HRC issues 2010 Congressional Scorecard

News Notes: Beyond the Carolinas

HRC issues 2010 Congressional Scorecard

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Human Rights Campaign has released its Congressional Scorecard for the 111th Congress that rates members of Congress on their support for issues of LGBT equality. An analysis of the data demonstrates a stark polarization with increases in both highly supportive and highly anti-LGBT legislators. The average score for House members was 50.8 percent and 57.3 percent for Senators.

“While advancements for equality were made this Congress, a strong and devoted group of anti-LGBT legislators continues to stymie the progress LGBT people deserve,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “The fact that the first ever vote to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the House of Representatives was countered by a filibuster in the Senate illustrates the landscape.”

In the House, 145 members scored 90 percent or above, compared to 128 members of the 110th Congress. In the Senate, those scoring 90 percent and above rose from 32 to 36. But disturbingly, the number of Senators with a zero percent score doubled from 16 to 32 this Congress. In addition, the number of House Members that consistently oppose LGBT equality has remained essentially constant increasing from 143 to 144.

“As more and more Americans support equality for LGBT people, some members of Congress are showing real leadership while others are digging in their heels to cater to an anti-LGBT fringe constituency,” noted HRC Legislative Director Allison Herwitt.

Votes and co-sponsorship of legislation scored in this Congress:

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to allow local law enforcement to access federal resources to investigate or prosecute violent crimes committed because of the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity (the House votes for final passage and the motion to recommit were scored as was the Senate vote on Sen. Leahy’s hate crimes amendment);

Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” to allow lesbians and gays to serve openly and honestly in the Armed Forces (the full House vote on Rep. Murphy’s DADT repeal amendment was scored as was the Senate vote to proceed to debate on the Defense bill to which DADT repeal is attached);

Co-sponsorship of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity;

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Co-sponsorship of the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act (DP Tax), to equalize tax treatment for employer-provided health coverage for domestic partners;

Co-sponsorship of the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA), to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA);

Co-sponsorship of the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA), to allow states to provide Medicaid coverage to HIV-positive persons;

Co-sponsorship of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), to provide same-sex partners of U.S. citizens equal immigration access;

House vote on Rep. Mark Souder’s amendment that would have prohibited funding for any program which distributes sterile needles or syringes for the hypodermic injection of any illegal drug;

Senate vote on Sen. Robert Bennett’s amendment to suspend the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the District of Columbia and require a referendum;

Senate votes on the nominations of Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Scores for individual Representatives and Senators can be viewed online at www.hrc.org/scorecard. A final scorecard will be released at the conclusion of the lame duck session following the election.

Gay adoption now legal in Fla.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced Oct. 22 that he would not appeal the landmark ruling by the Third District Court of Appeal striking down the state’s anti-gay adoption ban as unconstitutional. Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Department of Children and Families had already announced that they would not appeal the decision. The ruling is binding on courts across the state.

In a statement, Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said, “It is truly heartening that Florida’s elected leaders have stepped up to the plate and finally agreed to put this offensive law to rest once and for all. We are thrilled that the Florida Department of Children and Families will never again have to waste its time rooting out ‘homosexual’ and bisexual people who apply to become adoptive parents — instead, it can now focus on making sure that children who desperately need homes can find the very best loving, devoted parents to adopt them. This is a great day for the state of Florida and for LGBT families everywhere.”

Effort mobilizes 1000s of students

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Thousands of students from more than 1,000 middle and high schools across the country participated in GLSEN’s Ally Week Oct. 18-22 to identify, encourage and support allies in addressing anti-LGBT bullying in schools.

A student-led and student-created event, Ally Week is a way to build upon the unifying work of Gay-Straight Alliance student clubs by encouraging people to be allies against anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.

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Students participate in a number of ways but usually encourage their peers to take the Ally Week pledge, which students and adults sign either through pledge cards in school or online at allyweek.org.The pledge reads:

I believe all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression deserve to feel safe and supported.

That means I pledge to:

Not use anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) language or slurs.

Intervene, if I safely can, in situations where students are being harassed.

Support efforts to end bullying and harassment.

Lambda seeks to defend DP law

MADISON, Wisc. — In court papers filed earlier this month, Lambda Legal asked to intervene on behalf of Fair Wisconsin and five same-sex couples in a lawsuit brought by an anti-gay group attempting to strip away critical domestic partnership protections for same-sex couples and their families. This is the second time Wisconsin Family Action has asked a court to overturn the domestic partner law Gov. Jim Doyle signed last year. Domestic partnerships grant limited, but important legal protections to same-sex couples, including hospital visitation and family medical leave to care for a sick or injured partner.

Wisconsin Family Action says the domestic partnership law violates the anti-gay constitutional amendment passed in 2006 that bars marriage equality and recognition of any legal status that is “substantially similar” to marriage.

LGBT youth expert touring China

CHINA — At press time, Dr. Caitlin Ryan, a leading researcher on acceptance of LGBT youth by their families, is presenting her research and new family support model in China. Her tour began Oct. 24 and continues through Nov. 5. She is speaking at various conferences, universities and community agencies on the importance of family acceptance for the well-being and health of LGBT youth and their families.

Dr. Ryan’s itinerary includes presentations at Renmin University in Guangzhou and Beijing; a conference in Beijing for parents of LGBT children; meetings with Beijing’s Anti-Domestic Violence Network and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); and a presentation at Hong Kong University, “The Critical Role of Families in Reducing Risk & Promoting Well-being for LGBT Youth & Young Adults.”

Throughout her trip, Dr. Ryan, who is traveling with Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Luis Perelman, sexuality educator and founder of the Asociación Internacional de Familias por la Diversidad Sexual, has been posting her travel experiences on bilerico.com.

McKellen in action on new stage

U.K. — Acting great Sir Ian McKellen, co-founder of LGBT rights group Stonewall, is touring schools nationwide on behalf of the organization throughout October, November and December. He is leading assemblies, talking to students in classrooms and promoting Stonewall’s campaign to tackle homophobic bullying, which is rife in Britain’s schools.

McKellen said, “Until I visited secondary schools recently, I hadn’t realized how much anti-gay bullying goes on throughout the education system. By talking frankly about my own life as a gay man and listening to the concerns of staff and students, parents and governors, I hope the visits arranged by Stonewall may make a difference in the classroom and the playground and also give confidence to gay students about their lives in the future.”

The tour is a benefit to all 42 members of Stonewall’s Education Champions Programme, which supports local authorities in their efforts to prevent homophobic bullying in their local schools.

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Posted by David Stout

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