Monday, July 21, 2014

President Obama Signs Executive Order Prohibiting Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity By Companies Contracted To Work For Federal Government, Monroe County Florida Chief Circuit Judge Denies Request To Lift Stay On Ruling Overturning Constitutional Same Sex Marriage Ban, Georgia Attorney General Asks That Federal Lawsuit Challenging State's Constitutional Ban On Same Sex Marriage, ACLU Objects To Wisconsin Request To Have Full 7th Circuit Court Of Appeals Hear Arguments Challenging State Constitutional Ban On Gay Marriage, Tony Dungy Says He Would Not Have Drafted Michael Sam Suggesting Sexual Orientation Will Be Source Of "Things Happening," Danish Gay Couple First To Adopt Child From Abroad

In Washington, D.C., the New York Times reports that President Obama, declaring himself on “the right side of history,” called on Congress on Monday to ban job discrimination against gay Americans as he signed an executive order doing so for workers of federal contractors. In a ceremony at the White House, Mr. Obama noted that in much of the country, companies can fire employees based on their sexual orientation. “That’s wrong,” he said to an audience of supporters. “We’re here to do what we can to make it right — to bend that arc of justice just a little bit in a better direction.” The federal government already prohibits discrimination against gay men, lesbians and bisexuals in its own work force, but the order Mr. Obama signed on Monday would extend that to companies that do work for the federal government. It also for the first time explicitly protects federal workers based not just on sexual orientation but also on gender identity, meaning transgender employees. But Mr. Obama rebuffed requests by religious groups to exempt them. Religious groups argued that they should not be forced to go against their beliefs in order to win or keep federal contracts available to others. Advocates for religion said the order would lead to a court fight. “The fact is that nondiscrimination rules like the order issued by President Obama can become a weapon used to punish and harass individuals and groups who support marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” said Brian S. Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes legalizing same sex marriage. Mr. Obama did not address their concerns in his brief remarks on Monday. But easing the fears of some religious social agencies, Mr. Obama left in place existing protections allowing them to give preference to members of their own faith in leadership positions. The president’s order applies to only a fraction of those who would be affected by congressional legislation, but he has been under heavy pressure from a critical Democratic core constituency to take action on his own without waiting for lawmakers. His order adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories protected among federal contractors that was first approved by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. And it adds gender identity as a protected category to a 1969 directive by President Richard M. Nixon that applies to federal employees, which was later amended by President Bill Clinton to include sexual orientation. “We’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “But I hope as everybody looks around this room, you are reminded of the extraordinary progress that we have made. Not just in our lifetimes. But in the last five years. In the last two years. In the last one year. We’re on the right side of history.”

An update on a previous post: In Florida, wedding bells will not ring Tuesday for gay Key West bartenders Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones. Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia, who last week overturned Florida’s 2008 constitutional gay marriage ban and ordered the two men be allowed to wed, on Monday denied their request to lift an automatic legal stay that prevents them from marrying immediately. “Based on decisions of the United States Supreme Court and other courts to stay proceedings in similar challenges, this court DENIES the Emergency Motion,” Garcia wrote. “The automatic stay, currently in place, shall remain in place until completion of appellate proceedings or until further order of the Court.” In his ruling last Thursday, Garcia ordered that Huntsman and Jones and other gay couples seeking to wed be allowed to marry no sooner than Tuesday. “The court is aware that the majority of voters oppose same sex marriage, but it is our country’s proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority,” Garcia wrote in his opinion. Bondi then swiftly announced she would appeal Garcia’s ruling to the Third District Court of Appeal. Her office issued a statement, saying that “with many similar cases pending throughout the entire country, finality on this constitutional issue must come from the U.S. Supreme Court.” By filing a notice of appeal, Bondi triggered an automatic stay in the case, meaning that Garcia’s ruling is put on hold. If the stay is lifted before Tuesday, any same sex couple can travel to the Keys that day and receive a marriage license at the county clerk’s office. If Garcia had lift the stay, Bondi would have needed to ask the Third District Court of Appeal to reinstate it. Bernadette Restivo, who with law partner Elena Vigil-Fariñas represents Huntsman and Jones, on Monday asked Garcia to lift the stay. “The Plaintiffs and other same sex couples who wish to marry are suffering serious, irreparable harms every day [Florida’s Marriage Protection Act] remains in effect,” according to the motion,” attorney Bernadette Restivo wrote to Garcia. Bondi quickly responded, writing to Garcia that he not to lift the stay. “The United States Supreme Court has issued orders staying lower court decisions regarding same sex marriage lawsuits. So have several federal courts of appeals. And many trial courts have stayed their orders on their own. They have all acted to maintain the status quo while the issues presented are resolved. This Court should likewise maintain the status quo and leave the automatic stay in place until further appellate proceedings are concluded,” Bondi wrote. Garcia’s original decision that the men should be allowed to marry applies only to Monroe County, because it was filed in front of a state judge who has jurisdiction only in the county where he sits. Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel has yet to rule in a similar case. The Monroe case mirrors the suit in Miami-Dade, in which six same sex couples and LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida Institute sued County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for the right to marry. In both cases, Florida Assistant Attorney General Adam Tanenbaum argued that the judges should not dismiss Florida’s constitutional gay marriage ban, which passed in 2008 with the support of 62-percent of voters. The state, citing a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, contended that the definition of marriage belongs exclusively to the state and is exempt from federal scrutiny.
After Garcia’s initial ruling, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski applauded Bondi’s opposition. “Although this ruling is limited in scope — applying only to Monroe County — it represents another salvo in the “culture wars” that ultimately seek to redefine the institution of marriage as solely for adult gratification,” Wenski said in a Catholic Church news release. Huntsman and Jones, who met at a gay pride celebration and have been a couple for 11 years, sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin in April for a marriage license, saying Florida’s ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. Ron Saunders, general counsel for the Monroe County Clerk’s office, said clerk’s office employees were prepared to issue marriage licenses if Garcia ordered them to do so. Marriage licenses must be filled out in person by both spouses at any one of four Monroe County clerk’s offices. Forms cannot leave the office, Saunders said. Florida law usually requires a three-day waiting period for any couple who applies for a marriage license. There are exceptions, however: If both parties are Florida residents they must both attend a premarital class and present certification of the attendance to the clerk at the time of application. There is no waiting period. If no class is attended, there is a three (3) day waiting period (from the date of issue), before the marriage ceremony may take place. This class must be taken thru an authorized provider listed in Monroe County. Original certificate of completion is required at time of application. List of providers is available upon request; If only one of the couples is a Florida resident and the Florida resident takes the course, there is no waiting period; If both parties are out of state residents, there is no waiting period. Monday afternoon, Huntsman and Jones were on their computer taking an online premarital class, which would have allowed them to marry Tuesday. “Complete a Premarital Preparation Course for your Florida Marriage License and Avoid the 3-day Wait Period (or just because you WANT to!)” reads the website, floridapremaritalcourse.com. The four-hour online course costs $30, and can be paid by credit card or Paypal. At least 34 of Florida’s 67 counties have approved the website for premarital counselling. Two counties, Flagler and Monroe, require original documentation that a couple has completed the course. “They will not accept the emailed certificates,” according to the website. If Garcia lifted the stay, Huntsman and Jones would have needed to have the original documentation delivered overnight to marry on Tuesday. “We’re not doing this to be the first to get married,” said Huntsman, who celebrated his 44th birthday Monday. “We’re doing this to change the laws for everybody.”

In Georgia, according to the Athens Banner-Herald, the state's attorney general is asking a judge to dismiss a federal lawsuit filed by a gay rights group challenging the state's constitutional ban on same sex marriages. Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit in April on behalf of seven people. Attorney General Sam Olens, representing the state registrar, said in a filing Monday that the suit takes away Georgia residents' right to define marriage. Olens' brief acknowledges a movement in some states to recognize same-sex marriage and public opinion polls that support those changes. "But judicially imposing such a result now would merely wrest a potentially unifying popular victory from the hands of supporters and replace it instead with the stale conformity of compulsion," the brief says. "This Court should reject Plaintiffs' invitation to disregard controlling precedent, decline to anticipate a future ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, and dismiss Plaintiffs' claims in their entirety." A spokesperson for Lambda Legal wasn't immediately available to comment Monday. Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2004. It was challenged in courts over wording of the ballot question, but the state Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the vote was valid. The current lawsuit filed in federal court challenges the ban itself, rather than the ballot wording. The state constitution prohibits same-sex marriage and says such marriages performed in other states aren't legally recognized in Georgia. The Supreme Court last year found that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which forbade the federal government from recognizing same sex marriage, improperly deprived gay couples of due process. Lower-court judges have cited that decision when striking down bans in other states. Olens' brief says that should not apply to Georgia because the state's marriage laws do not imply a right to marry someone of the same sex. Same sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Bans that have been overturned in some other states continue to make their way through the courts.

In Wisconsin, gay and lesbian couples challenging Wisconsin's ban on same sex marriages are objecting to the state's request that the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals hear arguments in the case. American Civil Liberties Union attorneys representing eight same sex couples challenging the ban filed an objection Monday to the state's request that the entire appeals court hear the arguments. The ACLU says that would delay the appeal and put a burden on the court without any benefit. Federal judges have struck down bans in both Wisconsin and Indiana. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals consolidated the cases. Oral arguments were originally scheduled for August 13, but the court has canceled that and not yet set a new date. Ten judges sit on the 7th Circuit but three-judge panels typically decide cases.

Esteemed NFL coach turned NBC analyst Tony Dungy is taking fire for saying he would not have drafted Michael Sam, the league’s first openly gay player. In an interview with the Tampa Tribune published Sunday, the former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts said he would have passed on Sam. "Not because I don't believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn't want to deal with all of it,” Dungy said. Dungy went on to say, “It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.’’ Dungy did not say what, exactly, were the things he anticipated happening. Sam, the former Missouri defensive player, was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams and has the sixth bestselling jersey in the league, according to the NFL. Dungy's comments drew immediate ire online, with people calling him ignorant and offensive. Some of those comments included: “... to not draft an openly gay player because someone...might...not handle it...is some kind of Jim Crow-era awful,” one Twitter commenter said. "So it turns out Tony Dungy is a coward? Didn't see that coming,” another commenter said. Still, there were those who supported Dungy. "So glad Tony Dungy said what he said. Sorry he has to get bashed for it though. You can't obtain tolerance by forcing it on society,” one commenter said. Dungy, an avid Twitter user with almost 500,000 followers, has been mum since the article was published. NBC Sports did not comment on the issue.

