First out Brigadier General pinned
ARLINGTON, Va. — Former Army Col. Tammy Smith has become the first openly gay flag officer to come out while currently serving in the U.S. military. She was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in a private ceremony Aug. 10 at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Brig. Gen. Smith, who will serve as deputy chief in the Army Reserve’s Office of the Chief in D.C., received her stars from her wife, Tracey Hepner.
“For years, gay and lesbian generals and admirals were forced to hide their families in order to protect their careers. It is a great day for our military and for our nation when this courageous leader is finally able to recognize her wife for her support and sacrifice in the same way that all military families should be recognized for their service to our country,” said Sue Fulton, a 1980 West Point graduate and member of the OutServe Board of Directors.
OutServe is the association of actively-serving LGBT military personnel. It boasts more than 5,500 members and 50-plus chapters around the globe, making it one of the largest LGBT employee resource groups in the world.
— David Stout
Critical resources for trans voters
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Center for Transgender Equality has released two new resources to help address the impact of a wave of specious voter ID laws enacted by 19 Republican-led state legislatures in the last two years. Conservative estimates from the Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles reveal that more than 25,000 transgender people could lose their right to vote as a result of the changes.
NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said, “Transgender people are already imagined to be committing gender fraud. Now these new voter ID laws could set us up to be accused of voter fraud. Most transgender people have never had problems voting before but this year is different. When a transgender person shows up to a polling place with a name or appearance that isn’t perceived to match their voter registration records or their photo ID, they could be turned away.”
Voting While Trans: Preparing for the New Voter ID Laws explains what identification transgender people need to vote in their state. The Voting While Trans Checklist is a one-page guide to educate poll workers and election officials on the voting rights of transgender people. Both documents can be downloaded at www.votingwhiletrans.org/download.html.
— David Stout
Coalition lauds tourism bureau
BOHEMIA, N.Y. — The Broken Promises Coalition issued a statement on Aug. 22 in response to the launch of a new Durham, N.C. tourism website, OutinDurham.com, geared toward the LGBT community. qnotes ran a story in the Aug. 18 issue detailing its startup (see goqnotes.com/16650 to learn more).
This site is a response to the passage of anti-gay Amendment One. The coalition believes the site speaks to the fact that marriage affects more than just the two people taking their vows.
Clay Darrohn, a Broken Promises representative, stated, “As a coalition that believes the importance of marriage as a commitment, we believe that marriage effects more than just a couple that takes their vows. The ban on same-sex marriage in North Carolina could adversely affect tourism with the LGBT community, therefore it is important for Durham to take their own stand on the matter in opening their community to people from all walks of life. We also believe that the bridal jewelry industry needs to understand that alienating customers could adversely affect their business.”
— Lainey Millen
Inn settles discrimination suit
MONTPELIER, Vt. — A Vermont resort that was sued last year for refusing to host a lesbian couple’s wedding reception and violating Vermont’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act finalized an agreement Aug. 23 to resolve the lawsuit. As part of the settlement, the resort will pay $10,000 to the Vermont Human Rights Commission as a civil penalty and will place $20,000 in a charitable trust to be disbursed by the couple.
Kate Linsley (nee Baker) and Ming Linsley of New York contacted the ACLU and the ACLU of Vermont after Ming’s mother was told by the Wildflower Inn’s events manager that due to the innkeepers’ “personal feelings,” the inn did not host “gay receptions.” After the plaintiffs filed suit, the Vermont Human Rights Commission intervened as a co-plaintiff in the proceedings.
The couple planned to have their wedding ceremony at a Buddhist retreat in northern Vermont and wanted to have the reception nearby. The 24-room inn described itself as an award-winning resort and an ideal destination-wedding location. On its website, the inn lauded itself as “Four Seasons for Everyone,” and said that even the family dog is welcome.
— David Stout
SLDN head criticizes VA
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis sent a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki recently after reports from the Office of Inspector General were released alleging excessive spending and “questionable activities” by VA officials, including $5 million spent during conferences that included concert tickets and spa treatments for attendees.
“If these allegations are substantiated, this misuse of taxpayer money — especially taxpayer money that was intended for the care and support of our nation’s veterans — is completely unacceptable,” Sarvis wrote. “This news is especially disconcerting to gay and lesbian veterans, who are blocked from providing their hard-earned VA benefits to their spouses because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and other federal statutes. It is insulting to be told by the VA that they will not provide the same benefits to same-sex spouses that they provide to opposite-sex spouses, only to then watch the VA allegedly waste money during conferences.”
SLDN renewed its call for the VA to acknowledge more fully the open presence of gay and lesbian service members. “The VA needs to be a welcoming place for all veterans — including LGBT veterans — and stories like this do not help promote the image of a well-functioning and effective VA,” said Sarvis.
— David Stout
Companies provide protections
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Equality Forum reported on Aug. 15 that 477 of the 2012 Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. include sexual orientation in their employment non-discrimination policies.
Among those listed, were 14 businesses that have their roots in North Carolina.
North Carolina companies included (city/ranking) are: Bank of America Corp., Charlotte/13; Lowe’s, Mooresville/54; Nucor, Charlotte/138; Duke Energy, Charlotte, 186; BB&T Corp., Winston-Salem/267; VF, Greensboro/277; Progress Energy, Raleigh/286; Family Dollar Stores, Matthews/301; Reynolds American, Winston-Salem/302; Goodrich, Charlotte/319; Sonic Automotive, Charlotte/330; Pantry, Cary/347; Laboratory Corp. of America, Burlington/443; and SPX, Charlotte/446.
The forum collaborated with Professor Louis Thomas, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Ian Ayres, William K. Townsend professor, Yale Law School.
For more information, visit equalityforum.com.
— Lainey Millen
‘Gay Hate Day’ in Cameroon
YAOUNDE, Cameroon — Human rights leaders in the country and around the globe united to denounce the “Gay Hate Day” held here Aug. 21, as well as oppose the ongoing arrests of people suspected to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. The influential Archbishop of Yaoundé has kept the growing anti-gay sentiment churning by calling homosexuality “shameful” and “an affront to the family, enemy of women and creation” in his recent public addresses.
Global gay rights group AllOut.org has asked Cameroonian President Paul Biya to take a stand against discrimination by decriminalizing homosexuality. “This anti-gay movement is misinforming Cameroonians,” said Yves Yomb, director of Alternatives-Cameroun, an organization working for the rights of sexual minorities in Cameroon. “A poster announcing the ‘Gay Hate Day’ claims that hemorrhoids, incontinence and various infections are consequences of homosexuality. Decriminalizing homosexuality is a fundamental step in responding to the misinformation, hate and violence.”
In August 2011, Roger Jean Claude Mbédé was arrested, sentenced to three years in prison and fined for the crime of “homosexual behavior” because he texted another man the following: “My family says I am dangerous and that they can’t live with a homosexual.”
— David Stout