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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Across New York, a Weekend of Parties and Wedding Bells

Niagra Falls , NY gets their rainbow on!


Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples across New York State plan to marry on Sunday, the culmination of a long battle in the Legislature and a new milestone for gay rights advocates seeking to legalize same-sex marriage around the nation.

The first marriages were scheduled to take place just after midnight in Niagara Falls, where officials planned to illuminate the famous cascade in the colors of a rainbow, and in Albany, where an eager mayor planned to marry eight gay couples.

In New York City, 823 couples signed up in advance to get marriage licenses on Sunday, and many of those couples were expected to marry minutes later in city clerk’s offices across the five boroughs. Officials from more than a dozen cities and towns from Buffalo to Brookhaven said they would open their offices to issue marriage licenses on Sunday, and more than 100 judges across the state have volunteered to officiate at the couples’ weddings on the spot.

“This is long overdue,” said Mayor Matthew T. Ryan of Binghamton, who planned to preside at the wedding of at least two local couples, and who invited same-sex couples from Pennsylvania, and from New York City, to come to his city to be married. “It really is a great day for all of us who believe in inclusiveness and equal rights for everybody.”

The weddings — businesslike ceremonies in fluorescent-lit city offices for some, lavish catered affairs for others — represent the end of a political campaign that lasted for years. On June 24, the State Senate voted 33 to 29 to approve same-sex marriage, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed it into law that night, but the law did not take effect for 30 days, which is why Sunday is the first day that clerk’s offices were permitted to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

“As the hours tick by, we’re getting more and more excited,” Brian Banks, a 33-year-old middle-school special-education teacher from Albany, said on Friday after going to City Hall there to fill out paperwork. Mr. Banks planned to marry his partner of seven years, Jon Zehnder, 37, a high school math teacher, at the midnight ceremony in Albany on Sunday. “Even though we’ve always viewed ourselves as married, to have there be no asterisk next to it, it’ll just feel really good,” he said.

Not everyone will be celebrating. Town clerks in at least two rural communities have resigned in recent days, saying their religious convictions precluded them from marrying gay couples, and some cities will see public demonstrations on Sunday. The National Organization for Marriage is planning protests on Sunday afternoon at the State Capitol; outside Mr. Cuomo’s office in Midtown Manhattan; and in the two largest cities upstate, Buffalo and Rochester.

But a sampling of pastors in the New York City area found that most did not intend to discuss same-sex marriage in their Sunday sermons. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, for example, the homilist planned to speak on other subjects. “There may not be much more to say at this point,” Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said.

New York is the sixth, and largest, state with legalized same-sex marriage. Several other states are considering following suit, and on Sunday, some gay-rights activists plan to gather in Hoboken to call on New Jersey lawmakers to follow New York’s lead and allow gay couples to wed. But most states have either laws or constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriage, and federal law bars the United States government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

“It’s a huge step forward, and yet it doesn’t erase the fact that there’s so many roadblocks facing advocates of marriage equality,” said George Chauncey, a historian at Yale and the author of “Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940.”

“Most of the time, an awful lot of the nation doesn’t want to be like New York at all,” Mr. Chauncey said. “I suspect that many people will take this as one more sign of what happens in the Northeast, and in New York in particular, that they don’t want to have happen in their own communities.”

Larry Kramer, the playwright and longtime gay rights activist, said that for as long as the federal government continues not to recognize same-sex marriages, the celebration in New York on Sunday would be misguided.“These marriages, in whichever state, are what I call feel-good marriages,” Mr. Kramer said. “Compared to the benefits heterosexual marriages convey, gay marriages are an embarrassment — that we should accept so little, and with so much hoopla of excitement and self-congratulation.”

“These marriages, in whichever state, are what I call feel-good marriages,” Mr. Kramer said. “Compared to the benefits heterosexual marriages convey, gay marriages are an embarrassment — that we should accept so little, and with so much hoopla of excitement and self-congratulation.”

But many activists, both opposed to and in support of same-sex marriage, saw legalization in New York as a significant development, in part because of the size and visibility of the state, and in part because of its symbolism — the modern gay rights movement traces its symbolic emergence to the Stonewall riot in New York City in 1969.

“When you think that a decade ago the number was zero, it just shows what a powerful step forward this represents,” said Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, a gay rights group. “It gives us tremendous momentum for continuing the journey the country has been on toward fairness.”

Whatever the historical implications — and however the push to legalize same-sex marriage fares in the other states where advocates plan to shift their focus — there will be no shortage of celebration, and protest, on Sunday and in the days to follow.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans to officiate at the wedding of two senior City Hall officials at a ceremony at Gracie Mansion, while Mr. Cuomo is hosting a party for gay rights advocates and lawmakers in New York City.

In Brooklyn, the borough president, Marty Markowitz, plans to open Borough Hall for a marathon series of weddings, complete with free cake and Champagne.

Outside the city clerk’s office in Lower Manhattan, rabbis from a synagogue in the West Village plan to solemnize weddings under a rainbow-colored huppah, or Jewish wedding canopy. And two gay puppets, Rod and Ricky, from the Tony Award-winning play “Avenue Q,” plan to stage a mock wedding as well.

And there are a variety of same-sex wedding celebrations, some with commercial or promotional overtones, planned over the next days and months.

