, Chris Geidner of MetroWeekly's Poliglot reported that Brian Carroll, an out servicemember, is running for a seat in the CO house.  Read all of Geidner's article here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Opponents of FAIR Education Act Fail.

Today, Roland Palencia, Executive Director of Equality California, announced that anti-equality opponents of the FAIR Education Act failed to collect the requisite amount of signatures to qualify the referendum for the 2012 ballot.

EQCA reports:
"(San Francisco) Today, anti-equality advocates announced that they have failed to collect the required number of signatures to place a referendum for the November 2012 ballot to overturn the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. 
The FAIR Education Act, authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by Equality California and GSA Network, was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this year. It requires schools to integrate age-appropriate and factual information about historical roles of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, people with disabilities and people of color into existing social science instruction. 
The FAIR Education Act will simply ensure that California’s students learn an honest, accurate, and inclusive account of history, but opponents of equality have grossly distorted the intent and the effect of the FAIR Education act in their quest to secure signatures for this referendum. Today's victory shows that their lies cannot stand up to our truth,” said Roland Palencia, Equality California Executive Director and Interim Executive Committee Co-Chair of the coalition to protect the FAIR Education Act. “But we know that opponents of equality won't stop here. We remain vigilant, not only to make sure that people know the facts about the FAIR Education Act, but also to continue preparing for new attacks on the FAIR Education Act at the ballot box, in the legislature and in courts of law.” 
Now it's time to focus on implementing the FAIR Education Act and demonstrate to the public that our opponents’ lies are nothing more than smear tactics designed to censor the historical contributions of LGBT people, people with disabilities and people of color from social studies classes,” said Laura Valdez, Interim Executive Director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network and Co-Chair of the Interim Executive Committee of the coalition to protect the FAIR Education Act. “Already, we are working with school administrators, teachers, students, parents, and community groups to ensure the fair and accurate portrayal of historically marginalized groups in schools, and we will continue to work to educate the public.” 
Today’s news is welcome and it comes as the Second Annual Disability History Week in full swing, a reminder that youth with disabilities are powerful voices for change and tolerance,” said Teresa Favuzzi, Executive Director of the California Foundation for Independent Living. “We look forward to getting to work to implement this important law and to ensure that disability history is included in a full, inclusive, study of our history.” 
Since July, FAIR Education Act supporters across the state have built a broad coalition to protect the law and educate the public that spans people of faith; labor organizations; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights groups; disability rights advocates; racial justice organizations and many others who care about equality. These organizations remain committed to strengthening the coalition and protecting this important law. For more information, please go to
Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights advocacy organization in California. Over the past decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation. Equality California has passed more than 70 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment. 
Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network) is a national youth leadership organization that empowers youth activists to fight homophobia and transphobia in schools by training student leaders and supporting student-led Gay-Straight Alliance clubs throughout the country. In California alone, GSA Network has brought GSA clubs to 56% of public high schools, impacting more than 1.1 million students at 850 schools. GSA Network's youth advocates have played a key role in changing laws and policies that impact youth at the local and state level. GSA Network operates the National Association of GSA Networks, which unites more than 30 statewide networks of GSA clubs throughout the country. GSA Network is also the founder of the Make It Better Project, which aims to stop bullying and prevent suicide.  
The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers is a statewide, non-profit trade organization made up of 25 Independent Living Centers. Through unified action, CFILC envisions civil rights for all people with disabilities. CFILC's mission is to support independent living centers in their local communities through advocating for systems change and promoting access and integration for people with disabilities."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Misinformation Used in Attempt to Repeal LGBT History Law

On July 14th, 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed the FAIR Education Act, which would "amend the [California] Education Code to include social sciences instruction on the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people" as well as "prohibit discriminatory instruction and discriminatory materials from being adopted by the State Board of Education." Now children who attend public schools in California will learn about great LGBT Americans such as Harvey Milk, who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. However, religious right groups in California seek to repeal the law by way of a voter referendum. The Capitol Resource Institute, the major backer of the referendum, needs to get roughly 500,000 signatures for it to qualify for the ballot. In order to get these signatures, opponets of the law (SB48) are engaging in a dishonest smear campaign against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, as can be seen in the videos below:

In light of this, the Courage Campaign filed a complaint that the StopSB48 group is violating California Elections Code, Section 18600, which states that every person is guilty of a misdemeanor who:

(a) Circulating, as principal or agent, or having charge or control of the circulation of, or obtaining signatures to, any state or local initiative, referendum or recall petition, intentionally misrepresents or intentionally makes any false statement concerning the contents, purport or effect of the petition to any person who signs, or who desires to sign, or who is requested to sign, or who makes inquiries with reference to it, or to whom it is presented for his or her signature.

(b) Willfully and knowingly circulates, publishes, or exhibits any false statement or misrepresentation concerning the contents, purport or effect of any state or local initiative, referendum, or recall petition for the purpose of obtaining any signature to, or persuading or influencing any person to sign, that petition.

The Courage Campaign is currently asking for people to co-sign the complaint.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

If Elected Michele Bachmann Would Reinstate "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

On Tuesday evening, Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann (R-MN) made a conference call to supporters of the Faith and Freedom Coalition in which she promised that, if elected, she would reinstate the anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. This, of course, lends further support to critics of a recent 9th Circuit decision to dismiss the ongoing legal challenge to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Presidential Candidates to Join Anti-Gay Speakers at Values Voter Summit

Bryan Fischer at the 2009 Values Voter Summit
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum will all be attending the 2011 Values Voter Summit, a conference for American social conservatives that is hosted by the Family Research Council and the American Family Association. An article by the group People for the American Way gives details about the notorious anti-LGBT figures who will be attending and speaking at the event, including Bryan Fischer, Mat Staver, Tony Perkins and Bishop Harry Jackson.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Legal Challenge to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Dismissed

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a seven-year-old suit challenging the constitutionality of the anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on the grounds that, since the policy has officially been repealed, the legal controversy has now ended and rendered the case moot. Over a year ago a federal judge ruled in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a violation of gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers' First and Fifth Amendment rights. Now, if a future Congress decided to reinstate the policy, opponents would have to start a new lawsuit from scratch in order to challenge it. Jon Davidson of Lambda Legal, a prominent LGBT civil rights organization, issued a statement saying that the 9th Circuit's decision to dismiss the suit effectively ignores the 14,000 servicemen and women who lost their jobs and benefits since DADT was enacted in 1993.