In Denmark, for the first time ever, a Danish gay couple has adopted a child from abroad. Rasmus Holm and Thomas Møller Lassen, a gay couple from Aarhus, recently returned from South Africa with their nine-month-old daughter, Le. Most children adopted by Danish parents come from abroad. In 2010, Danish law put gay and lesbian couples on an equal footing with their straight counterparts when it came to adoption rights. Scepticism towards homosexual unions by the home countries of the adoptees have slowed down the process. Søren Laursen, the head of the national association for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons was pleasantly surprised by the news. “Previously we had resigned ourselves to the idea that it is virtually impossible for homosexuals to adopt,” Laursen told Politiken. “This shows that we may have been wrong and gives us reason to consider the possibility with a bit more optimism.” Equality minister Manu Sareen said that he hoped more couples will now be able to adopt. “Of course I hope that more couples are allowed to experience the great joy of being parents and to giving a child a good life,” Sareen told Politiken.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Colorado Supreme Court Stops Denver From Issuing Marriage Licenses To Same Sex Couples But Stops Short Of Blocking Other County Clerks Already Issuing Licenses, Unless State Constitution Amended There Will Be No Same Sex Marriages At Ohio Statehouse, Following Six-Month Investigation Minnesota Vikings Suspend Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer Three Games For Anti-Gay Remarks, New Jersey Police Arrest Ali Brown Wanted For Murder Of Two Gay Men In Seattle, Liverpool Council Approves Operation Of Straight Lap Dancing Club In Recently Designated Gay Quarter, United Kingdom Judge Rules Glee Must Change Name

In Colorado, the Denver Post reports that the Colorado Supreme Court on Friday ordered Denver to stop issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, but stopped short of blocking other clerks already issuing the licenses. Denver immediately stopped issuing licenses, but clerks in Boulder and Pueblo said they would continue. In a separate development, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday issued an order that prevents gay marriages from going forward in Utah for now. A previous stay issued by the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had been set to expire Monday morning. The 10th Circuit on June 25 ruled Utah's ban unconstitutional, prompting the clerk and recorder in Boulder to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Clerks in Denver and Pueblo followed suit after subsequent rulings in Adams and Boulder counties. The same three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday also struck down Oklahoma's ban on same sex marriage on a 2-1 vote. The order by Colorado's high court follows an emergency request filed Monday by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, asking the Supreme Court to order all county clerks to stop issuing gay marriage licenses. The order also imposes a stay preventing the Adams County clerk — which was also named in the case — from issuing such licenses. The Adams County clerk had not begun issuing the licenses. Clerks in Boulder and Pueblo, whose clerks are currently issuing same sex marriage licenses, are not affected by the ruling and said they would continue issuing licenses to gay couples. So far, Boulder has issued 156 marriage licenses to same sex couples. The state Supreme Court also declined to take up a request by five other county clerks seeking direction on whether to begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. A statement by Suthers' office welcomed Friday's ruling. "We are pleased the Colorado Supreme Court has begun to restore order to the process of resolving this difficult issue," the statement said. "While we await a final determination of the constitutional question, the Court recognizes that the current laws should be enforced." Suthers' statement noted that the order affects only Denver and Adams counties, but it expressed hope that other county clerks would stop issuing marriage licenses "without requiring more wasteful litigation." The Denver clerk's office has issued 108 same sex marriage licenses since July 10. Denver County Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson said she was disappointed by Friday's order. "There are some things we do for ourselves, but there are things, especially as an elected official, that must be done for others," Johnson said in a statement. "One day, I hope every Coloradan will experience marriage fully, equally and without prejudice." The Supreme Court's order did not address the constitutionality of Colorado's ban on gay marriages, or the validity of the licenses already issued. Adams County District Court Judge Judge C. Scott Crabtree on July 9 ruled the state's voter-approved ban unconstitutional, but he immediately stayed his ruling. A request to expedite the attorney general's appeal of Crabtree's ruling was also denied, said Rob McCallum, spokesperson for the Colorado Judicial Branch. Ralph Ogden, who represents one of the nine couples in the original Adams County lawsuit, filed a request with the state Supreme Court to expedite Suthers' appeal of Crabtree's ruling. The court denied that request. "I'm disappointed the court didn't expedite the appeal," Ogden said. "They could have granted the request and it could have resolved a lot of uncertainty in Colorado." Without an expedited briefing schedule, the Supreme Court will likely not hear arguments in the case until next year. The earliest a decision will be released will likely be early spring, Ogden said.

In Ohio, according to the Columbus Dispatch, there will be no same sex marriages or receptions at the Statehouse — unless the state Constitution changes. The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board affirmed its existing policy forbidding such events at a meeting on Thursday. The board oversees the Statehouse and grounds. Ohio House Speaker William G. Batchelder (R-Medina) a member of the board, said during a discussion that the state must abide by the Ohio Constitution, which under a 2004 amendment approved by Ohio voters limits marriage to one man and one woman. Unless or until that changes, Batchelder said, same sex marriages should not be allowed at the Statehouse and grounds. The board approved a recommendation from an internal committee to stick with the same sex ban, spokesperson Luke Stedke said. Stedke said about two dozen weddings or receptions were held at the Statehouse in the past year. There have been no permit applications from same sex couples, he said. State Rep. Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus) asked for the board to review the policy, and said yesterday he was disappointed in the result, calling Ohio’s policy an outlier. “It appears that a full consideration of what this policy is and what the review was asking for never happened,” he said, and added that he and his colleagues will look at other avenues to change the rule. FreedomOhio and other gay-rights groups complain that the wedding policy is discriminatory toward same sex couples. “The Statehouse has long been the people’s house ... and denying public accommodations to people because of their sexual orientation is wrong, unacceptable and backward,” Ian James, co-founder and executive director of FreedomOhio, said. “I don’t understand why in the 21st century that we can’t figure out all people should be treated equal.” Ohio’s constitutional ban may be tested at an August 6 hearing in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Five different cases, including two from Ohio, will be heard by the court that day.

In Minneapolis, the Minnesota Vikings on Friday suspended special teams coordinator Mike Priefer for three games following a six-month investigation into accusations made by former punter Chris Kluwe that Priefer made anti-gay remarks in a team setting during the 2012 season. Priefer, who denied the remarks earlier this year, apologized Friday in a statement. He must also attend sensitivity training, and if he does, his suspension could be reduced to two games. “I owe an apology to many people: the Wilf family, the Minnesota Vikings organization and fans, my family, the LGBT community, Chris Kluwe and anyone else that I offended with my insensitive remark,” Priefer said in the statement. “I regret what has occurred and what I said. I am extremely sorry but I will learn from this situation and will work on educating others to create more tolerance and respect.” In a 29-page document summarizing the findings of the Vikings’ independent investigation — which was led by former U.S. Department of Justice attorney Chris Madel and former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson — the national law firm Littler Mendelson, hired by the Vikings to assess the report, concluded that Priefer made an anti-gay comment to players, although there was no record of his having made any other such comments. The showdown between Kluwe and the Vikings is not over, however. Kluwe told the Star Tribune on Friday that because the Vikings did not release the investigation’s full report, he plans to file a discrimination lawsuit against the Vikings early next week seeking damages in excess of $10 million. He echoed his intention on Twitter as well, writing that “next week is open season.” The investigation also provided details on Kluwe himself being insensitive in team settings. The report notes Kluwe making light of the Penn State football sex-abuse scandal, which Kluwe confirmed Friday on Twitter. He tweeted that he and “over half the team” made Penn State “rape” jokes in front of coaches, for a month or more. The investigation began after Kluwe’s initial accusation in a January article he wrote on the website Deadspin.com. He said Priefer remarked before a special teams meeting: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.” At that time, Priefer issued a statement: “I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe. I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member. The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family.” The investigators’ report stated that long snapper Cullen Loeffler, who is still with the Vikings, corroborated Kluwe’s claim. The report also says that after denying to investigators in a first interview that he made anti-gay remarks, Priefer acknowledged in a second interview after learning of Loeffler’s statement that he may have made the comment. “If [Loeffler] remembers me saying something on the practice field, I am not going to disagree with it,” Priefer said. Priefer is adamant that the comment was made in jest, which Loeffler confirmed in the report. “It was a joke between three people, three men,” Priefer said. Joke or no, Vikings owners are not pleased. “We are very disappointed with some of the findings contained within the report,” Mark and Zygi Wilf said in a statement Friday. “As we have said in the past, we consistently strive to create — and believe we have — a supportive, respectful and accepting environment for our players, coaches and staff, and we strongly disassociate the club from the statement that Coach Priefer made. Coach Priefer is a good man, and we know that he deeply regrets the comment. We do not believe that this error in judgment should define him. Accountability, however, is important both on and off the field. In this instance, Coach Priefer fell short of what is expected.” Littler Mendelson concluded, however, that the firm “did not find any support for the contention that the Vikings lacked institutional controls with respect to its workplace environment as it relates to homophobia” and that Kluwe was not released before the 2013 season because of his high-profile support of same sex marriage. The Vikings have maintained that the release of Kluwe — who was scheduled to make nearly $800,000 more than his rookie replacement, Jeff Locke, in 2013 — was due to his performance. In a meeting with the Vikings on Thursday, Kluwe’s lawyer, Clayton Halunen, gave the team until Friday to meet their requirements to settle out of court, which included $1 million that Kluwe would donate to charities that support LGBT causes, the release of the full findings of the investigation and a suspension of at least four games for Priefer. The Vikings did not respond to those requests, Halunen said.“At this point it seems that there’s a culture there that needs to be changed,” Kluwe told the Star Tribune on Friday. “If there was anything in the report, then people need to know that. And, obviously, there is something in the report because the Vikings don’t want to release it. If it cleared the team, they would have it out. They would’ve released it any time and put it out. It’s pretty obvious there’s something in there that they don’t like.” He said that the Vikings originally wanted to be transparent but that they then waited more than six months without releasing the report. “And all of a sudden, they decided they don’t want to do that anymore,” Kluwe said. In a July 8 e-mail Halunen sent Madel, one of the independent investigators, Halunen appeared to suggest that the Kluwe team no longer wanted the entire report released. “… The more I think about it I believe it would be a mistake for a number of reasons,” Halunen writes in the e-mail, obtained by the Star Tribune from a source close to the investigation. “They [the details] will only provide fodder for the media and pundits to attack the methodology, integrity or content to serve their own agenda. Finally, why should confidences shared by witnesses during the course of the investigation that may be very personal in nature be shared publicly?” When asked about the e-mail, Halunen said his client wants the 150-page investigation released but not the “thousands of pages” of “backup data” containing interviews and other private matters unrelated to the investigation to protect the confidentially of the other witnesses. In the 150-page report Halunen and Kluwe want released, Halunen said, there are unflattering remarks made by Kluwe. He said he and Kluwe are not trying to hide from that. “He said some things that might be offensive to some people, and he completely owns that,” Halunen said. “It’s sort of a different culture. A lot of stuff goes on in the locker room. Sometimes, on occasion, he’s part of that too. … It was jokes. Anyone that would read it would say, ‘Oh, that’s funny.’ Nothing that we’re worried about at all. All innocent stuff.” Halunen did not see Kluwe’s unflattering remarks about the Penn State scandal as a contradiction. The report says that then-strength and conditioning coach Tom Kanavy, who coached at Penn State, said Kluwe wore pants with the seat cut out claiming to be a “Penn State victim” and to “stay away” while exposing his buttocks. Kluwe said in his second investigation interview that he didn’t remember the incident at first but that “it’s very possible” it occurred because he likes “to play practical jokes.” Kluwe said that “if people said they saw it, then yeah, I probably did it.” Halunen said, “They kid around all the time with the stuff they do in the locker room. What we’re talking about, we’re talking about management who engaged in such hostile conduct leaving such hateful words. This is a leader. This isn’t kidding around in the locker room. That’s what’s very different.” The 29-page summary report showed that, at the very least, the Vikings were concerned with Kluwe’s activism and how it might be affecting his play. Former Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell said that former coach Leslie Frazier, at one point, asked Longwell to try to “get Kluwe to calm down” regarding his advocacy for gay and lesbian issues, according to the report. Longwell added that he and Loeffler told Kluwe to “lower his profile” and “focus on what he’s getting paid to do.” Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman also acknowledged in the report that Kluwe’s activism and its impact had come up “during the heat of battle” because “we want our total focus on football.” Spielman said Kluwe’s advocacy did not influence his decisionmaking regarding Kluwe’s career. The report also showed that Kluwe received an important endorsement from owner Zygi Wilf. Kluwe said that he spoke with Wilf before a game against Jacksonville in September 2012 and that Wilf told him, “Chris, I’m proud of what you’ve done. Please feel free to keep speaking out.” The Vikings said that all team employees, coaches and players have been required to attend annual anti-harassment, diversity and sexual-orientation sensitivity training for several years and that they will “continue to look at and take additional steps to improve these educational programs.” In addition to suspending Priefer, the Vikings will donate $100,000 to LGBT groups. We will continue to hold all team members accountable and take the outlined critical steps to further educate everyone within our organization both individually and collectively,” Mark and Zygi Wilf stated. “We will accept nothing less than creating a franchise that Minnesotans and Vikings fans everywhere can be proud of on and off the field.”