On Monday night, three gay couples will wed on stage at the St. James Theater after the evening’s performance of the Broadway musical “Hair.” On Saturday, two dozen couples will marry inside two pop-up chapels that are to be installed in Central Park. And the Fire Island Pines resort is now peddling three same-sex wedding packages, one of which features a private ferry ride “complete with your own crew of drag queens.”

Friday, July 22, 2011

President Obama Certifies DADT Repeal!

By Michael Cole-Schwartz -

After hearing from senior military leaders that repeal posed no threat to the armed forces, President Obama certified the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  His signature of the certification sets in motion the open service of lesbian, gay and bisexual troops.  The certification step was part of the legislation he signed in December and now after a 60 day period built into the law, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be a relic of the past.
HRC President Joe Solmonese released the following statement:
“For far too long, the ban on openly gay service members has harmed our security and tarnished our values.  The President’s certification of repeal is a monumental step, not just for those forced to lie in order to serve, but for all Americans who believe in fairness and equality.
“There are many people who brought this historic day to fruition starting with the President’s tremendous leadership and the steadfast allies in Congress who refused to give in to the lies and fear mongering.  Additionally we thank all of the brave men and women who have continued to wear the uniform under a policy that forced them to hide who they are.  The end of that shameful time is thankfully near.”

Congratulations New York! Gay & Lesbian Couples to Begin Marrying

On Sunday, July 24th gay and lesbian couples will begin marrying in New York State. Two of Lambda Legal's former plaintiff couples will be among the first to marry in New York City. Director of Constitutional Litigation Susan Sommer discusses Lambda Legal's history fighting for marriage equality in New York.

UK begins documentation of gay asylum cases

By Nan Hunter -

UK authorities have begun inputting information on sexuality-based asylum claims into the Central Information Database of the UK Border Agency (UKBA).
The UK joins only five other countries which record data on the number of LGBT persons benefiting from asylum/subsidiary protection due to persecution on the ground of sexual orientation: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Latvia and Estonia...
After the Supreme Court decision one year ago that ended 'go home and be discrete', the UKBA said they would collect data on LGBT asylum but Immigration Minister Damien Green said earlier this year that this wouldn't happen because of "disproportionate cost".

UKBA has made no official announcement but we understand that retiring manager Bill Brandon (Deputy Director, NAM+ Quality and Learning; Refugee Integration and Resettlement) told a event organised by the law firm Mischon de Reja last month about the developments on data and auditing...

UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), which works with LGBT asylum seekers, have been lobbying on the issue for some time and in the last 12 months has held discussions with the Home Office on several occasions...

Anecdotal evidence is of increasing disbelief that applicants are lesbian or gay and this website has documented poor decision making in a number of cases. [UKLGIG Group Manager Erin] Power has acknowledged that this is a concern for UKLGIG, telling The Guardian: "It has always been difficult to prove but more frequently now, people are not being believed."..

The Home Office says that:
"The government has made it clear that it is committed to stopping the removal of asylum seekers who have genuinely had to leave particular countries because of their sexual orientation or gender identification."
However...  there are serious concerns about a decreasing availability of specialised legal advice due to legal aid cuts and the collapse (due to those cuts, it is claimed) of the two biggest providers of legal services to asylum seekers.

The Immigration Law Practitioners Association told The Guardian that:
"The sensible thing to do would be to review cases of removal. When you get to a point where you have to put someone on a plane for removal, you should get their file out and make sure there's nothing of concern. They should check they have not claimed on the grounds of being gay, because they know that there was an important decision in the court which may be relevant."
Says Power:
"Obviously there is no point in collecting the stats if they don't look at them and see if there has been any change in decisions - hence the audit."

"There are still some concerns which we can look at when we see the results of the audit."
The government has specifically ruled out other measures which would help LGBT asylum seekers. It will not exclude sexuality-based claims from 'fast track' decision making - as some other categories of claim are - despite Damien Green in a letter to Dr Hywel Francis MP, the Chair of the House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights, accepting that they "can raise complex and specific issues based on cultural differences and the possible trauma of the individual concerned."

'Fast track' claims are far harder to win because legal options are dramatically reduced and people - often traumatised from torture and other bad treatment, as Green acknowledges - are invariably detained.

In the letter to Francis, Green refers to Stonewall's report 'No Going Back' - however that report made 21 recommendations, which went far beyond training of staff. For example, the report discusses the effect of the dispersal system on LGBT asylum seekers who are sent to towns where it is impossible to access appropriate and safe support. They are often forced to live with people who do not accept them and several reports have found that they can be at risk of violence. We are aware of  cases where UKBA has been asked to move LGBT asylum seekers closer to sources of support but has refused.

Green does acknowledge criticism of the crucial 'country information' on which many case decisions hang. In particular, he acknowledges the criticism made by the Shadow Foreign Secretary in the 'BN' Ugandan case that that country's information was two years old and made no reference to LGBT. In the letter he notes that at the time of writing only three country reports made any reference (since he wrote new Uganda guidance has been published which does include LGBT issues, however problems remain with its contents).

Green says in the letter that other work is "in hand" to address the (wide ranging) issues raised in Stonewall's report - but it is not in any of the plans published by the Home Office (and the department's business plan covers the entire life of this parliament).

for more from Nan visit Hunter for Justice.

