News Notes: Beyond the Carolinas
Youth protection law delayed
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — On Dec. 21, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily delayed the start date of a new California law that protects LGBT youth from therapists who try to change their sexual orientation using discredited practices that medical experts warn can cause serious harm.
The new law was set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2013. The decision temporarily postpones that date until the court rules on the underlying appeal of a decision earlier this month by Judge Kimberly Mueller of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. Judge Mueller denied a request by an anti-LGBT organization to stop the law from going into effect. The Ninth Circuit has put the case on a fast track and will rule on that appeal “early [this] year.”
“Every leading medical and mental health organization has warned therapists and parents that these practices do not work and put young people at risk of serious harm, including depression and suicide,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter (pictured). “No young person should be subjected to these dangerous practices, and no licensed therapist should be permitted to engage in practices that cause such serious harm.”
Gingrich favors marriage equality
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In an interview with The Huffington Post, former Republican presidential candidate and House Speaker Newt Gingrich indicated that he and other GOP leaders should embrace civil marriage equality. Gingrich served as Speaker of the House in 1996, when the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act was passed into law.
“Newt Gingrich reflects the experience that has changed the minds of so many Americans in understanding that LGBT people are a part of every family and community — including his own,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “His evolution resonates with people on a very personal level and is a quintessential example of why momentum is on the side of equality.”
Gingrich is just the latest of those who once opposed marriage equality to move to a position of support. David Blankenhorn, the star witness against marriage equality in the Proposition 8 case, has had a similar change of heart. The Mormon Church, which was the largest funder of Prop 8, sat out the 2012 election cycle and remained silent in the four victorious marriage fights. In all, support for marriage has increased 21 percent in just eight years — a remarkable shift in public opinion over such a short period of time.
LGBT leaders: Stop defending DOMA
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Leaders of the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organizations have called on the House Republican leadership to stop funding the legal defense of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. The law forbids the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples. Activists issued their call in a Dec. 18 letter to Capitol Hill.
“Despite the enormous economic challenges our country is facing, the House of Representatives recently decided to increase government spending to defend this discriminatory law — a law that intentionally harms thousands of Americans who are legally married,” the letter asserts. “At the same time, voters in three states approved marriage equality and, in Minnesota, rejected writing a marriage ban into their state’s constitution. A strong majority of Americans support marriage for loving, committed same-sex couples — including an increasing number of conservatives. With more states allowing committed same-sex couples to obtain civil marriage licenses, DOMA imposes burdens on hard working, tax paying citizens.”
Recently, the contract with Bancroft — the Washington-based law firm hired by Republicans to defend the law in court — was made public, revealing that House Republicans secretly agreed to raise the cost cap to $2 million. Republicans began defending the bill after the Obama Administration announced in February 2012 that it viewed the law as unconstitutional and could no longer defend it in court.
‘Kill the Gays’ bill on hold
KAMPALA, Uganda — Activists worldwide breathed a sigh of relief when the Ugandan Parliament adjourned Dec. 14 for its end-of-year recess without considering the so-called “Kill the Gays” bill that would sentence LGBT people to death. Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of Parliament, had earlier promised to bring a vote on the proposed law as “a Christmas gift” to the nation. However, after weeks of posturing, the bill was officially moved to the bottom of the schedule the day of the recess. Parliament will convene again in February.
LGBT and human rights organizations in Uganda celebrated, while vowing to continue the fight should the measure return next year. “This bill won’t stop us,” said Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an LGBT rights organization. “We will continue to fight until we are free of this legislation. We cannot have oppression forever.”
Global gay rights group All Out organized protests worldwide against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that mobilized more than 750,000 people in every region to oppose the law.
Appeals court upholds conviction
YAOUNDE, Cameroon — On Dec. 17, the Court of Appeal here upheld the conviction of Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé, who had been found guilty of violating the Cameroonian law against “homosexual behavior” by sending a text message to another man. Mbédé had served more than one year of his three-year sentence and was out on bail for the appeal. He has now been returned to jail to serve the rest of his sentence.
The news came as a shock to Mbédé’s supporters. At an earlier hearing, a Cameroon magistrate had stated that the charges against him were “incoherent” and “inconsistent.”
“This isn’t just a tragedy for Roger. This is an embarrassment for Cameroon’s justice system,” said said Michel Togué, one of Mbédé’s attorneys, who vowed to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. “The law criminalizing ‘homosexual behavior’ was used here merely to persecute an innocent man. It’s time to end this law and prevent more injustice.”