In New Jersey, the Star-Ledger reports that a fugitive sought in a Seattle double homicide was arrested Friday afternoon. Ali Brown, 29, is now locked up in the Essex County Jail – and is expected to be turned over to the U.S. Marshals soon, announced Carolyn Muray, the acting Essex County Prosecutor, and Chief James Abbott of the West Orange Police. Brown was picked up without incident on the 200-block of Mount Pleasant Avenue by West Orange officers and the county’s Homicide Task Force, authorities said. The Seattle man allegedly gunned down 27-year-old Ahmed Said and 23-year-old Dwone Anderson-Young in Seattle’s Central District during the early morning hours of June 1, authorities have said. Since Said and Anderson-Young are gay, their murders are being investigated as “malicious harassment” cases, which Seattle police have described as Washington’s version of a hate crime. Another man was initially suspected in the deaths, but turned himself in and has since been cleared of any involvement, Washington authorities said. While on the lam, Brown allegedly committed robbed another man at gunpoint in Point Pleasant on June 29, police said. Authorities have said that Brown, originally from East Orange, is also wanted for failing to register as a sex offender, police said.

In Britain, Liverpool Council leaders approved plans for a straight lap dancing club despite opposition from business owners and councillors. The venue, Paradise, plans to open up on Stanley Street, which was recently designated as the city’s official gay quarter. According to the Liverpool Echo, opponents said the club would be totally wrong for the area, and that a business catering predominantly for straight men in the heart of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community would undermine the whole point of having the designated zone. But in a heated licensing committee meeting yesterday, lawyers acting for the club rejected the argument, saying the council would not tolerate someone trying to claim a gay bar should not be allowed to open up in an area that was predominantly full of venues that catered for straight people. But Central ward Cllr Nick Small said: “I believe this will damage and change the area," adding, “The quarter is an initiative that has been endorsed by the council ... an officially recognised gay quarter intended to prioritise and target investment in a gay-friendly night time economy. If this goes ahead it will change the character of the Stanley Street quarter.” Paul Grant, from Delifonseca, a cafe and deli across the road, said he feared that having the club where there are “drag queens and outside entertainments” would cause conflict. But Paradise director Liam Scully rejected the claim that the club, which will have a gay manager, was there only for straight men, adding: “The suggestion that we are opening up a heterosexual club in a gay area does not sit comfortably with me.” Fellow director Lesley O’Neil added: “We are so excited about this venue. We feel our business can fit side by side with with the others and benefit and contribute to the local economy.” After around half an hour of deliberation behind closed doors, the committee decided to approve the bid. The approval will take the number of “sexual entertainment venues” in the city centre to eight - the limit as set by the council. Also approved was the renewal of the licence for X In The City on Lime Street, which was one of the first lap dancing and strip bars to open up in Liverpool. One objection was lodged - by someone known only as Mrs X - on the basis the area was not appropriate for such a premises. But the council’s licensing committee accepted the case of the applicant’s brief, Anthony Horne, that it had been open for more than a decade without incident and that the police and neighbouring businesses had no objections. Both applications were granted for one year, to be reviewed in 12 months.

Also in Britain, Glum news for Glee — the country's High Court ruled Friday that the musical television show must change its name because it breaches the trademark of a chain of comedy clubs. A judge told Twentieth Century Fox that it had to re-name the series in Britain, though the order won't take effect until an appeal has been heard. The studio was sued by Comic Enterprises, which operates a string of venues called The Glee Club. Judge Roger Wyand ruled in favor of Comic Enterprises in February, saying there was a "likelihood of confusion" between the two brands. Fox said it would appeal, and argued that ordering a name change would be unnecessary, unfair and disproportionate. But the judge concluded Friday that Glee had to go. "I find it hard to believe that the cost of the re-titling and publicizing of the new name would be so prohibitive compared to the value of the series," he said. "I was told many times during the course of the trial how this series is a 'blockbuster.'" The judge said it was possible the Court of Appeal would take a different view, so he put the re-naming order on hold until appeal judges have analyzed the case. Comic Enterprises is also seeking damages. The judge said the final amount would be determined later, but ordered Twentieth Century Fox to make an interim payment of 100,000 pounds ($170,000).

Friday, July 18, 2014

10th Circuit Court Of Appeals Rules Oklahoma Ban On Same Sex Marriage Unconstitutional But Holds Decision, U.S, Supreme Court Grants Utah Emergency Order Preventing State From Recognizing Thousands Of Same Sex Marriage Pending Appeal, Montana Attorney General Asks Federal Judge To Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging State's Constitutional Same Sex Marriage Ban, President Obama To Sign Executive Order Absent Religious Exemption That Bars Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity For Employees Of Companies Contracted To Federal Government, New York City Speech Therapy Teacher Sues Claiming Supervisors Created Hostile Work Environment Because Of His Sexual Orientation, Singapore Stops Scheduled Destruction Of Same Sex-Themed Children Literature

In Washington, D.C., a federal appeals court on Friday ruled that Oklahoma’s ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. The 2-1 decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals essentially affirmed the court’s June ruling in a similar case from Utah. The court’s decision says Oklahoma’s ban “sweeps too broadly in that it denies a fundamental right to all same sex couples who seek to marry or to have their marriages recognized regardless of their child-rearing ambitions.” Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, the Tulsa County couple that launched the challenge to the state ban nearly 10 years ago, issued a statement on Friday, saying, “We are gratified that the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the January ruling of U.S. District Judge Terence Kern that all people are equal under the law. We are so grateful that the 10th Circuit understands what more and more people across this country are beginning to realize — that gay and lesbian people are citizens who should enjoy the same rights as straight people under the law. “We would like to thank the court for its time and careful consideration of our case, and we look forward to seeing Oklahoma gay and lesbian couples who love each other and want their relationships recognized by their government take part fully in that right.” The appeals court, as it did in the Utah case, put a hold on its ruling, meaning that same sex couples in Oklahoma won’t be able to marry until the U.S. Supreme Court determines whether to hear an appeal. Tulsa County Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith, who was sued after refusing to issue a marriage license to Bishop and Baldwin, was represented by an Arizona-based Christian legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom. Byron Babione, an attorney with the group, said Friday, “Every child deserves a mom and a dad, and the people of Oklahoma confirmed that at the ballot box when they approved a constitutional amendment that affirmed marriage as a man-woman union. “In his dissent, Judge (Paul) Kelly rightly noted that ‘any change in the definition of marriage rightly belongs to the people of Oklahoma, not a federal court.’ We are consulting with our client and considering her options. Ultimately, the question whether the people are free to affirm marriage as a man-woman union will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. If the high court remains consistent with what it held in its Windsor decision, the states will ultimately be free to preserve man-woman marriage should they choose to do so.” The 10th Circuit court also affirmed a lower court’s ruling that a second couple in the Oklahoma challenge — Gay Phillips and Susan Barton — don’t have the legal standing to challenge the state’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. Phillips and Barton sued the Tulsa County court clerk over the ban, but the clerk has no authority in Oklahoma to recognize out-of-state marriages.

In Utah, same sex couples who wed in the state during a 17-day window will have to continue to wait before they can receive spousal benefits. The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday granted Utah’s request to issue an emergency order preventing the state from recognizing the more than 1,000 same sex marriages performed in December. The order, which was issued about 3:00 pm MST, said that U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball’s May ruling in the Evans v. Utah case — which said that Utah must recognize those marriages and give the same rights and privileges afforded to married opposite sex couple — will be stayed "pending final disposition" of the states’ appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. If the Supreme Court would have refused to issue a stay, the previous stay was set to expire at 8:00 am Monday. "I believe the Court made the correct decision to issue a stay," Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement Friday afternoon. "...Regardless of where you stand on same sex marriage, all Utahns deserve clarity and finality when it comes to the law." But in the decision to stay, Utah American Civil Liberties Union legal director John Mejia said those same sex couples married last December are missing out on important spousal benefits. Had the stay not been issued, Mejia said some of the couples could have finalized their proof of adoption. They could have added their spouse to their health insurance. They could have applied for insurance discounts. But for now, they’ll continue to wait. Mejia said they are hoping to get their case expedited and heard in front of the 10th Circuit of Appeals as soon as possible. "The quicker we can work through this recognition, the better," Mejia said. Though Mejia said he felt disappointed with the stay, he believed the Supreme Court’s Friday decision was "not at all a comment on the merits" of their case. Utah asked for the emergency order on Wednesday, saying that the state believes it will ultimately prevail in its fight to revive a ban on same sex unions. If it loses, the state said it would work to nullify the marriages entered into during that window. However, the ACLU argued to the Supreme Court that the state should not be allowed to "effectively divorce" them by placing their unions on hold. The ACLU also said that even if the same-sex marriage ban is revived, the state will be constitutionally barred from nullifying the marriages that took place between December 20, 2013, and January 6, 2014. It said that "couples that do legally marry are protected by the same fundamental rights and liberty interests as any other legally married couple." Utah continues to defend its right to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman on two fronts — in Evans. v. Utah and in the Kitchen v. Herbert case that in December toppled the state’s ban on same sex unions. Kimball ruled in May in the Evans case that Utah must recognize and imbue all same sex marriages performed in the state with the same rights and privileges afforded to married opposite sex couples. His decision did not go into effect immediately to give the state time to appeal. Utah’s emergency application was filed with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who oversees the federal court circuit of which Utah is a part and who, in January, halted the issuance of marriage licenses to same sex couples in Utah after 17 days of marriages.