DADT certifications expected Friday

Lisa Keen -

President Obama is scheduled to meet with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen Friday afternoon (July 22) and reports are circulating that the meeting could be to discuss certification of military readiness to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
The Los Angeles Times and other media reported late Thursday that two Pentagon officials said Panetta and Mullen would announced Friday that the two can certify military readiness to Congress –one of the stipulations for enacting repeal of the federal law banning openly gay people from service. The repeal law passed in December also requires the president to submit written certification to Congress of military readiness.
After all three submit their certifications, a 60-day clock must tick down before repeal is actually implemented.
The Washington Post noted that Panetta is to be sworn in as Defense secretary, replacing retired Secretary Robert Gates, on Friday at the Pentagon in northern Virginia. ABC News reported that the certification announcement will take place at the Pentagon shortly after Panetta is sworn in.
The White House official schedules indicate that Vice President Joe Biden will swear in Panetta at 11 a.m. and that President Obama will meet with Panetta and Mullen at 2:45 p.m. EDT.
The White House schedule does not indicate the topic of the afternoon meeting and notes the meeting is closed to the press.

Official: Pentagon set to certify repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'

By Chris Lawrence -

CNN) -- The Pentagon is set to certify that the U.S. military is prepared to accept openly gay and lesbian service members, and doing so will not harm military readiness, a U.S. official told CNN on Thursday.
According to the official, who spoke on condition of not being identified, an announcement of that certification -- which is required to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy -- is likely to come Friday.
Under a bill passed last year that set up a process for repealing the controversial policy, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, along with President Barack Obama, have to sign a certification that confirms the military's ability to accept the integration of openly gay and lesbian troops.
Even after certification, there will be a 60-day waiting period before the repeal is fully implemented.
In a statement Thursday, one of the leading groups advocating for repeal, Servicemembers United, said it had expected Panetta to act on certification after assessing the situation since he succeeded Robert Gates as defense secretary on July 1.
"We are glad to see that just three weeks into his tenure as secretary of defense, he (Panetta) is already confident that this policy change can take place with little or no disruption to military readiness," said the Servicemembers United statement.
Repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy would end a convoluted legal battle led by human rights and gay rights groups.
A gay rights group -- the Log Cabin Republicans -- had sued over the 18-year-old ban on openly gay and lesbian members serving in the U.S. armed forces.
In September U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips declared the military's ban to be unconstitutional and demanded the government immediately stop enforcing it.
U.S. officials have been moving ahead with dismantling "don't' ask, don't tell" but had objected to having the courts force the government to officially repeal it.
The case put the Obama administration in an unusual position of supporting a repeal but at the same time filing court motions to prevent it from happening faster than planned.
Last week, a federal appeals court temporarily reinstated the policy, but banned the military services from investigating or discharging anyone under the rule.
The 9th U.S. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in California issued the order late Friday after the Obama administration asked it to reconsider its recent order temporarily blocking the policy.
On Thursday, the Log Cabin Republicans filed a legal challenge to the appellate court's temporary reinstatement of the policy, arguing that the unconstitutional statute would continue to harm the rights of gay and lesbian service members until it was fully repealed.

President Obama nominates gay L.A. lawyer to U.S. District Court

Getprev1 President Obama announced Wednesday that he is nominating Los Angeles attorney Michael Walter Fitzgerald to serve as a judge on the federal court for the Central District of California.
Fitzgerald, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the seven-county Central District that includes Los Angeles, would be the first openly gay judge on the U.S. District Court for the region and the only one in the state after the recent resignation of Judge Vaughn Walker from the San Francisco-based Northern District.
Fitzgerald, 51, "will serve the people of California with distinction on the District Court bench," Obama said in the statement announcing his choice for one of the busiest courts in the nation.
A congressional source familiar with the vetting process that forwarded Fitzgerald as a potential nominee said he didn't expect to see much resistance at Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings to the president's choice on the basis of Fitzgerald's sexual orientation because he has broad experience as a prosecutor and "stands on his own merits." Fitzgerald is a graduate of Harvard University and UC Berkeley's Boalt School of Law. He has been in private practice with the downtown law firm Corbin Fitzgerald & Athey in recent years.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tori Spelling gay Hoarders spoof

Tori Spelling stars in a Funny or Die spoof on cable channel A&E's reality series Hoarders

Stephen Colbert - It Gets Better

The host of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert has a message for LGBT youth: "It Gets Better."

Sen. Chris Coons (DE): DOMA says it's OK for the government to discriminate

July 20, 2011 -- "I'm tired of it being the law of this land that it's ok for the government to discriminate against Americans solely because of their gender identity or sexual orientation," Senator Chris Coons said, at the landmark Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to consider new legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Williams Institute analyzes the impact of DoMA

