News Notes: Beyond the Carolinas
Openly gay sailor reinstated
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Petty Officer 2nd class Jase Daniels (pictured), discharged from the U.S. Navy in April 2005 and again in March 2007 under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” has been reinstated and returned to active duty. He was sworn in on Dec. 12. Daniels is believed to be the first openly gay former military member to be reinstated to service since the repeal of DADT this past September.
Daniels, 29, entered the military in the spring of 2001. He completed Hebrew linguist training and was stationed at Fort Gordon, Ga., where he came to terms with his sexual orientation and outed himself to his commander. He was discharged in 2005. Nonetheless, in 2006, he received a letter recalling him to service and served in Kuwait for a year with the U.S. Navy Customs Battalion Romeo. He served for a year before he was discharged a second time under DADT.
Daniels is one of three plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of discharges under DADT and seeking reinstatement to active duty. Resolutions for the other plaintiffs, former Air Force Major Mike Almy and former Air Force Staff Sergeant Anthony Loverde, are expected soon.
Court sides with trans plaintiff
ATLANTA, Ga. — Earlier this month the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that the Georgia General Assembly discriminated against Vandy Beth Glenn, a transgender woman who was fired from her job as Legislative Editor after she told her supervisor that she planned to transition from male to female.
Writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Rosemary Barkett stated, “An individual cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender-nonconformity. Because these protections are afforded to everyone, they cannot be denied to a transgender individual. … A person is defined as transgender precisely because of the perception that his or her behavior transgresses gender stereotypes. … We conclude that a government agent violates the Equal Protection Clause’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination when he or she fires a transgender or transsexual employee because of his or her gender non-conformity.”
The decision was hailed by LGBT advocates. “The court could not have been more clear: It is unfair and illegal to fire transgender employees because their appearance or behavior transgress gender stereotypes,” said Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office in Atlanta. “Employers should take note of this important ruling.”
21 years for middle school killing
OXNARD, Calif. — On Nov. 21, Brandon McInerney, 17, pleaded guilty to second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter with use of a weapon for the death of 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King at E.O. Green Junior High School on Feb 12, 2008. McInerney, who was 14 at the time of the middle school slaying, will serve his 21-year sentence in both juvenile facilities and prison.
The plea agreement avoids a planned retrial necessitated by the declaration of a mistrial in the first proceeding stemming from the jury’s inability to reach an agreement on whether to find McInerney guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter.
GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said, “The plea deal announced today ends a tragic chapter in Ventura County. Holding Brandon McInerney accountable for his actions is necessary and right, but putting him behind bars does not solve the problems that led a boy to become a bully, and then a murderer. … As adults and as a society, we must find the resolve to fix the broken systems that lost two young lives to hate and fear.”
Mayor comes out amid scandal
SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — The mayor of Southaven, Mississippi’s third-largest city, has come out in the wake of an examination of receipts uncovered as part of an investigation of his alleged expense account malfeasance. According to state auditors, Mayor Greg Davis fleeced the city for $170,000 while spending thousands on liquor and expensive dinners and even charging his account for $67 spent at Priape, a shop for gay men in Toronto, Canada.
It was the discovery of the latter receipt that led Davis, who is married with children, to come out in a Dec. 15 interview with The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.).
“At this point in my life and in my career, while I have tried to maintain separation between my personal and public life, it is obvious that this can no longer remain the case. … I think that it is important that I discuss the struggles I have had over the last few years when I came to the realization that I am gay.”
Davis told the newspaper he planned to spend the holidays with his family then return to his mayoral duties in the new year.
Bias trumps adoption needs
RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia State Board of Social Services has voted for a second time to strip legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, disability, political beliefs and family status from the rules governing licensed adoption and foster care agencies. The board originally voted to strip the protections in April, but later re-opened the public comment period. The majority of the public comments were in favor of the anti-bias protections.
The proposed rules with the additional protected classes have been pending since fall 2009, before the change in administrations, and were approved for publication as proposed rules by the current administration early in 2010. However, at the 11th hour GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell expressed a preference for keeping the non-discrimination rule unchanged (banning only discrimination based on race, national origin and ethnicity). The Commissioner of the Department of Social Services placed the new recommendation before the Board for action, leading to their two votes against broadening protections.
Catholic bishops fight bias bill
SAN JUAN, The Philippines — The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is fighting a proposed anti-discrimination bill that would offer protections based on “sex, gender, sexual orientation, [and] gender identity.” The measure, Senate Bill 2814, was passed by the Senate and now must be harmonized with the version approved by the House, which does not include these classes. According to the CBCP, enacting the Senate version of the bill will open the door for same-sex marriages and expose the Catholic Church to claims of discrimination for its refusal to perform them.
Ronald Reyes, a lawyer for the CBCP, decried the Senate bill to reporters. “It’s opening the door for same sex marriages, which our country doesn’t allow. This is alarming and it might change our society.” Another CBCP lawyer, Jo Imbong, said LGBT citizens should not be considered the same as the elderly, the handicapped and the poor. “These people are disadvantaged not by their own choice,” he argued. “But the third sex, they choose this. How can you give protection to a choice like that?”
Imbong said the bill violated religious freedom and would hinder the Church from teaching what it believed to be right or wrong. He asserted that, under the bill, a priest who refused to officiate same-sex marriages could be fined and jailed.
U.S. stands up for gay rights
GENEVA, Switzerland — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a stirring speech Dec. 6 at the United Nations on the inalienable rights of LGBT people. She made a powerful case for the full inclusion of LGBT people in human rights protections and pledged that securing those rights is a priority of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. In her remarks, Secretary Clinton said: “To LGBT men and women worldwide, wherever you live and whatever the circumstances of your life, whether you are connected to networks of support or feel isolated and vulnerable, please know that you are not alone. … You have an ally in the United States of America.”
The speech was backed by a White House memorandum directing all federal agencies engaged abroad to use U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance to promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.
Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, commented, “Hearing the United States Secretary of State speak passionately about ending violence and discrimination against LGBT people throughout the world left me with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. To imagine what the world would be like if the vision Secretary Clinton laid out were to come to pass, is to imagine a world of such deep and enduring humanity that any dream can be realized.”