Bipartisan vote affirms equality
CONCORD, N.H. — In a show of bipartisan support for the freedom to marry, on March 21 the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 211 to 116 to reject a measure that would repeal marriage equality in the New England state. Except for those N.H. gay and lesbian couples who have already married, the bill would have replaced marriage with the inferior status of “civil unions.”
The vote extends the national momentum toward marriage equality for same-sex couples. In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the historic August 2010 ruling of the Federal District Court that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. The decision was followed by another federal judge finding the so-called Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, and bipartisan legislative votes for marriage equality in Washington State, New Jersey and Maryland.
“With today’s vote [in N.H.] it is crystal clear that the momentum toward marriage equality is truly unstoppable,” said Chad Griffin (pictured), board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the sole sponsor of the legal challenge to Prop. 8, and the incoming president of the Human Rights Campaign. “As the courts affirm the freedom to marry for all, so too do the people and their representatives. The people of New Hampshire, and of this entire nation, see and understand that marriage equality is the most fundamental of human freedoms.”
— David Stout
NOM under fire — again
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Election Board is moving forward with an investigation into the campaign finance activities of Minnesota for Marriage, the umbrella group co-founded by the National Organization for Marriage that is pushing a state constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage.
Common Cause of Minnesota filed complaints against Minnesota for Marriage and the Minnesota Family Council, alleging that both organizations violated state campaign finance laws by hiding individual donors to the ballot measure campaign and filing false reports. Minnesota for Marriage raised more than $1.2 million in contributions during 2011 but disclosed only seven individual contributors responsible for just $2,000. The donations were attributed to just three entities: NOM, the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the Minnesota Family Council.
NOM is already being investigated by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to register with the state as a ballot question committee and refusing to disclose the donors to its 2009 campaign to overturn the state’s marriage equality law.
— David Stout
Ex-Justices to be honored
BOSTON, Mass. — Three former Iowa Supreme Court Justices who were part of a unanimous decision to legalize same-sex marriage in that state have been named this year’s recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Former Iowa Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and former justices David Baker and Michael Streit were chosen for setting aside popular opinion to uphold the basic freedoms and security guaranteed to all citizens under the Iowa constitution.
The award will be presented by Caroline Kennedy at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on May 7. Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, said, “When Justices Baker, Streit and Ternus joined a unanimous decision to overturn a law denying same-sex couples the privileges of marriage, they sacrificed their own futures on the Court to honor Iowa’s constitution and the rights of all its citizens.”
The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences. The award is named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage.”
— David Stout
Best workplaces recognized
NEW YORK, N.Y. — The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of HRC, honored 189 major U.S. employers as its 2012 “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality” at the Eighth Annual LGBT Workplace Awards Seminar and Reception. Companies receiving the “Best Places” distinction scored 100 percent on the HRC Foundation’s 2012 Corporate Equality Index.
The Index considers non-discrimination policies, benefits, diversity training and other internal resources for LGBT workers, as well as external support for LGBT consumers and job seekers. This year HRC raised the bar, making the criteria to earn a 100 percent score on the CEI more stringent, including requiring companies to offer transgender inclusive healthcare coverage.
Nine companies received special recognition at the Mar. 13 ceremony for earning a perfect 100 percent score on the CEI for 10 consecutive years. These companies have consistently demonstrated a commitment to their LGBT employees and diversity in the workplace. They are: Aetna Inc., Alcatel-Lucent, AMR Corp. (American Airlines), Apple Inc., Eastman Kodak Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Nike Inc., Replacements Ltd., and Xerox Corp.
— David Stout
Omaha okays gay, trans protections
OMAHA, Neb. — On Mar. 13, the Omaha City Council passed an ordinance banning discrimination in employment and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Already 123 cities and counties in the country have similar ordinances.
“Omaha is a world class city that now joins the ranks of other major American cities standing strong for fairness,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “The city council should be proud for affirming the principle that what matters is how you do your job, not who you are.”
HRC partnered with Equal Omaha in advocating for the ordinance. The national group provided data from its workplace project that shows 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies have policies against sexual orientation discrimination and nearly half offer protection on the basis of gender identity.
— David Stout
Gay ‘gag order’ becomes law
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Despite months of sustained international protests led by global gay rights group AllOut.org and their partners in Russia — ComingOut, SidebySide and the Russian LGBT Federation — St. Petersburg Gov. Georgiy Poltavchenko signed the controversial law that criminalizes reading, writing, speaking or reporting on anything related to LGBT people.
Andre Banks, co-founder and executive director of AllOut.org, said, “By validating a new regime of censorship and intolerance, Gov. Poltavchenko has diminished the reputation of his city with the stroke of a pen. One hundred thousand people have promised not to visit the ‘new’ St. Petersburg after this law goes into effect. Travel companies are considering revising their scheduled trips to the city.”
Polina Savchenko, general manager for ComingOut, a St. Petersburg-based LGBT organization, added, “We are convinced that no authority can deprive people of their right to dignity, to respect of private and family life, to freedom of expression and to protection from discrimination and violence. We are offended and outraged by this act by city authorities and will continue fighting for the rights of LGBT citizens until the barbaric law is repealed.”
— David Stout
Healthcare provider names sought
NEW YORK, N.Y. — Jenna McDavid, a researcher with the National LGBT Cancer Network, is seeking names to include in a database of healthcare providers in the Carolinas who are LGBTQ-affirming and currently competent.
McDavid says, “While we were able to find these providers with relative ease in large cities, we are having more difficulty pinpointing safe spaces to which we can refer LGBTQ patients in other areas of the country.”
Suggestions are needed to identify some facilities in the Carolinas that offer safe, sensitive, and competent cancer screening (i.e., mammograms, pap smears, prostate exams) to LGBTQ-identified patients.
“This anecdotal evidence will certainly point us in the right direction and from there we will conduct interviews with the facilities to determine their eligibility for our database,” McDavid added.
— Lainey Millen