By Nan Hunter -

The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Policy at UCLA just published this excellent report analyzing the demographic, economic, legal and social effects of DoMA. The report was requested by staff of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in anticipation of its hearing today on S. 598, a bill that would effectively repeal Section 3 of DoMA by providing recognition under federal law for marriages that were valid where they were entered into.
The legal effects of DoMA include:
·        Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Benefits.  Nearly 430,000 same-sex partners remain barred from taking leave to care for a same-sex spouse under the FMLA, regardless of whether they marry.
·        Benefits for Spouses of Federal Employees.  The same-sex partners of more than 30,000 federal employees are ineligible for the benefits available to different-sex married spouses.
·        Veteran Partner Benefits.  Same-sex partners of nearly 68,000 veterans are barred from a variety of benefits including pensions, educational assistance, and vocational training available to different-sex spouses.
·        Taxation of Employee Health Benefits for a Same-Sex Spouse.  When private employers offer health insurance to same-sex spouses and domestic partners, because of DOMA, federal law taxes these benefits. Approximately 41,000 employees with a same-sex spouse or domestic partner pay, on average, over $1,000 more in taxes per year than an employee receiving the same health benefits for a different-sex spouse.
·        Spousal Impoverishment Protections for Medicaid Long Term Care (LTC).  Medicaid LTC beneficiaries may have to use some of their spouse’s income and assets to pay for LTC. Federal law require states to allow different-sex spouses to retain income and assets to protect them from destitution. However, about 1,700-3,000 individuals whose same-sex partners receive Medicaid-financed LTC are not protected by these spousal impoverishment provisions.
·        Estate Tax.  Over the next two years, members of same-sex couples who will pay the federal estate tax, will pay, on average, more than $4 million more than a survivor of a different-sex spouse because they do not qualify for the federal estate tax spousal exemption.
·        Social Security Survivor Benefits.  Unlike different-sex spouses, same-sex spouses cannot continue receiving their partner’s social security payments after their partner’s death. This results in a loss, on average, of more than $5,700 for a same-sex partner that receives lower social security payments than the deceased spouse.  
·        Immigration for Bi-National Couples.  Nearly 26,000 same-sex couples in the United States are bi-national couples who could be forced to separate because they cannot participate in green-card and accelerated citizenship mechanisms offered to non-citizen spouses of American citizens.  
[Disclaimer: I'm listed as one of the authors, but it's a generous credit. The document is a compilation of the work of many people.]
You can watch the full hearing here.

for more from Nan visit Hunter for Justice.

Lawrence O'Donnell - Focus On The Family Busted For Lying At Doma Hearing By Sen. Al Franken

Lawrence O'Donnell talks with Jennifer Chrisler from Family Equality Council.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Witnesses Give Personal Accounts of DOMA Consequences

Evan Wolfson testimony on Capital Hill

White House Briefing - LGBT Issues - July 19, 2011

White House press secretary Jay Carney takes questions from Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly on July 19, 2011.

Senator Al Franken

Al Franken fabulously calling out a bigot at the DOMA hearing today!

Erica & Tevonda: New Jersey Marriage

Meet Erica and Tevonda, plaintiffs in Lambda Legal's marriage equality lawsuit in New Jersey. Together 4 years, Erica and Tevonda are raising their 3-month year old son, Teverico, in North Plainfield and were forced to get a second-parent adoption to ensure legal protection of their son because of civil unions' unequal status. To learn more about the case and send a note of support to the couples, visit

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

BREAKING: Obama endorses Respect for Marriage Act!

Courage Campaign
Dear Terrence,
After over 25,000 of you signed a petition to President Obama asking him to endorse the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA, today White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced the President will endorse the bill! This -- the White House endorsing legislation that has yet to pass either house of Congress -- is extremely rare, and marks the urgency with which the President wants to see DOMA erased forever.
Terrence, tomorrow is the first-ever Congressional hearing on whether to repeal DOMA. This morning, we held a press conference with Sen. Feinstein to highlight the stories of same-sex couples who are punished even though they broke no law, and we generated press coverage from California to Maine. Together, we've targeted four Senators who did not support the Respect for Marriage Act on March 16th...and all four now support the bill. Thanks to our work together, 29 Senators now support repeal, which is more than twice the number of Senators that voted for DOMA in 1996. And now, we have President Obama's seal of approval.
This is the kind of work your contribution would fund: grassroots pressure, story-telling, and generating press coverage so more Americans know what DOMA is and why it must go, so that more Senators stand up against DOMA. With President Obama's endorsement today, we have momentum, and now we have to use it...but we need your help.
Thanks for all you do,
-- Adam, Cait, Ana, Rick, Arisha, Anthony, and the rest of the team at the Courage Campaign

BBC cuts Torchwood gay sex scene

British viewers won't see John Barrowman's sex scene

By Jessica Geen -
British Torchwood viewers won’t see a raunchy gay sex scene because BBC bosses thought it was too explicit.

The scene, with gay star John Barrowman’s character Captain Jack Harkness and a barman, has already been broadcast in the US on cable channel Starz.
The Sun reports that a source said executives felt the scenes were simply too sexy to show primetime audiences 20 minutes after the watershed.
The source said: “It wasn’t that it was a gay scene that worried people, but just the fact it was such an explicit sex scene, full stop.
“You can get away with scenes like that on American cable channels, but you can’t on primetime BBC1.”
A BBC spokeswoman told the newspaper that the gay sex scene and another which involved violence had been cut.
She said: “The UK and US versions of ‘Torchwood’ are slightly different. However, these differences do not change the story in any way and the strong storylines are first and foremost to the series.”
Last month, Barrowman promised Torchwood fans that the new series would be the sexiest yet, with “man sex” and “full-on” nudity.