In Montana, the state asked a federal judge on Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by four gay and lesbian couples challenging Montana’s constitutional ban on same sex marriage. Attorney General Tim Fox asked U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls to rule in favor of the state and to uphold the constitutional amendment passed by Montana voters in 2004. The ban says: “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.” In May, four same sex couples filed a lawsuit challenging Montana’s constitutional ban. Three of the four couples have been married in other states and want their marriages recognized here, while the fourth couple wants to marry in Montana. Filing the lawsuit were Angie and Tonya Rolando of Great Falls, Shauna and Nicole Goubeaux of Billings, Ben Milano and Chase Weinhandl of Bozeman and Sue Hawthorne and Adel Johnson of Helena. They argued that the ban deprives same sex couples of “the freedom and dignity afforded to other Montanans, but also the legal protection, duties and benefits that marriage affords to the welfare of society and individual happiness.” The couples named Fox, state Revenue Director Mike Kadas and Cascade County Clerk of Court Faye McWilliams as defendants in their official positions. Mark W. Mattioli, Fox’s chief deputy attorney general, and Jon Bennion, his deputy attorney general, wrote the state’s answer to the lawsuit. They said a number of the claims made by the same sex couples in their lawsuit consisted of arguments, legal claims or conclusions of law that don’t require a response and therefore are denied. At one point, the state said the U.S. Supreme Court, in its 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor, reaffirmed that “definition and regulation of marriage” is “within the authority and realm of the separate states.” In another section, the state attorneys wrote: “Defendants (the state and local officials), however, affirmatively allege that plaintiffs cannot state a claim based upon sex discrimination because men and women, regardless of sexual orientation or preference, are treated the same. Neither men nor women can marry persons of the same gender.” In another, the state attorneys wrote that “Montana’s recognition of marriage as between one man and one woman does not constitute or impose an unconstitutional stigma or second-class citizenship on persons in same sex relationship.” Same sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Bans have been overturned in 12 states, where appeals are in progress. Amy Cannata, spokesperson for American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, said she was disappointed, but not surprised, that Fox asked the federal court to uphold Montana’s ban on same sex marriage. She said Fox earlier had signed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing an attempt to overturn Nevada’s ban. Some state attorneys general have chosen not to defend lawsuits challenging state bans on same sex marriages, she said.

President Obama plans to sign an executive order on Monday barring discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees of companies that do federal government work, according to White House officials. But it will not include a religious exemption many faith organizations had requested, the officials said. The order would also for the first time explicitly protect federal employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity. After a setback in the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case, Mr. Obama was facing pressure from religious groups demanding to be excluded from the long-promised executive order. A group of major faith organizations, including some of Mr. Obama’s allies, had said he should consider adding an exemption for groups whose religious beliefs oppose homosexuality. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the court ruled that family-run corporations with religious objections could be exempted from providing employees with insurance coverage for contraception. In a July 1 letter to Mr. Obama sent the day after the Hobby Lobby case was decided, leaders of religious groups wrote that “we are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need.” The effort behind the letter was organized by Michael Wear, who worked in the White House faith-based initiative during Mr. Obama’s first term and directed the president’s faith outreach in the 2012 campaign. The letter, which called for a “robust religious exemption” in the planned executive order, was also signed by the Rev. Larry Snyder, the chief executive of Catholic Charities U.S.A.; Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church, who delivered the invocation at Mr. Obama’s first inauguration; and Stephan Bauman, president of World Relief, an aid group affiliated with the National Association of Evangelicals. He described the letter as a request from “friends of the administration” to ensure that the executive order provides “robust” protection of religious service organizations that uphold religious-based moral standards for their staff members, whether Catholic, Jewish or Muslim. To give an example, faith leaders said a Catholic charity group that believes sex outside heterosexual marriage is a sin should not be denied government funding because it refused to employ a leader who was openly gay. Gay rights groups countered that it would be unacceptable to allow religious organizations receiving taxpayer money to refuse to hire employees simply because they were gay, and said they did not expect the White House to provide such an exclusion. “Activists have every expectation that this executive order will be issued without any further religious exemption,” Fred Sainz, vice president for communications and marketing at the Human Rights Campaign, said at the time.

In Staten Island, New York, a Rossville speech therapy teacher claims in a lawsuit that his supervisors forced him to endure a hostile work environment where he was mocked and insulted for his sexuality and then retaliated against him when he filed a complaint. Jeffrey Giove, who is openly gay, is suing the city of New York, the city Department of Education, and his former supervisors at the Marsh Avenue Expeditionary Learning School -- former principal Jessica Jenkins-Milona, current principal Cara DeAngelo and speech supervisor Judith Labarbera -- for alleged harassment and discrimination on the basis of his sexual orientation. Giove, 39, was a part-time speech teacher at the New Springville middle school in September 2008 and became full-time in 2010. The lawsuit was filed July 1 in state Supreme Court, St. George. "The LGBT community has made significant strides in recent years," said Giove's attorney, Casey Wolnowski, in a statement to the Advance. "Among other things, we hope this case sheds light on the continuing obligation public schools have to teach America's youth the values of respect and tolerance, and to create a supportive environment for LGBT individuals." Beginning in January 2009, the suit alleges a parent coordinator at the school, identified by Giove in court papers as Suzanne Rolnick, began calling the plaintiff a "fat [gay slur]," and "joked about plaintiff's sexual orientation openly and loudly in front of others." Ms. Rolnick (who is not named as one of the defendants in the suit) made these comments in front of students, teachers and school administrators approximately once every two weeks, according to Giove's suit. Her insults allegedly increased to approximately twice a week. During a professional development conference in Baltimore in the summer of 2009, Ms. Rolnick warned a fellow male teacher to "make sure he locks his door in the hotel at night so that plaintiff doesn't sneak in," according to Giove's suit. The harassment took place in front of Ms. Jenkins-Milona, and at times she laughed at it, the lawsuit claims. Giove finally complained to higher-ups around January 2013 when he addressed the issue with Ms. Jenkins-Milona. However, the remarks continued, the suit says. Ms. Jenkins-Milona was promoted from principal to superintendent of Staten Island public elementary and intermediate schools in September 2013, and Ms. DeAngelo then became principal of the school. The suit claims that Ms. DeAngelo repeatedly witnessed Ms. Rolnick using the gay slur to address Giove, but did nothing about it. In December 2013, Giove filed a complaint with the NYC Department of Education's Office of Equal Opportunity regarding sexual orientation discrimination, and told Ms. Labarbera, his direct supervisor at the time. Shortly after, Giove alleges that the defendants began retaliating against him for making the complaint, and that he had a relatively clean professional record until then. "After plaintiff made this complaint...he was subjected to approximately 10 disciplinary conferences with defendants DeAngelo and Labarbera and was formally written up approximately four times, all within the next four months," the suit said. In January 2014, Ms. Labarbera informed Giove that a job transfer was available and encouraged him to take it, but he told her he would think about it, according to the suit. Then a month later, Ms. Labarbera told him that his transfer had been approved, but Giove never said he wanted it, and declined the transfer offer, according to the suit. After declining the offer, the suit says, Ms. Labarbera told Giove in March that students would start being moved off his caseload, and she began observing his class for a short period of time. Ms. Labarbera had never formally observed Giove teaching, according to the suit. In May, Ms. Labarbera pulled him out of his classroom and gave him an "unsatisfactory" evaluation and had him removed from the building, the suit said. Giove claims he suffered severe anxiety and depression as result of the harassment, and it interfered with his ability to perform his job. Giove is seeking damages in the amount that exceeds the jurisdiction of the court, the suit says. According to the school's website, Giove is not currently listed as a teacher. It wasn't immediately clear why Giove waited so long to file a complaint. The city Law Department was served last Tuesday and had no comment on the lawsuit. Ms. DeAngelo had no comment. Ms. Rolnick also declined comment. Attempts to reach Ms. Jenkins-Milona and Ms. Labarbera were unsuccessful.

