HIV travel ban repealed, GSA wins in court

National News Notes

HIV travel ban law repealed
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On July 30, President Bush signed into law the Tom Lantos & Henry J. Hyde U.S. Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008, a presidential initiative to combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. The measure included a provision ending the government’s 21-year ban on HIV-positive travelers and immigrants. The authority will now rest with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Joanne Lin (pictured), ACLU Legislative Counsel, said, “Today the president signed landmark HIV/AIDS legislation into law and ended a shameful era in American immigration policy. For a generation, HIV/AIDS was the only disease singled out in our immigration laws as a basis to ban visitors and immigrants from this country. Lifting the ban will remove the discriminatory barrier long faced by HIV-positive people and their families.”

Charles Kuck, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said, “We urge the Department of Health and Human Services to take the next step and remove HIV from the list of diseases that bar people from coming to the U.S.”

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Out-of-state marriage ban ended
BOSTON, Mass. — Gov. Deval Patrick has signed into law a repeal of the 1913 measure that prevented many out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts. On July 29, the state House of Representatives voted 118-35 to repeal the law. The state Senate had already voted similarly on July 15. Same-sex couples from any state are now able to marry in Massachusetts, where resident gays and lesbians have been allowed to wed since 2004.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney, an opponent of marriage equality, invoked a nearly century-old law to prohibit many same-sex couples from outside the commonwealth from marrying there. The so-called 1913 law, named for the year it was enacted, prohibits out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their marriage would not be legally recognized in their home state.

The law, which was not applied for decades before Gov. Romney enforced it, was first enacted to prohibit interracial marriages not recognized in many states at the time.

Court rules in favor of GSA
OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — A federal court decision handed down July 29 ruled that Okeechobee High School administrators must offer a Gay-Straight Alliance the same access it gives to other non-curricular clubs. The ruling follows a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in November 2006 after students at the school were denied access to meet on campus. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore upheld his earlier ruling that GSAs do not violate Florida’s policy of abstinence-only education.

Okeechobee High School had sought to mischaracterize the purpose of the GSA. But Moore found that GSAs are not sex-based clubs, but clubs designed to foster tolerance on school campuses. He added that schools must take into account the well-being of non-heterosexual students.

GLSEN Executive Director Kevin Jennings said, “We applaud this decision rooted in judicial precedent for recognizing not just the legal right of students to form GSAs, but also that schools and students will benefit by having GSAs on campus.”

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HRC director on Dem platform
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Legislative Director Allison Herwitt spoke at the Aug. 1 meeting of the National Platform Drafting Committee of the Democratic National Committee. She asked the Party to reaffirm and strengthen its commitment to the LGBT community in its 2008 platform. She addressed a range of issues for consideration, including AIDS, employment discrimination, the military ban, hate crimes, gay marriage and the need for fair judges.

She particularly called on the Party to support transgender equality. “I come before you today to ask that you once again include strong support for the rights of GLBT people in the Democratic platform, and increase the range of support from the 2004 platform, by explicitly supporting the equality and dignity of transgender people.”

In her closing remarks, Herwitt said HRC is “proud to stand with Senator Obama and the leaders of the Democratic Party, who are committed to our vision of equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”

Homophobe in radio hall of fame
CHICAGO, Ill. — LGBT and progressive activists were outraged by the recent announcement that radio show host James Dobson (pictured) will be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame and Museum. Dobson is the head of Focus on the Family, a right-wing, “family values” organization. He uses the group and his radio show to oppose gay equality, regularly resorting to stereotypes and distortions to push his hateful agenda.

GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano said, “For 20 years James Dobson has used his expansive, well-funded media platform to perpetuate false and misleading information which contribute to putting gay and lesbian families in harm’s way. GLAAD urges the media to scrutinize and shed light on Dobson’s record of inaccurate claims about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and include an in-depth analysis of his distorted and defamatory statements.”

After learning of Dobson’s pending induction, Wayne Besen, executive director of gay equality group Truth Wins Out, indicated that a protest might be held outside the ceremony.

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Posted by David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at editor2@goqnotes.com.