Republicans Who Voted For Same Sex Marriage See Campaign Boost

By Maria Sisti -

ALBANY -- The Republican senators who voted to legalize same-sex marriage have seen an infusion in campaign cash from gay-rights activists across the country, records filed with the state Board of Elections show.      
Sens. James Alesi of Perinton, Monroe County;  Mark Gristani of Buffalo and Roy McDonald of Saratoga all received at least $50,000 from gay-right supporters in the days following their vote. Sen. Stephen Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, had not filed his campaign finance report as of Friday morning.     
Although Alesi's filings didn't show it, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has reportedly contributed the maximum $10,300 to each of the four Republicans. The measure passed June 24 by a vote of 33-29.      
"They didn't vote the way I wanted. They voted the right way. They voted the way for freedom, for democracy, for equality, and I think we should all support that," Bloomberg said yesterday, according to the New York Daily News.      
Bloomberg's donations drew a rebuke from Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, a minister and staunch opponent of same-sex marriage.      
"It appears that state Sens. Stephen Saland, Mark Grisanti, James Alesi and Roy McDonald sold their votes to the Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg for $10,300 each," Diaz said.     
 Alesi took in nearly $150,000 in contributions during the prior six months, with a surge of cash from major national supporters of same-sex marriage.     
 Alesi received the $10,300 maximum each from Tim Gill, a wealthy Colorado entrepreneur who heads the gay-rights group Gill Foundation, billionaire Robert Ziff and Frank Selvaggi, a member of the Empire State Pride Agenda board. Ziff also gave Alesi $6,500 for a potential primary election.      
Grisanti and McDonald reported similar donations from the same individuals.      
Alesi also refunded $10,300 in donations from the embattled ESL Sports Centre in Brighton, Monroe County.      
The four Republican senators are expected to face strong opposition from conservatives when they plan to seek re-election next year. The National Organization for Marriage is pledging to spend $2 million to defeat the senators, and the state Conservative Party is vowing not to back their elections.

LGBT Healthcare Equality Slowly Improving Among U.S. Hospitals

By Jaimie Oh -

 A new analysis of healthcare equality by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation found that the vast majority of U.S. healthcare facilities don't have fully inclusive policies toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, but that is slowly changing, according to an HRC news release.

Kaiser Permanente, for example, is the first large health network to have a fully inclusive non-discrimination policy for LGBT people. They are also the first health network to achieve Top Performer status in the HRC Foundation's Healthcare Equality Index.

The HEI 2010 independently reviewed a representative sample of 200 of the largest healthcare facilities nationwide. The report found that in all 50 states – and even in historically LGBT-friendly cities like San Francisco and New York – there are facilities that do not fully protect LGBT people from healthcare discrimination. Ninety-three percent of healthcare facilities included in the study do not have fully inclusive policies toward LGBT people, and 42 percent don't include "sexual orientation" in their Patients' Bill of Rights/non-discrimination policy.

The HEI 2010 also includes data from 178 facilities across the country that voluntarily provided information on patient non-discrimination, visitation, cultural competency training and employment non-discrimination. Of the 178 facilities nationwide, 11 individual facilities and one network of 36 hospitals received perfect ratings, and many have made advances over the last three years since the HEI began.

Read the HRC news release about the HRC Foundation's Healthcare Equality Index.

The Cost of Closeted Employees

Erika Karp vividly remembers the secrecy and subterfuge that colored every workday before she told her colleagues that she was a lesbian. "You have to devote a huge amount of psychic energy to being closeted — changing pronouns, switching names. I did that for years," Karp recalls, all the while knowing that coming out could jeopardize her career in investment banking. "It was torture."
According to a 2009 Human Rights Campaign, more than half of LGBT employees are not "out" of the closet. Being in the closet is not just painful to individuals; it's also an enormous talent drain for their employers. By not promoting and supporting an inclusive workplace, organizations whose workplace environments cause LGBTs to stay in the closet risk alienating and ultimately losing a critical tranche of talent. A new study by the Center for Work-Life Policy published in the July/August 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review quantifies just how high the cost is for both closeted LGBTs and their employers.
Nearly one-third (31%) of LGBTs surveyed in the study live double lives — out to their family or friends, but closeted on the job. Being forced to stay in the closet — or feeling penalized by a disapproving or hostile environment once they do come out — puts their career ambitions at war with their ability to put their whole self behind those ambitions. Like Karp, LGBT employees expend an enormous amount of energy simply keeping their stories straight, leaving less for focusing on the work they need to do to advance. Forced to lie about their private lives, they are excluded from the collegiate banter about weekend outings and personal interests that forges bonds in the workplace.
That's a pity, not just for LBGTs but for their employers.
LGBTs' ambition to excel is equal to that of their straight counterparts. Fully 88% of LGBT employees are willing to go the extra mile for employers, the same percentage as their straight counterparts, and 71% consider themselves very ambitious, compared with 73% of heterosexuals. Two-thirds of LGBTs are eager to be promoted, slightly higher than their straight counterparts. And although there are few out gay senior executives in corporate America today, LGBTs aspire to the executive suite almost as often as straight employees (52% vs. 56%).
Being out makes all the difference to a career. While the numbers of out and closeted LGBTs in middle management are roughly the same — 51% out, 49% not — their ongoing career paths diverge wildly. LGBT employees who stay on track and make it into senior management are much more likely to be out than closeted: 71% compared to 28% of their closeted counterparts.
The constant need to shield professional ambition from the personal revelations that can sabotage it may partly explain why closeted LGBT employees feel so much more stymied in their career paths than those who are out. More than half of those in the closet, or 52%, said they felt stalled in their careers, compared with 36% for out employees (and 49% of heterosexuals). Just under half are satisfied with their rate of advancement and promotion compared with two-thirds of those who are out. The gap widens even further for gay men especially: 54% of closeted gay men feel stalled vs. just 32% of out gay men. Only 34% of closeted gay men feel satisfied with their rate of promotion vs. 64% of those who are out.
The resulting flight risk is arguably one of the most significant for corporations. LGBTs frustrated with their current rate of promotion or advancement are three times more likely than those who are satisfied to plan to leave their companies within the next year. Compared to their out counterparts, closeted and isolated LGBT employees, burdened with the stress of daily secret-keeping, are 73% more likely to say they intend to leave their companies within the next three years than those who are out.
Few companies can afford losing their top talent. An LGBT talent drain will be inevitable unless employers change their work environment, warns University of San Francisco professor Nicole Raeburn, author of Inside Out: The Struggle for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Rights in the Workplace. "Now that we live in more inclusive times, where people know they can pick and choose employers, there's a high likelihood of a costly brain-drain among LGBT top talent," she says. "They will simply go elsewhere rather than work in a closeted environment."
"From the time I came out, I became exponentially more productive and more energetic and more motivated," recalls Erika Karp. "I just became better at everything I did." Karp credits her decision to come out with much of her career success: Today, she is managing director and head of global sector research for UBS Investment Bank.