Singapore on Friday stopped its national library from destroying two children's books with gay themes following an outcry over literary censorship in the tightly regulated city-state. Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim ordered the books moved to the adult section, where parents can borrow them for their children, after another title had already been "pulped" by the National Library Board (NLB). "We stand by NLB's decision to remove the three books from the children's section," Yaacob said on his Facebook page, adding that the board "will continue to ensure that books in the children's section are age-appropriate." Singapore has separately banned a volume of the long-running US comics series Archie because its depiction of a marriage between two men was deemed to breach local "social norms." Government officials insist most Singaporeans are conservative and do not accept homosexuality. The two books to be moved to the adult section of public libraries are And Tango Makes Three -- a true story about two male penguins in a New York zoo that raised a baby penguin -- and The White Swan Express, which features children adopted by straight, gay, mixed-race and single parents. The book that has already been destroyed is Who's In My Family, which discusses different types of families, including references to gay couples. Some 400 people including parents gathered at a library branch last weekend to read the banned books to their children as a show of protest. Sex between men is illegal in Singapore and punishable by up to two years in jail under a provision in the penal code dating back to British colonial rule. The government's refusal to rescind the law -- which is not being actively enforced -- has become a lightning rod for a growing movement for gay rights and inclusiveness in the multi-racial island nation of 5.4 million. Yaacob, the information minister, said objections to the destruction of books "reflect a deep-seated respect in our culture for the written word," adding that, "I have instructed NLB not to pulp the two other titles, but instead to place them in the adult section of the public libraries. I have also asked NLB to review the process by which they deal with such books. The decision on what books children can or cannot read remains with their parents. Parents who wish to borrow these books to read with their children will have the option to do so." More than 20,000 people gathered in a peaceful rally on June 28 supporting gay rights despite a fierce online campaign against the event by conservative Muslims and Christians.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Monroe County Florida Judge Overturns State Constitutional Same Sex Marriage Ban And Orders That Key West Gay Couple Be Wed But Not Before Tuesday As State Appeals, Kanas City Woman Fired From Catholic Food Pantry For Being Lesbian Sues Archdiocese Saying Two Priests Knew Her Sexual Orientation, Colorado Baker Who Violated Civil Rights Of Gay Couple Appeals Ruling That He Not Discriminate, Salem Massachusetts Mayor Who Terminated Contract With Anti-Gay Christian College Will Donate $5 For Every Phone Call Protesting That Decision To North Shore LGBT Youth Alliance, Baltimore Police Search For Suspects In Yet Another Murder Of Transgender Women, Broadway Icon Elaine Stritch Dies At 89, New CBS Sitcom The McCarthys Focuses On Gay Son Of Sports-Crazed Boston Family

An update on a previous post: In Florida, Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia overturned Florida's 2008 constitutional same sex marriage ban on Thursday, and ordered that two Key West bartenders be allowed to wed but not before Tuesday. State Attorney General Pam Bondi has already filed an appeal with the Third District Court of Appeal, meaning no licenses will be issued, despite Garcia's ruling, until a decision is heard in the appeal process. Bondi said in a statement: "With many similar cases pending throughout the entire country, finality on this constitutional issue must come from the U.S. Supreme Court." Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who met at a gay pride celebration and have been a couple for 11 years, sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin in April for a marriage license. Their case mirrors a similar suit in Miami-Dade County, in which six same-sex couples and LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida Institute sued County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for the right to marry. In the Monroe case, Garcia gave the Tuesday start date for issuing licenses so Heavilin has time to get her office ready for what could be many same sex couples seeking marriage licenses. “My heart is racing a thousand feet a minute. I am so ecstatic for my client,” Huntsman and Williams' attorney, Bernadette Restivo, said. “It’s a brilliant legal opinion. He completely understood the issues and our argument ... There’s going to be a big party tonight on Duval Street.” Still, as for Garcia's decision, “I can’t believe it finally happened,” Jones said. “Love is love. It doesn’t matter if it’s a guy and woman or two women or two men. Love is love.” John Stemberger, who led the 2008 campaign to ban same-sex marriage in Florida, said he wasn’t surprised. “The court was very hostile to our position,” said Stemberger, president and general counsel of the conservative Florida Family Policy Council in Orlando. “This is a very sad day for Floridians. This is an entirely illegitimate process. The judge had no legal authority in this decision.” Stemberger said he wasn’t “daunted” by Garcia’s ruling and that his group will continue the fight. “This is an issue worth dying for,” he said. “Every domestic partnership, every single civil union, every couple that cohabitates, these arrangements dilute and devalue marriage.” Florida’s Democratic Party embraced the ruling. “As we have seen time and time again over the last few months, when marriage equality bans are challenged in the courts, love wins,” Party Chairwoman Allison Tant said in a statement. “This is a tremendous victory for LGBT Floridians in Monroe County, and we look forward to soon celebrating full marriage equality across the state.” Former Gov. Charlie Crist, running for his old seat against Gov. Rick Scott, followed with his own statement: “Today was a great step towards equality in Florida. It is my hope that Governor Scott and Attorney General [Pam] Bondi will accept the decision of the judge and allow all Florida adults to marry the person they love.” In both cases, Florida Assistant Attorney General Adam Tanenbaum argued that Garcia and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel should not dismiss Florida's constitutional gay marriage ban, which passed in 2008 with the support of 62 percent of voters. "It remains for this court simply to respect the policy decision made by voters," Tanenbaum told Garcia at a hearing for summary judgment on July 7 in Plantation Key. The gay marriage battle is being waged across the nation. A federal judge last week ruled Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. According to the group Freedom to Marry, LGBT advocates have won 23 times in federal, state and appellate courts since June 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a key portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Last year, U.S. Supreme Court justices determined the federal government must recognize same sex marriages, but did not address whether state marriage bans are legal. Conservative activists in Florida, who campaigned six years ago for the constitutional gay-marriage ban, have fought to keep it in place. The groups were not allowed to join the Miami-Dade and Monroe cases as defendants. Instead, Garcia and Zabel allowed them to speak as friends of the court. "The plaintiffs' argument with regard to same sex marriage has no boundaries," Mathew Staver, founder of the conservative Liberty Counsel, told Garcia. "The plaintiffs' argument is not to just redefine marriage to include two people of the same sex, the implications of that is if you include two people of the same sex, then why can’t you have a person of the opposite sex, that also brings in a same-sex partner into the marriage." Huntsman and Jones co-counsel, Elena Vigil-Farinas told Garcia that Staver's legal argument -- which included a graphic written description of heterosexual and homosexual sex acts -- "embarrassed" her. "I'm embarrassed to have a member of the bar write something like this as an excuse to support the bigotry of the voters of Florida," Vigil-Farinas said. "Because in his mind, this court should allow mob rule. If the majority — the one that has the most money, the one that has the most position -- don't like a certain segment of society like our friends over here, they get to rule. And you don't get to even evaluate whether it's even constitutional."

In Missouri, a Kansas City woman fired from a Catholic food pantry in May sued the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese and Bishop Robert Finn on Thursday, saying that her supervisors knew that she was a lesbian. Colleen Simon alleges in her lawsuit that she had told two priests at St. Francis Xavier Church that she was married to another woman and they had informed her that her sexual orientation would not be a problem. However, an April article in the Kansas City Star’s 816 news magazine mentioned her marriage to the Rev. Donna Simon of St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church. Within a month, Colleen Simon had been fired at Finn’s direction, she alleges. “Defendant Most Rev. Robert J. Finn … aided, abetted, incited and compelled the actions of the diocese, and participated in the ordering of her termination,” the suit alleges. She said the church fraudulently encouraged her to take the food pantry position at St. Francis Xavier in July 2013, knowing the diocese had no intention of keeping its commitments to her. “While I feel betrayed by the unjust action of the diocese, it is still my greatest desire to return to my position and to serve the parishioners and those at the margins in the surrounding community,” she said at a sidewalk news conference announcing the lawsuit at the Catholic Center downtown. In a written statement, the diocese declined to comment on the lawsuit’s specific allegations, noting that its lawyers had not yet seen the filing. The diocese hoped the suit could be resolved amicably but asserted its right to “live and operate according to our faith and Church teachings,” the statement said. “As needed, we will defend our constitutional freedom to practice our faith and uphold the integrity of our mission and public witness,” the statement read. Colleen Simon alleges in her lawsuit that she mentioned her sexual orientation to the priest at St. Francis Xavier during a job interview in May 2013. The priest purportedly “was nonplussed, and expressed no objection to Ms. Simon’s sexual orientation or her relationship with Donna,” the suit alleges. When another priest replaced that pastor months later, Colleen Simon said she notified him of her sexual orientation. Had he objected, she wanted to look for work elsewhere. Her health insurance needs, as a cancer survivor, were particularly pressing, she alleges. According to the suit, Simon purportedly told the priest in January: “I need to let you know that I’m a lesbian, I’m married. My wife is the pastor at St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church.” Simon alleges that the priest “looked surprised,” adding that, “He said, ‘Oh, OK. It’s OK.’” Simon alleges she was fired in May, about two weeks after the 816 article appeared. The lawsuit seeks unpaid wages and fringe benefits, compensation for emotional distress, punitive damages and attorney fees.

In Colorado, the Associated Press is reporting that a suburban Denver baker has appealed an order from the state Civil Rights Commission that requires him to prepare wedding cakes for gay couples. Jack Phillips on Wednesday asked the Court of Appeals to reverse the May ruling by the commission. Phillips was sued by a gay couple after he refused to make a cake to celebrate their marriage in 2012. Phillips has said he is deeply religious and that making the cake would violate the Christian principles by which he runs his Lakewood business, Masterpiece Cake Shop. An administrative law judge ruled against Phillips and the commission upheld that decision, finding that Phillips' refusal violated the state's public accommodation law that requires businesses to serve customers regardless of their sexual orientation. Phillips' attorneys argue that decision violates Phillips' First Amendment rights. The case is one of a handful in which private businesses were sued for refusing to serve gay couples getting married, and it helped spark controversial proposals in several states to let businesses refuse service based on owners' religious beliefs.

An update on a previous post: In Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reports that Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll is putting her money where her mouth is when it comes to her decision to terminate the city’s contract with Gordon College. The announcement came last week, after Gordon President Michael Lindsay joined other religious college leaders in signing a letter sent to Pres. Barack Obama that demanded exemptions from federal anti-gay discrimination regulations. Driscoll said local ordinances prohibited the city from working with “entities that maintain discriminatory practices.” Since then, the city has been inundated with “over 50” phone calls from locals and out-of-towners alike who are upset about the proposal, Driscoll wrote in a message to residents. “Apparently, Glenn Beck is not happy about the City’s stance terminating our contract with Gordon College,” Driscoll wrote in a post on her Facebook wall, noting that the decision had been covered by “right-leaning blogs and websites.” In response, Driscoll told constituents she would be donating $5 for each out-of-town phone call she receives in protest of the decision to the North Shore North Shore Alliance of Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth—and urged residents to join her. “I will be sharing this letter via social media and asking folks online to join in by making their own contributions,” Driscoll wrote in a letter to the organization’s president. “I hope these donations, made as a direct result of the persistence of those who would deny LGBT citizens their equal rights, will help you in growing and strengthening your organization.” So far, the post has received nearly 700 shares and 1,400 likes. Anyone interested in learning more about the group or participating in the fundraiser can check out their website.

