News Notes: Beyond the Carolinas
HUD extends housing protections
BALTIMORE, Md. — The U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will implement an important new rule that greatly increases protections against housing discrimination for the LGBT community. HUD announced the new rule at the 24th Annual Creating Change conference, held here and hosted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
The new rule, which was published in early February and goes into effect 30 days after that, makes several critical changes to current housing and housing-related programs including: prohibiting owners and operators of HUD-assisted or HUD-insured housing from discriminating against an applicant or occupant based on sexual orientation or gender identity; prohibiting all lenders offering FHA-insured mortgages from considering sexual orientation or gender identity in determining a borrower’s eligibility; and clarifying the definition of “family” to ensure that otherwise eligible participants in any HUD programs will not be excluded based on marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Marriage equality double bonus
OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington State House passed a bill Feb. 8 to approve same-sex marriage on a bipartisan vote of 55-43.Gov. Chris Gregoire had already pledged to sign the bill in advance of the vote. The law is expected to take effect by early June of this year. Opponents wishing to challenge the new law have until that time to collect 120,557 valid signatures to place a referendum on the November 2012 ballot.
The vote came one day after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the August 2010 decision of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco striking down Proposition 8, the 2008 measure that stripped same-sex couples of the right to marry in California.
The Court affirmed the ruling of former Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker that Prop 8 discriminates against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court also rejected Prop 8 supporters’ offensive argument that Judge Walker should have refused to preside over the case because he is gay and in a relationship with a man.
The supporters of Prop 8 have 15 days to ask the Ninth Circuit panel to reconsider its decision or to ask for reconsideration by a larger panel of judges on that court. Alternatively, they have 90 days to request that the Supreme Court of the United States review the case. They had not revealed their plans at press time.
Insurance finder gets upgrade
WASHINGTON, D.C. — LGBT Americans are now able to use HealthCare.gov to search specifically for insurance plans that include coverage for domestic partners. “Last year, as part of our commitment to work with the LGBT community and be more responsive to the needs of these populations, we promised to improve the Health Plan Finder tool to give these individuals the ability to search for health plans that provide same-sex partner benefits,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Today we have delivered on that promise.”
Studies have shown that the LGBT community is disproportionately uninsured, including those without access to coverage through a spouse, domestic partner or employer. This new filter helps address that issue by linking same-sex couples to carriers that provide benefits for their partners.
“In the past, many same-sex couples have faced challenges searching for health coverage that suited their needs,” said Steve Larsen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. “This tool will eliminate the guesswork, providing an enhanced resource for exploring insurance coverage.”
CNN suspends analyst over tweets
ATLANTA, Ga. — CNN network brass suspended political analyst Roland Martin after he posted a series of tweets during the Super Bowl game that seemed to promote anti-gay violence. Martin first tweeted: “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl.” He followed with: “Who the hell was that New England Patriot they just showed in a head to toe pink suit? Oh, he needs a visit from #teamwhipdatass.”
Bloggers, advocates and gay watchdog group GLAAD called on the network to take action against Roland. CNN released the following statement regarding its decision: “Roland Martin’s tweets were regrettable and offensive. Language that demeans is inconsistent with the values and culture of our organization, and is not tolerated. We have been giving careful consideration to this matter, and Roland will not be appearing on our air for the time being.”
“CNN today took a strong stand against anti-LGBT violence and language that demeans any community,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD spokesperson. “Yesterday, Martin also spoke out against anti-LGBT violence. We look forward to hearing from CNN and Roland Martin to discuss how we can work together as allies and achieve our common goal of reducing anti-LGBT violence as well as the language that contributes to it.”
Groups rally around equality
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A robust coalition of civil rights, labor, progressive, faith, student, health, legal, women’s and LGBT organizations has declared support for the Respect for Marriage Act — the bill to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act that withholds from same-sex couples any of the over 1,100 federal rights and responsibilities of marriage.
The Respect for Marriage Act (H.R.1116 and S.598) enjoys broad support with a majority of Americans and has a record number of Congressional cosponsors with 136 in the House and 32 in the Senate.
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of LGBT group Freedom to Marry, said, “This broad and diverse coalition has come forward to urge members of Congress to end the unfairness. In America, we don’t have second-class citizens, and shouldn’t have second-class marriages, either.”
According to a March 2011 poll, 51 percent of voters oppose DOMA while only 34 percent favor it.
Bill is back, if less severe
KAMPALA, Uganda — A highly controversial anti-gay bill has been re-introduced in the Ugandan Parliament by conservative MP David Bahati. The new version drops the death penalty for the “crime” of “aggravated homosexuality,” but retains a provision that requires citizens to report homosexuals to legal authorities or face prosecution themselves.
When first proposed in 2009 and subsequently in 2010 and 2011, the bill caused a massive outcry. In May of 2011 over 500,000 people around the world signed a petition sponsored by rights group AllOut.org asking President Yoweri Museveni to veto the bill. The proposal was subsequently shelved, only to be resurrected now.
Addressing the re-introduction, AllOut.org Executive Director Andre Banks declared, “A few politicians in Uganda have spent years exploiting fear in a cynical attempt to score political points. Today we see the sad result. The bill is every bit as despicable now as it was when first introduced two years ago. David Bahati and his Parliament are focused on attacking human and civil rights because it’s easy and popular, rather than doing the hard work that awaits in Uganda — cleaning up corruption, delivering education and opportunities for more Ugandans to come out of poverty. : :