Lesbian Loses Court Battle in Child Custody Case With Former Partner

By Dave Bohon -

An Ohio lesbian has lost her legal battle to share custody of the child to which her former same-sex partner gave birth in 2006. The decision by the Ohio Supreme Court highlights the legal nightmare that appears to be evolving as homosexual “families” begin to fracture.
By a four-to-three margin the state high court ruled that the biological mother, Kelly Mullen, could retain sole custody of the child, name Lucy, who is now five years old. Until their split in 2007 Mullen had shared parenting and financial responsibility for the girl with her lesbian partner, Michele Hobbs. “Hobbs argued that the jointly planned pregnancy plus documents citing Hobbs as Lucy’s ‘co-parent’ — including a ceremonial birth certificate and will — created a contractual agreement between the women,” reported the Associated Press. “A magistrate who initially reviewed the evidence ruled the pair had a binding agreement.” But an appeals court subsequently decided in favor of the biological mother, a ruling the state supreme court affirmed in its decision.
Writing for the majority, Justice Robert Cupp (pictured above) explained that Mullen’s argument for sole custody outweighed the evidence offered by Hobbs that she should share custody with her former partner. “The court noted that all the documents created by Mullen which purported to give Hobbs some custodial responsibilities not only were revocable, but were, in fact, revoked by Mullen,” wrote Cupp. “Testimony supported Mullen’s statement that she did not intend to relinquish sole custody of the child to Hobbs.” He noted that Mullen had “consistently refused to enter into or sign any formal shared custody agreement when presented with the opportunity to do so.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Paul Pfeifer wrote that Hobbs had marshaled sufficient evidence to prove that the pair had, indeed, intended to serve together as Lucy’s parents. “Can an agreement that another person is a co-parent in every way possibly not include a right to custody?” Pfeifer asked in his opposing opinion. “It cannot. The trial court seems to agree, and thus turns its emphasis on the fact that the documents were revocable. But the question before the court was whether Mullen agreed to share custody of her child with Hobbs, not whether she eventually came to regret that decision.”

As reported by the news site, Mullen and Hobbs “lived together as a couple and decided to have a child, agreeing the younger Mullen would give birth. They took out a second mortgage on the house they built together to pay for the $12,000 in-vitro procedure.” Mullen even signed an array of documents that seemed to prove that “she wanted Hobbs to have parental rights ‘in every way’ over the child. But each time Mullen had the opportunity to memorialize those wishes in a binding, written contract, she refused.”

Mullen’s attorney, Douglas Dougherty, pointed out that under Ohio law Hobbs is not considered Lucy’s parent, and when the couple’s relationship ended Mullen terminated any custody rights her former homosexual partner had. “The court recognized that parents have a constitutional right to raise their children … and those parental rights can be limited or terminated,” Dougherty said of the ruling. “A nonparent has no constitutional [parental] rights.”

Dougherty emphasized that his client was still living a homosexual lifestyle, and the case had nothing to do with the issue of sexual orientation. “My client is a lesbian and proud of it, and she thinks lesbians should have all the rights that straight people have, and so do I,” he said. “The problem here wasn’t that it was a lesbian or gay relationship, it was that they didn’t love each other anymore, and very sadly didn’t respect each other anymore, and my client felt a clean break was in the best interest of the child.”

In his dissenting opinion Pfeifer noted that the decision demonstrates the unique problem that exists in homosexual relationships where the “family” includes children. “The law has not caught up to our culture, and this court has failed to craft a rule that addresses reality,” he wrote. “Mullen and Hobbs employed a well-versed lawyer who represents people in their situation, and with his advice did all they could do to protect Hobbs. A maternal relationship existed between Hobbs and Lucy. Mullen taught her daughter to call another woman `Momma’ and to love her as a mother. She now wishes she hadn’t, and for the majority, that’s enough. It shouldn’t be.”