In Maryland, the Baltimore Sun reports that friends say Mia Henderson had only recently moved back to Baltimore when she became the victim of a homicide this week in Northwest Baltimore. Henderson was found in a Hanlon-Longwood neighborhood alley early Wednesday, killed by "severe trauma," police said. Henderson's brother, Reggie Bullock, is a shooting guard for the Los Angeles Clippers, and her death became national and international news Thursday in part because of that connection. Police say the killing of Henderson, 26, a transgender woman, bears similarities to the killing of another transgender woman named Kandy Hall, 40, about a month ago in Northeast Baltimore. Both were found dead during the early morning, and detectives are trying to determine whether the crimes are connected. Henderson, who friends said spent years in Baltimore, moved back to the city about a month ago from North Carolina, where her family had roots, said James Burrell Jr. of Women Accepting Responsibility, which advocates for transgender women. Burrell said he'd met Henderson on a few occasions and has been in contact with her friends since her death. "Just a sweet girl," he said of Henderson, who was previously known as Kevin Long. "Kind of kept to herself. A little funny. A little comical. A nice girl." Bullock declined to comment through his agent but on Twitter on Thursday he thanked well-wishers for their texts and phone calls. As the Associated Press, ESPN, the Washington Post, Huffington Post and the Daily Mail began covering Henderson's death, many people took to social media outlets to raise awareness for LGBT crime victims. On Thursday, former Ravens linebacker and outspoken LGBT advocate Brendon Ayanbadejo also commented on Henderson's killing, writing on Twitter, "This is why we fight. Its so much bigger than 'gays in sports,' it really has nothing to do with that." Bullock, who is headed into his second season with the Clippers after being drafted last year, pledged his support for the LGBT community. In one exchange, someone under the handle @Miss_Star87 wrote, "R.I.P Mia Henderson (Kevin Long) another transgender woman killed. We as the LGBT community must stand up for our sister Mia. #JUSTICE." Bullock responded, "thanks a lot ... y'all community have my biggest support." Another user, @glampickman, responded, "sorry for your loss be brave and use your star power to help the gay and transgender people #nohate #gayrights #love." Bullock responded, "no doubt I'm pushing and supporting that community for life just because any person should be able to live there own life." Police took the rare step of holding a news conference Wednesday to ask the public for help in solving Henderson's slaying, which has concerned leaders of local LGBT advocacy groups who believe that transgender women are too often targeted by violence. Police said they investigate every homicide case with the same thoroughness. But some cases, such as Henderson's, benefit from publicity while others do not, they said. "The high-profile nature of it goes toward solving it," Baltimore police spokesperson Lt. Eric Kowalczyk said. "We need to make sure that the community understands that as a police department, we're going to do everything in our power to support them, listen to their concerns, meet with them, and at the same time ask for their assistance."

The New York Times reports Elaine Stritch, the brassy, tart-tongued Broadway actress and singer who became a living emblem of show business durability and perhaps the leading interpreter of Stephen Sondheim’s wryly acrid musings on aging, died on Thursday at her home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89. Her death was confirmed by a friend, Julie Keyes. Before Ms. Stritch moved to Birmingham last year to be near her family, she lived for many years at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. Ms. Stritch’s career began in the 1940s and spanned almost 70 years. She made her fair share of appearances in movies, including Woody Allen’s September (1987) and Small Time Crooks (2000), and on television; well into her 80s, she had a recurring role on the NBC comedy 30 Rock as the domineering mother of the television executive played by Alec Baldwin. But the stage was her true professional home. Whether in musicals, nonmusical dramas or solo cabaret shows, she drew audiences to her with her whiskey voice, her seen-it-all manner and the blunt charisma of a star. In April 2013, before she left the Carlyle, where she had often performed in its cabaret lounge, Café Carlyle, she gave one last show: Elaine Stritch at the Carlyle: Movin’ Over and Out. A documentary film, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, was released this year. Plain-spoken, egalitarian, impatient with fools and foolishness, and admittedly fond of cigarettes, alcohol and late nights — she finally gave up smoking and drinking in her 60s, after learning she had diabetes, though she returned to alcohol in her 80s — Ms. Stritch might be the only actor ever to work as a bartender after starring on Broadway, and she was completely unabashed about her good-time-girl attitude. “I’m not a bit opposed to your mentioning in this article that Frieda Fun here has had a reputation in the theater, for the past five or six years, for drinking,” she said to a reporter for the New York Times in 1968. “I drink, and I love to drink, and it’s part of my life.” In an interview this year in the New York Times Magazine, she said of her resumption of drinking: “I’m almost 89, I’m gonna have a drink a day or two. I know how to handle it, so there.” Most of the time she was equally unabashed onstage, rarely if ever leaving the sensually astringent elements of her personality behind when she performed. A highlight of her early stage career was the 1952 revival of Pal Joey, the Rodgers and Hart-John O’Hara musical, in which she played a shrewd, ambitious reporter recalling, in song, an interview with Gypsy Rose Lee; she drew bravas for her rendition of the striptease parody Zip. In a nonsinging role in William Inge’s 1955 drama, Bus Stop, she received a Tony nomination as the lonely but tough-talking owner of a Kansas roadside diner where a group of travelers takes refuge during a snowstorm. Three years later, in her first starring role on Broadway, Goldilocks, a musical comedy by Jean and Walter Kerr and the composer Leroy Anderson, she played a silent film star alongside Don Ameche and impressed the Times’s critic Brooks Atkinson. “Miss Stritch can destroy life throughout the country with the twist she gives to the dialogue,” he wrote. “She takes a wicked stance, purses her mouth thoughtfully and waits long enough to devastate the landscape.” Noël Coward, one of Ms. Stritch’s fans, built the 1961 musical Sail Away around her role as Mimi Paragon, the effervescent hostess of a cruise ship, and she repaid his trust not only by giving what Howard Taubman of the Times said “must be the performance of her career” (including a delicious rendition of Coward’s hilariously snooty Why Do the Wrong People Travel?) but also by successfully ad-libbing, on opening night, when a poodle in the cast betrayed its training onstage. The show was not a hit, but Ms. Stritch came away with her third Tony nomination. Her next Broadway role was in the replacement cast of Edward Albee’s scabrous portrait of a marriage, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, as Martha, the bitter, boozy wife. One of her memorable appearances was in the Stephen Sondheim musical Company(1970), in which, as a cynical society woman, she saluted her peers with the vodka-soaked anthem The Ladies Who Lunch. The performance brought her another Tony nomination, and the tune became her signature — at least until, in her 70s, she became known for Sondheim’s paean to showbiz longevity and survival, I’m Still Here. That song was the centerpiece of her 2001 one-woman show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, and she sang it in 2010 at Mr. Sondheim’s 80th-birthday concert at Lincoln Center and at the White House for President Obama. Essentially a spoken-and-sung theater memoir, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, created with the New Yorker critic John Lahr, began performances at the Public Theater in Manhattan when Ms. Stritch was 76 and then moved to Broadway, where it was a smash. Alone onstage except for a chair, clad only in tights and a white silk shirt, Ms. Stritch wove together music and showbiz memories into a tour de force that won a Tony Award for best special theatrical event. “I’m a do-it-yourself kind of broad,” Ms. Stritch told the Guardian in 2008, when she performed the show in London. It was an apt description of herself and the performance, which opened with her entering and declaring to the audience, “Well, as the prostitute once said, ‘It’s not the work, it’s the stairs.’" Born in Detroit on February 2, 1925, Ms. Stritch was the youngest of three daughters of George and Mildred Stritch. She went to a convent school but knew long before she graduated that she wanted a show business career. When she was 4, for example, her father, an executive at B. F. Goodrich, took her to see a touring production of The Ziegfeld Follies. They went backstage to meet the star, the comedian Bobby Clark, who was a friend of her father’s. “From that moment on,” she recalled, “I was hooked.” She was popular and seemingly carefree at school but struggled, she said, to overcome a deep-seated lack of confidence. By high school she had discovered that liquor helped mask her fears. After graduation she told her parents she wanted to go to New York to study acting. They said she could go only if she agreed to live in a Manhattan convent. In 1944, she took the train to New York, moved into her convent room on the East Side and enrolled at the New School for Social Research, where she studied acting with Erwin Piscator. According to a story she told in At Liberty, her classmate Marlon Brando stopped speaking to her after she declined his invitation to spend the night at his apartment. (Ms. Stritch, a Roman Catholic who said she was a virgin until she was 30, was no prude. Before she married in 1972, she was romantically linked with the actors Gig Young and Ben Gazzara and the restaurateur Joe Allen.) She made her New York stage debut in a children’s play, Bobino. In 1947, she opened on Broadway in a musical revue, Angel in the Wings, in which she sang Civilization, a satirical number expressing an African’s thoughts about frightful aspects of modern life, including the lament: “Bongo bongo bongo, I don’t want to leave the Congo.” In a short time she established herself as a promising actress who could also hurl a song lyric to the far reaches of the balcony. In 1950 she won the job of understudy to Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam. Merman stayed healthy, and Ms. Stritch never got to perform the role on Broadway, although she did star in the touring company. Then came Pal Joey. She did some television work as well, live dramas as well as series like “My Sister Eileen” and “Wagon Train.” She almost landed the role of Trixie Norton on The Honeymooners, with Jackie Gleason, Art Carney and Audrey Meadows, but the part finally went to Joyce Randolph. Gleason, she explained, thought she was too much like him. Ms. Stritch made her London stage debut in “Sail Away” in 1962, and appeared there again in 1972 in “Company.” Remaining in London, she met the American actor John Bay during rehearsals for a production of Tennessee Williams’s “Small Craft Warnings” and married him. In Britain, she won a wide following in stagings of American plays and as co-star of the television comedy series “Two’s Company,” in which she played a prickly American writer working at an English estate. Ms. Stritch and her husband moved back to the United States in 1982, and he shortly died of a brain tumor. They had no children. Ms. Stritch is to be buried near him in Chicago. She is survived by many nieces and nephews. n the mid-1980s, Woody Allen, dissatisfied with his film September, decided to reshoot it. Ms. Stritch accepted the part originally played by Maureen O’Sullivan while recuperating from surgery to have polyps removed from her vocal cords. She played the hard-drinking survivor of a roller-coaster life, a former glamour girl whose daughter, played by Mia Farrow, is both angry and depressed. Her performance initiated a fecund period of movie work. Her other films included Cocoon: The Return (1988), which reunited her with Ameche; Cadillac Man (1990), with Robin Williams; Autumn in New York (2000), a May-December romance starring Richard Gere and Winona Ryder; and Monster-in-Law (2005), in which, as Jane Fonda’s mother-in-law, she delivers a blistering put-down: “You were a television weather woman from Dubuque, Mont. You drove around in a broken-down minivan, and you drank red wine — from a box!” She also made guest appearances on television, on The Cosby Show, Head of the Class, Law & Order, Oz and 3rd Rock from the Sun. Back on Broadway, she joined Harold Prince’s 1994 revival of the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II musical Show Boat. Ms. Stritch played Parthy, the nagging wife of the showboat’s Cap’n Andy. She went on to earn another Tony nomination in the Lincoln Center Theater’s 1996 revival of A Delicate Balance, Edward Albee’s ferocious dark comedy about an upper-class household in distress. She played the witty, bellicose houseguest of her sister (Rosemary Harris) and brother-in-law (George Grizzard). When Elaine Stritch at Liberty was broadcast on HBO in 2004, Ms. Stritch added an Emmy to her collection of awards, but that was far from her final triumph. She also created a series of solo cabaret shows for Café Carlyle, including one that was a tribute to Sondheim. “The blazingly here-and-now Ms. Stritch gives the word ‘trouper,’ a term of respect for stars who have trod the boards for decades, an almost mythological dimension,” Stephen Holden of the Times wrote in a review. In May 2008, in a surprising change of pace, she appeared in a production of Endgame, Samuel Beckett’s grim comedy about mortality, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. As inhabitants of a bleak netherworld, she and her onstage husband (Alvin Epstein) lived in oversize garbage cans. Ms. Stritch performed at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, in June 2009 in a production of The Full Monty, based on the 1997 British film comedy about a group of unemployed steelworkers who decide to perform as male strippers. Ms. Stritch, who played the group’s rehearsal pianist, said in an interview that she was “happy to be doing something that wasn’t all about me.” She made her final Broadway appearance in 2010, replacing Angela Lansbury as the aging Madame Armfeldt in a Broadway revival of A Little Night Music. It was a role that allowed her to sing once more of Mr. Sondheim’s rueful, mortality-defying musical meditations, Liaisons, an aching paean to love affairs past, and she brought to it an original and rather stinging bitterness about a life that is nearly over. In At Liberty, Ms. Stritch earned one of her biggest laughs with a story about a long night of drinking with a friend. The story was ostensibly about the friend — Judy Garland — but it was self-reflective, too. Along about breakfast time, Ms. Stritch recalled, Garland turned to her. “Elaine, I never thought I’d say this,” Garland said, “but good night.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that CBS already has The Millers, but this fall it will shake things up with The McCarthys, a multi-camera sitcom about a sports-mad Boston family. At the center of the series is Ronny (Tyler Ritter), the baby of the family, who is not only uninterested in sports but also is gay. In a refreshing twist, it's the former trait that truly puts him at odds with his siblings and parents. As for his sexuality, Ronny's family has embraced that -- mostly. The McCarthys, which began at the network as a single-camera pilot and was repurposed to its current format, is based loosely on the experiences of creator and former Happy Endings writer Brian Gallivan, a gay, sports-averse Boston native. The pilot plays the culture clash between Ronny and his family for laughs, and when asked, Gallivan indicated he does not plan to tackle more serious social issues in the future. "I think it’s probably going to be pretty light; probably my life is just always fun as a gay man," he said. The distinct character of Beantown is also a big part of the series, which stars several actors who hail from the city. Jimmy Dunn, who plays big brother Sean, once worked at Fenway Park. "When somebody from Boston doesn’t know how the Red Sox did last night, that’s really strange to me," he said. There's also former New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre as Gerard, yet another McCarthy brother. (Incidentally, this makes McIntyre the second New Kid with a show on CBS, after Blue Bloods star Donnie Wahlberg.) "I think Boston is a great town," McIntyre said. "They get behind their own people, and they cheer for them like you’ve never experienced, until you get too big. And they take you out at the knees, and they make sure you remember where you came from.... It’s a very working-class kind of a town, but, of course, filled with amazing colleges and intellectuals. And it’s a world-class city with a small-town feel. And Joe Perry said that, from Aerosmith." Onetime heartthrob McIntyre also brings a certain something to the series. As Jack McGee, who stars as family patriarch Arthur, put it, "As long as Joey McIntyre is there, I think we’ll be fine with the crowds coming in to watch him.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Owed In Large Part To 11-Year-Old Tracey Wilson Vancouver Catholic Schools First In Canada To Adopt Policy Protecting Rights Of Transgender Students, Macedonia Parliament Considers Constitutional Amendment To Prohibit Same Sex Marriage, Australia Rugby Club Denies Claims It Banished Former Player Jay Claydon Because He Is Gay, Connecticut Supreme Court Rules For Lesbian Seeking Medical Malpractice Damages That Led To Partner's Death Despite The Two Not Being Legally Married At The Time, Utah Seeks Emergency Order From U.S, Supreme Court Preventing State From Recognizing Thousands Of Same Sex Marriages, Attorneys Representing Two Same Sex Couples Ask Federal Court To Strike Down Arkansas Constitutional Amendment Barring Gay Marriage, Despite Lurid Predictions By Opponents Hillsborough County Florida Pass Local Law Banning Any Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity, Oregon-Based Nonprofit Supporting Immigrant Workers Loses Grant From Roman Catholic Organization Over Its Support Of Same Sex Marriage

