Trailblazing politician has died
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Allan Spear, the first openly gay state legislator to serve in the nation, has died at age 71. Spear was a Minnesota State Senator for nearly 30 years, and served as Senate president for eight of them. Spear’s public declaration of his sexual orientation made national headlines.
“By living honestly and authentically, Allan Spear knocked down barriers and had an untold influence on the LGBT community,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Spear’s courageous decision to come out inspired both LGBT and straight Americans, and today, openly LGBT individuals running and winning elected office across the country can walk on the road that he paved.”
Today, there are approximately 400 openly LGBT state legislators nationwide.
State high court set for showdown
DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on December 9 in Lambda Legal’s lawsuit seeking marriage equality for same-sex couples in the state. Each side will be allotted 30 minutes to present their argument.
In December 2005, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit with the Polk County Court on behalf of six same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses. Last year the district court held that denying marriage to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. The ruling was appealed and now the final decision in the case will be made by the Iowa Supreme Court.
Poll: Majority supports marriage
HARTFORD, Conn. — Fifty-three percent of Connecticut residents support the state Supreme Court’s historic ruling to legalize same-sex marriage, according a poll conducted for The Hartford Courant. Forty-two percent of those polled said they do not support the decision.
Looking at the level of support by political party, 72 percent of Democrats approve of the ruling compared to 29 percent of GOP respondents. Fifty-two percent of independent voters favor the decision.
The poll also found that 73 percent of respondents feel that gay and lesbian couples should have the right to adopt children, while 19 percent said they should not. In addition, 87 percent said that people who are openly gay should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, with 8 percent opposed.
GLMA comes out for marriage
NEW YORK, N.Y. — The Gay & Lesbian Medical Association has launched a Marriage Equality Initiative to bring the voice and knowledge of the medical community to the table in support of marriage equality.
In conjunction with the Marriage Equality Initiative, the GLMA published a new study, “Same-Sex Marriage and Health,” which explains the positive correlation between same-sex marriage and overall health and wellness for same-sex couples and their children. Access to spousal healthcare, security for children and reduced financial stress for older couples are included in the report as examples of positive health benefits that would result from marriage equality.
School board protects gay kids
BOZEMAN, Mont. — The Bozeman School Board voted Oct. 13 to add sexual orientation to the district’s non-discrimination policy. Citing the need to promote a safe and accepting environment and recognizing the importance of leading by example, members voted 6-1 to update the school system’s anti-bias policy, which ensures “equal educational opportunities available for all students.”
Bozeman High School has a Gay-Straight Alliance for students and observes GLSEN’s National Day of Silence.
School bullying award upheld
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — In a 3-0 decision, the California Court of Appeal (Fourth District) upheld a jury decision that found Poway Unified School District officials took minimal or no action when two Poway High School students were subjected to relentless harassment because they are gay and lesbian. The Oct. 10 ruling upheld an award of $300,000 to Megan Donovan and Joey Ramelli under the state education code.
Over the course of their junior year Ramelli and Donovan were verbally abused with anti-gay slurs by other Poway High School students and Joey was physically assaulted and his car vandalized. Both eventually dropped out and completed studies toward their high school diplomas at home. “I begged school officials for help,” Ramelli said, “but they just didn’t care.”
GLSEN names new agency head
NEW YORK, N.Y. — The national board of directors of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network have tapped Dr. Eliza Byard to be the organization’s new executive director. Byard officially assumes the position Nov. 1. She was hired by GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings in 2001 and has since served as the agency’s deputy executive director. She boasts more than 20 years of experience in non-profit development and management.
“In Eliza, we found a leader with the vision, integrity, experience and bold wisdom to lead GLSEN and strengthen our greater national safe schools movement,” said Deborah Dagit, chair of the search committee and Chief Diversity Officer at Merck & Co., Inc.