LifeSite News noted that the recent case “bears a striking resemblance to that of Lisa Miller, a Christian and an ex-lesbian who fled the United States with her daughter in 2009 before a court could transfer custody to her former lesbian partner. Miller had given birth to her daughter Isabella, now eight years old, while living in a Vermont civil union with sex partner Janet Jenkins. Isabella was conceived through artificial insemination, and Jenkins never adopted the child.”

Matthew Staver, founder of the conservative legal advocacy group Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University School of Law, said the ruling represented “a great victory for parental rights.” Staver, who filed an amicus brief in support of Mullen’s parental rights, said in a statement, “A person who is neither the biological parent nor an adoptive parent cannot be a de facto parent by merely alleging an emotional bond to the child.”

NYC Mayor Bloomberg To Officiate Same-Sex Wedding

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg will preside at the wedding of advisers John Feinblatt and Jonathan Mintz.

In a ‘quiet moment,’ gay judge makes history

The remarkable thing about what happened on the Senate floor Monday night was that it was utterly unremarkable.
The matter under consideration – the nomination of the first openly gay man to serve on the federal bench – would at one time have been a flashpoint in the culture wars. But Paul Oetken was confirmed without a word of objection on the Senate floor and with hardly a mention in the commentariat.
Even some of the chamber’s most ardent social conservatives – Tom Coburn, John Cornyn, Jeff Sessions, Jon Kyl – cast votes for Oetken. When the lopsided vote tally of 80-13 was read out, there was no cheer or reaction of any kind. Senators continued their conversations as if nothing unusual had happened.
It would be premature to believe that Oetken’s easy confirmation heralds some new post-sexual era in American politics; the fight over gay marriage continues undiminished. But it was a signal moment nonetheless. The nominee’s sexual orientation was deemed unimportant -- or at least less important than his moderate politics and his pro-business record (he’s a corporate lawyer, with Cablevision).
“As the first openly gay man to be confirmed as a federal judge,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told a nearly empty chamber before the vote, “he will be a symbol of how much we have achieved as a country in just the last few decades. And importantly, he will give hope to many talented young lawyers who until now thought their paths might be limited because of their sexual orientation. When Paul becomes Judge Oetken, he will be living proof to all those young lawyers that it really does get better.”
But Schumer observed, correctly, that this bit of history was an “otherwise quiet moment” for the Senate. The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley (Iowa) gave a brief speech in support of Oetkin, mentioning the nominee’s Iowa roots but nothing about his homosexuality.
The proceedings were so routine that Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy made only a spare mention of this “important milestone” before using his floor time to deliver an unrelated speech about the FBI director. Because there were no more speakers, most of the 30 minutes allotted for debate were passed in a quorum call.
Closeted gay men have probably served as judges since the beginning of the Republic. And a lesbian, Deborah Batts, has been a federal judge since 1994. But when Batts went before the Judiciary Committee, her homosexuality was left unmentioned in the confirmation hearings.
Oetkin, by contrast, downplayed nothing about his sexual orientation: his work with Lambda Legal and the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project, or his co-authorship of a Supreme Court amicus brief opposing an anti-gay law. At his confirmation hearing, he introduced Grassley to his partner.
Opposition was relegated to where it belongs: in the dark recesses of the Internet. “A vote to confirm this nominee is in effect a vote to subject New York by force of judicial fiat to the homosexual agenda, lock, stock, and barrel,” wrote one commentator on World Net Daily. The posting warned of “Oetken’s homosexuality on the sleeve approach” and said “he is likely as well to harbor animosity toward the proponents of traditional sexual morality.”
Tellingly, it was signed by “Frank J. Bleckwenn” – a pseudonym.
Grassley and his colleagues had no use for such poison. “Mr. Oetkin grew up in my state of Iowa,” Grassley said, calling the candidate a “consensus nominee.” He recited Oetkin’s credentials, including his Yale Law degree and Supreme Court clerkship. “I support this nomination and congratulate him on his professional accomplishments,” Grassley said.
To his credit, that is all Grassley thought relevant.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Gay marriage, bishops and the crisis of leadership

The vote approving same-sex marriage in New York is the latest and most glaring confirmation of some gloomy news for the Catholic church in the United States, and it’s not that gays have achieved the right to marry.

Rather, affirmed in the recent vote is the disturbing reality that the Catholic hierarchy has lost most of its credibility with the wider culture on matters of sexuality and personal morality, just as it has lost its authority within the Catholic community on the same issues. There are reasons -- and they have little to do with secularism, relativism or lingering influences of the wild 1960s -- why people are no longer listening to the bishops.

While we don’t want to minimize the seriousness of the concern of some over a societal redefinition of marriage, there are reasons we think the bishops’ hyperbolic reaction to laws such as that enacted in New York are not only wrong-headed but counterproductive.
First, even if bishops retained the stature they once had in the wider culture, it is evident in polls and politicians’ votes that neither most of the Catholic world nor the wider culture buys the church’s teaching that homosexuals are disordered and are thus relegated to sexless lives in order to remain in the Christian community.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll of registered New York voters found that 70 percent of voters say protestations of the law from religious leaders made no difference in their decision to support or reject it. According to Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, “On gay marriage, many of the people in the pews split with their bishops.”