In British Columbia, an 11-year-old student has persuaded the Archdiocese of Vancouver to challenge the teachings of the church with an elementary-school policy that supports her right not to be forced to use the boys’ washroom. The Globe and Mail reports that in a resolution to a human-rights case filed on behalf of Tracey Wilson – who was born a boy, Trey, and now lives as a girl – the Archdiocese of Vancouver on Wednesday announced it would accommodate elementary students’ gender expression. That made it the first Catholic school district in Canada to develop such a policy and bypassed – at least for now – the public uproar that accompanied a similar initiative the Vancouver School Board approved in June. “What I went through was very painful and very hurtful and a lot of time I felt like I was alone,” Tracey said on Wednesday. “I just don’t want anyone else to feel that way.” The new Catholic policy puts students’ safety and acceptance ahead of Catholic teaching, which – according to the policy, posted online Wednesday – “teaches that gender is given by God and that the body reveals the divine plan. As such, humans are not free to choose or change their sexual identity.” Nonetheless, the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese (CISVA) has approved a policy designed to provide an environment where children like Tracey can change their names, the way they dress or which bathroom they use without running afoul of school policies or officials. The policy will be a “practical basis” for accommodating students with gender dysphoria or who express their gender in ways that are different from prevailing stereotypes, CISVA superintendent Doug Lauson said in a statement. Public school boards in other jurisidictions, including Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver, have developed policies to accommodate transgendered students. Vancouver approved its policy – an update of one first introduced in 2004 – in June, following months of heated debate over issues such as gender-neutral washrooms and student confidentiality. The Archdiocese of Vancouver developed its policy after Tracey filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal because her school did not accommodate her request to be treated as a girl. That complaint was resolved Wednesday when CISVA approved its new policy. CIVSA also paid an undisclosed sum to the family as part of the settlement. The impetus of the agreement dates to 2012, when after months of counselling and medical advice, the family concluded Tracey would be happiest and healthiest if she lived as a girl. Tracey’s mother, Michelle Wilson, and her husband had started looking into transgender issues years before in a quest to better understand their child, the eldest of three. But when it was time for Tracey to go back to school in the fall, school wasn’t ready for her. “The school didn’t have a policy in place and quite frankly, didn’t know what to do with us,” Ms. Wilson said. In some activities outside school, such as dance, Tracey was participating as a girl. While at school, she was expected to be a boy. She became anxious and depressed and her parents pulled her out of school. She now attends a public school in Ladner, British Columbia. The family filed a human-rights complaint and has spent the past few months working with lawyers and CISVA to develop the new policy for the Archdiocese. “If it would have been just Tracey, we would have moved on and not looked back,” Ms. Wilson said. “But it was important for us to make it that no other family or child would have to go through that.” The Archdiocese says Tracey’s request for accommodation was a new issue for the CISVA and that its new policy will ensure her experience is not repeated. The new policy of the Archdiocese was announced with a press release. By contrast, the Vancouver School Board’s policy was approved following months of discussions and several public meetings. Days before a scheduled vote on that policy, two school board trustees convened a news conference to highlight purported concerns that the policy could result in declining student enrolment. The trustees were subsequently expelled from the caucus of the Non-Partisan Association, a civic party. About 14,000 students are enrolled in CISVA’s 49 schools, which include elementary and secondary schools.

In Macedonia, the parliament has agreed to consider proposed constitutional amendments to effectively ban gay marriage and impose limits on public debt. According to the Associated Press, lawmakers agreed Wednesday to begin the amendment process proposed by the governing conservatives, who with their political allies already have the two-thirds majority of seats needed to approve the changes after winning a landslide election victory in April. The amendments would define marriage exclusively as a heterosexual union, limit the national debt to 60 percent of gross domestic product and limit the country's annual budget deficit to 3-percent. A spokesperson for the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party in parliament said the amendment was aimed at "protecting traditional, family and religious values of marriage."

In Australia, a Canterbury rugby club has refuted a reported claim from a gay former player that he was banished from the club because of his sexuality. Jay Claydon, who is now based in Sydney, went public with the claim in Fairfax Media news outlets on Wednesday. He said at 18, he had told close friends and family he was gay. They accepted him. But inside his rugby club, he did not feel safe coming out. "At training one night, people were looking at me funny. Somehow they'd found out. "On the Friday night, I got a call from my coach saying the players had taken a vote at a meeting behind my back and they weren't comfortable having me in the team any more. He said, 'they don't want you to come back." Claydon did not name the club in the article. He was unavailable for further comment yesterday. But Kaiapoi and Belfast – the two clubs he played for in Canterbury at senior level in 2006 and 2007 – both insisted he was not asked to leave because of homophobia. Fairfax Media understands Claydon was voted out of the Kaiapoi team – his hometown club. But Kaiapoi club officials, who declined to be named, were adamant that decision was not related to his sexuality. Sources close to his family also backed up the club's assertion. Claydon – known in Kaiapoi as Jeremy Claydon – was a promising rugby player who represented the South Island at junior age-group level in 2004. He was selected for the Kaiapoi senior team while he was still at secondary school and helped them win the North Canterbury championship in 2006. He was also a North Canterbury senior representative that season. But he left the club the following year and joined Belfast. Former Belfast coach Don Fisher said Claydon "certainly wasn't barred from our club". "We had no issues with him and he was a valued member of our club." The Fairfax Media article which ran on Wednesday stated a new study had revealed 85-percent of gay athletes had experienced or witnessed homophobic abuse. In the largest survey of its kind, Out on the Fields paints a picture of a national sporting environment openly hostile to gay and lesbian participants, with half reporting they have been the direct target of verbal threats, bullying, violence or exclusion from sport. Of those who said they had been targeted, 13-percent suffered physical assaults. Claydon said he discovered when he moved to Australia in 2008, playing semi-professional rugby at inside-centre for Gordon, that homophobic slurs were an accepted part of sporting culture. At the clubs he played for in Perth and Sydney, he felt compelled to keep his sexuality secret for fear of being ostracized. Like many who responded to the survey – commissioned by organisers of the Bingham Cup, the gay rugby World Cup, to be held in Sydney next month – it forced him from the game he loved. It was only last year when he joined the Sydney Convicts, Australia's first gay rugby union club, he found a team where he was free to be himself. "It's such a stereotype, but at most clubs they see a gay guy and think you can't be sporty or masculine," he said. "They think that you're weak or you're not as tough as them. Even when they didn't know I was gay I'd hear the word 'faggot' all the time."