That attitude does not spring so much from a stance of defiance, as some bishops would assert, but more from the experience of gays and lesbians themselves and their parents and siblings, extended family and friends who increasingly understand gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons as far more than the sum of their sexual orientation while also understanding that sexuality is at the core of a person’s identity.

To parents of a gay child, the idea that a group of men can claim to know the mind of God so perfectly that they can proclaim with unyielding certainty that God deems a significant portion of creation “disordered” is absurd. The label is not only demeaning but to contemporary Christians has no resonance with the heart of the Gospel.

To be sure, legislative battles are messy affairs. In Albany, the state’s bishops were embarrassingly outmaneuvered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a divorced Catholic and parent; by the pro-gay-marriage lobby; and by both Democrats and Republicans. The bishops’ lobbying apparatus is a fangless relic. It is not a formidable opponent to seasoned political operators and elected officials, and it lacks any real threat of reprisal, the currency of politics.

If the bishops actually want laws to reflect Catholic values, they need a new, more sophisticated and potent model of legislative engagement.

Second, even if the bishops had a persuasive case to make and the legislative tools at their disposal, their public conduct in recent years -- wholesale excommunications, railing at politicians, denial of honorary degrees and speaking platforms at Catholic institutions, using the Eucharist as a political bludgeon, refusing to entertain any questions or dissenting opinions, and engaging in open warfare with the community’s thinkers as well as those, especially women, who have loyally served the church -- has resulted in a kind of episcopal caricature, the common scolds of the religion world, the caustic party of “no.”

As if on cue, after the vote Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio declared by fiat that his diocese is “not to bestow or accept honors, nor to extend a platform of any kind to any state elected official, in all our parishes and churches for the foreseeable future.”

In their reaction to the vote, the Catholic bishops of New York wrote: “While our culture seems to have lost a basic understanding of marriage, we Catholics must not. We must be models of what is good, holy and sacred about authentic sacramental marriage.”

The statement might raise legitimate alarms if, indeed, the state law signaled that the Catholic ideals and sacramental life were actually under attack. They aren’t. Nicholas Cafardi has some excellent advice for the bishops (see story) regarding their ongoing battle over same-sex marriage: “We need to give it up. This is not defeatism. This is simply following Jesus in the Gospels, who besides telling us not to act on our fears, also told us to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Civil marriage is Caesar’s. If Caesar wants to say that you can only get married on Tuesdays, wearing a blue suit and a red tie, that is Caesar’s call. The sacrament of matrimony is God’s. It is valid only when invoked between a baptized man and a baptized woman, in the presence of two witnesses and the spouses’ proper ordinary or pastor or his delegate. Caesar has no say in this.”

The larger problem for the hierarchy, of course, is not persuading the secular culture of its point of view on sacramental marriage, but persuading its own adherents, and particularly young Catholics who now tend to drift off in scores before adulthood, that staying attached to the church is a compelling good, that the church is in fact relevant and will draw them closer to Christ and thus the freedom and fullness of a life of faith.

The bishops have little credibility in the wider culture and diminished authority within the church because in the case of sexual violence against young people by members of their clerical culture, they responded in ways that any reasonable and healthy segment of society would have considered disdainful.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, he of the wide smile, ready handshake and outsized laugh, was to be the church’s antidote to the cool and distant manner of his predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan, who was a public relations nightmare from the start. But a love for beer and a hot dog from the cart outside the cathedral will only get you so far.

Dolan’s rising star presumably carries with it a stamp of papal favor. The show “60 Minutes,” in its own hyperbolic burst, dubbed him the “American pope.” And senior NCR correspondent John Allen, who has conducted a book-length interview with Dolan, has written that in other circumstances the archbishop of New York “could easily have been a U.S. senator or a corporate CEO.”

That may or may not be the case, but as senator or CEO, Dolan would be held to standards of accountability that no bishop will ever face. Politicians, we know, can be run out of office and business leaders are held, however imperfectly, to standards of performance and ethics. Some of them land in jail.

In reaction to the marriage vote, Dolan stretched to call up the specter of what remains of the Red menace. On his blog he wrote that in China and North Korea “government presumes daily to ‘redefine’ rights, relationships, values and natural law.” In those countries, he says, government dictates the size of families, who can live and die, and what defines marriage. “Please, not here!” he begs. The comparison, of course, is absurd on its face, a kind of hysteria that demands that someone listen when so few are.

The vote in New York sends a strong message to Catholic leadership. The danger is not in the vote itself. The danger they face is far deeper -- a crisis of leadership and authority for which they have only themselves to blame.

SUPPORT EQUALITY - Dave Koz sings "This Guy's in Love With You", directed by Graham Streeter

Six-time Grammy nominated jozz saxophonist Dave Koz, A&M Records Executive, trumpeter, eight Grammy Award Winner Herb Alpert, and film director Graham Streeter release music video in the name of marriage equality. Production Crew: Director/Cinematographer - Graham Streeter, Executive Producer - Alex Lebosq, Producer - Eric Vega, Assistant Director - Anthony Allen Brown, Documentarian - Luis Alcazar, Production Assistant - Jon Kay, Group Leader - John Wilner, Crowd Wrangles - Jim Graham, Kimberly Campbell, Alex Carillo, Lian Munoz, Troy Holtsclaw, Christopher Els, Valerie Polacek, BJ Korres, Marcella William, Brad Hudson, Theresa Roberts, and Jo Young.