In Connecticut, the state's high court ruled in favor of a gay woman Wednesday, saying she was within her rights to seek damages for the medical malpractice that led to her partner's death from cancer, even though the couple wasn't legally joined at the time of the mistaken diagnosis. The Supreme Court reversed an Appellate Court judgment against Charlotte Stacey. The lower court had ruled that she wasn't entitled to compensation for "loss of consortium," or serious disruption of a relationship. Her partner, Margaret Mueller, sued her oncologists in January 2006, saying they treated her for years for the wrong form of cancer. The suit included a claim for damages on behalf of Stacey, Mueller's longtime partner. The two, who joined in a civil union in November 2005, are believed to be the first same sex couple to seek damages for loss of consortium in a malpractice suit. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman applauded the ruling in a written statement, with Malloy saying, "Once again, Connecticut is leading the nation in recognizing the rights of LGBT Americans, who for too long were denied the marriage rights afforded to other couples. The Supreme Court today took another step forward to ensure equality." In 2008, a Superior Court judge threw out Stacey's claims, ruling that while Mueller and Stacey had been partners for more than 20 years, they were not legally joined at the time of the malpractice. Mueller died in January 2009. The suit, brought by Joshua Koskoff of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder in Bridgeport, went to trial on the malpractice claims, and a Stamford jury found damages of $2.45 million in July 2010. Before the trial, one defendant, Dr. Isidore Tepler, settled for an undisclosed sum. A second doctor, Iris Wertheim, was found 55 percent liable, amounting to about $1.35 million, The Courant previously reported. Wertheim is the defendant in Wednesday's decision, which in addition to reversing the Appellate Court's ruling directs the court to remand the case to the trial court. It also directs the trial court to allow Stacey to amend her complaint by showing that she and Mueller would have been married or in a civil union when the malpractice occurred, had it been legal.

In Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that the state asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to issue an emergency order that would prevent the state from recognizing the marriages of thousands of gay and lesbian Utahns, because the state believes it will ultimately prevail in its fight to revive a ban on such unions. If the high court declines to intervene, more than 1,000 same-sex marriages performed in Utah during a brief window when such unions were legal will be eligible for spousal benefits at 8:00 am Monday. Time, the state wrote, is of the essence. In an emergency application filed with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who oversees the federal court circuit of which Utah is a part, the state asserted Wednesday that allowing same sex couples to apply for spousal benefits "would ‘create chaos’ and ... deprive public officials (and the governments they represent) of their own due-process rights to effective appellate review." This emergency filing comes as a response to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denial of Utah’s same request. The appeals court last week refused to issue an indefinite stay in the case, which would have effectively put off an order from U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball that Utah recognize those marriages. A panel of three judges — the same panel which upheld another federal judge’s ruling that invalidated Utah’s ban on same sex marriage because he found it violates citizens’ Fourteenth Amendment rights — declared Utah failed to prove it would suffer irreparable harm in recognizing the marriages and didn’t demonstrate that the state is likely to prevail in its appeal. One appeals judge, Judge Paul J. Kelly, wrote a dissent, backing the state’s right to judicial resolution and arguing that allowing gay and lesbian couples’ marriages to be imbued with rights would undermine the appeals process. In its filing Wednesday, the state quoted liberally from Kelly’s dissent. If Sotomayor refuses to intervene, the state wrote, it will seek relief from the full U.S. Supreme Court.

In Arkansas, the Associated Press reports attorneys for two same sex couples in Arkansas are asking a federal judge to issue an order striking down the state's gay marriage ban. Attorneys for the couples filed a motion Wednesday for summary judgment, asking U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to issue an order striking down the state constitutional amendment barring same sex marriage and any related laws as unconstitutional. The couples filed the lawsuit last year against the state over the ban. A Pulaski County judge earlier this year struck down the state's gay marriage ban, and 541 couples received marriage licenses before the state Supreme Court stayed his ruling. Justices are considering the appeal in that case.

In Florida, the Tampa Bay Time reports that in many ways, it was a replay of a scene that had happened before. Religious people, some of them holding Bibles, some quoting from them, warning Hillsborough County commissioners what would happen if they outlaw discrimination against gay and transgender people. The dissolving of religious liberty in America. Founding Fathers rolling in their graves. The wrath of a vengeful God. This year, though, the scene ended differently: These people were outnumbered, and they left disappointed. Hillsborough County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to move forward with a local law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The vote is another in a series of events in the last year marking a shift for this formerly staunchly conservative commission. Wednesday's vote did not make it illegal to discriminate against gay and transgender people in Hillsborough in hiring, housing or public accommodations. Commissioners asked the county attorney to write a draft ordinance that would, and two commissioners remained silent on the issue, which will probably not come back for a vote until fall. But if Republican Commissioners Ken Hagan or Al Higginbotham intend to vote no, they will have to do so in the face of an array of supporters marshalled by Commissioner Kevin Beckner, Hillsborough's first openly gay commissioner, who proposed Wednesday's discussion. Gary Sasso, president of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt law firm in Tampa, spoke in favor of the law, and brought letters signed by leaders of dozens of local businesses echoing support. Among them: Tampa General Hospital, Wells Fargo, Regions Bank, Bank of America, the University of South Florida, the Buccaneers, the Rays, the Lightning, the members of the Westshore Alliance, the Tampa Downtown Partnership and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Beckner, one of two Democrats on the board, opened the discussion theatrically. He described childhood memories of flag-waving, fireworks and apple pie on the Fourth of July, then quoted from the Declaration of Independence. "That freedom is not free and, for some, not equal," Beckner said. "In 2014, no hard-working American trying to earn a living … should have to live in fear of being fired … for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance." Discrimination against gays used to be illegal in Hillsborough, but transgender people — who live as a different gender than the one assigned at birth — have never had such protections. In 1991, commissioners adopted a human rights ordinance that included sexual orientation, but in 1995 commissioners reversed course and repealed the part barring discrimination against gays. In the years since, dozens of cities, counties and states have adopted similar laws preventing discrimination against LGBT residents, including Tampa and Pinellas County. Hillsborough, meanwhile, developed a reputation that Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith termed "screechingly homophobic" for the 1995 repeal and 2005 commission vote to ban county recognition of gay pride events. Two commissioners remain from the 2005 vote. Chairman Mark Sharpe reversed his vote last year when Beckner successfully pushed to repeal the gay pride ban. Wednesday, Sharpe said he supported expanding the county's human rights ordinance. Hagan, who was out of the room during the gay pride vote, did not take a side Wednesday, nor did Commissioner Al Higginbotham, who is running for a new term this year. Commissioners Victor Crist, Les Miller and Sandy Murman all expressed support. More than 20 people spoke during public comment about the proposed law, about one-third opposed. "God does not change," said Travis Smith, pastor of Hillsdale Baptist Church in Tampa. "Leviticus 18:22 still says homosexuality is an abomination." Terry Kemple, a socially conservative activist and candidate for the Hillsborough School Board, said "If you pass this measure, it will discriminate against Christians and other people of faith." The discussion, though passionate, was respectful. No one shouted and, unlike in years past, guns and knives were not confiscated from the crowd. Beckner said after the meeting he hoped the ordinance would be ready for a vote by September. Although its passage is not guaranteed, five of seven commissioners have now expressed support. In a sign even county staff views it a forgone conclusion, Hillsborough's communications department sent out a news release Wednesday, touting the economic development benefits of the new human rights ordinance. Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) a former Hillsborough commissioner, also released a statement congratulating Beckner. Castor was the lone vote against the gay pride ban in 2005, and the same year unsuccessfully tried to expand the human rights ordinance to prohibit discrimination against gay people. "This discriminatory policy was a dark cloud over our community," Castor wrote, "but we turned the page."

In Oregon, a nonprofit that works on behalf of immigrant workers said Tuesday it refused to cut ties to another Latino group that supports same sex marriage, cost it a $75,000 grant from a Roman Catholic organization. The Voz Workers' Rights Education Project, a Northeast Portland group that connects Latino immigrants with jobs, said it was a finalist for a top grant from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. But last month, the group said, the conference told it to sever ties with the National Council of La Raza, one of the nation's leading Latino rights groups, because the council advocates same sex marriage. "Our board felt like what they were asking us to do was take a position on marriage equality," said Ranfis Villatoro, Voz's development director. Voz has never taken a public stance on the issue, he said, although it does offer services to gay and lesbian couples. Therefore, the board voted last month to reject the grant. The grant would have been a significant chunk of the nonprofit's $310,000 annual budget. "By making this decision, we run the risk of decreasing staff size and decreasing hours," Villatoro said. The group mostly helps male Latino immigrants who are struggling to find work in Portland, Villatoro said, including some who are undocumented or have criminal backgrounds. An official in the Conference of Catholic Bishops' Washington, D.C., office who said his name was Tony but declined to spell his last name, said he didn't have enough information to comment. Calls to the local office in Portland were not returned as of Tuesday evening. The Catholic group is a leading proponent of national immigration reform and has urged Congress to adopt a new legal path to citizenship. Most recently, the group has called on President Barack Obama to allow a flood of unaccompanied minors to remain in the U.S. Aside from same sex marriage, La Raza has many of the same beliefs. The group routinely lobbies for a variety of national issues, including comprehensive immigration reform. La Raza announced its support for same sex marriage in 2012, around the same time as Obama and the NAACP. On the local level, it provides training and resources for nonprofits to help Latino immigrants. "They're kind of multifaceted, technical assistants if you will," said Victor Merced, executive director of Hacienda, a Northeast Portland-based nonprofit that helps provide housing for low-income Latino families. "They're very powerful." Hacienda also receives grant money from the Catholic Bishops group, Merced said, and leaders from the local chapter recently questioned him on Hacienda's relationship with La Raza. Once he explained that La Raza does not require affiliates to agree with its political ideology, the questions stopped. Leaders from the local chapter seemed embarrassed that they had to ask in the first place, he said. Voz, on the other hand, was dealing with leaders at the national level. Voz planned to hold a news conference at its work center on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on Wednesday with leaders of Oregon AFL-CIO, Basic Rights Oregon and other civil and immigrant rights' groups who have come out in support of Voz. "They have made a really tough decision to uphold their values of justice and equality," said Jeana Frazzini, the executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. So far, Basic Rights has received nearly $10,000 in pledges from LGBT groups to support Voz. "We're very concerned," said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain. "That work center is about some of the lowest-paid workers in the state that, for a number of reasons, can be taken advantage of." Voz, founded in 2000, has received two grants from the Catholic organization before. It was unclear what led to the conference's decision. "I just don't see how this litmus test is going to be helpful going forward," Merced said. "It's just kind of ridiculous."