Saturday, June 8, 2013

Pocatello Idaho Passes Revised Anti-Discrimination Ordinance To Include Protections For Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity, Ballot Measure To Repeal Michigan Constitutional Amendment Banning Same Sex Marriage Likely In 2016, First Gay Couple Married In Michigan By Little Traverse Bay Bands Of Odawa Indians Invited To White House LGBT Reception, Thousands Including Out NBA Player Jason Collins And U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy Participate In Boston Pride, Washington D.C. Pride Includes Contingent From National Cathedral, Patrick Schwarzenegger Shirtless Post-Workout

In Idaho, after much debate, the City of Pocatello passed a revised version of its anti-discrimination ordinance Thursday. The City Council voted 4-2 in favor and only after an amendment was made to the draft. The meeting lasted more than six hours, with five and a half being spent discussing the ordinance, reports Local News 8. The ordinance, which seeks to protect the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, had failed in a previous version in April. The version that passed Thursday has several changes. The so-called "ID to pee" section, which stated the gender on a state-issued ID card, would decide what restroom a person could use, was removed. The small business exception was also removed. That would have exempted a business with five or fewer employees from the ordinance. That removal came after a citizen pointed out almost 40-percent of Pocatello businesses has five or fewer employees. "It's something we can be proud of in Pocatello,” said City Councilwoman Eva Johnson Nye. “I think we made some good decisions tonight. It was a long time getting there, but we did the right thing. And we have citizens protected now, and that's a good thing." The ordinance will take effect next week.

In Michigan, with recent polls suggesting that more than half of voters supporting a repeal of the state’s gay marriage ban, advocates say it's not a matter of if — but when — same sex marriage is legal in the state. How soon? According to the Associated Press, gay rights activists plan a 2016 ballot drive to overturn the 2004 constitutional ban approved by voters. Democratic senators last week introduced legislation to put the gay marriage question to voters in 2014, but odds of it passing a Republican-controlled Legislature are slim. "We want to go to the ballot, win and make it a sustainable win that is an indication of a climate change in Michigan," said Emily Dievendorf, managing director of Equality Michigan, a statewide gay rights organization. She estimated needing to raise $12 million for a ballot initiative in 2016, a presidential election year when the cause could be helped by higher Democratic voter turnout, particularly among young voters. The time until then will be used to raise funds for the signature gathering, push passage of bills prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians — supported by nearly seven in 10 voters — and educate the public. Same sex marriage is now legal in 12 states. Each of them previously allowed same sex couples to jointly adopt children and included protections for gays and lesbians in anti-discrimination laws, measures not on the books in Michigan, Dievendorf said. "This is going to be an extensive effort," she said. "Michigan is still way behind in those areas." The state's gay marriage ban also prohibits civil unions and led public employers to rewrite policies to continue providing health insurance and other benefits to the domestic partners of gay employees. While the 2004 measure received 58-percent support 8 ½ years ago, a poll released last month indicates a significant shift in the public's mood. 55-percent of likely voters said they would vote to amend the state constitution to allow same sex marriage, according to poll from EPIC-MRA in Lansing. Forty-one percent were against with 4-percent undecided. The conventional wisdom is that ballot proposals typically need at least 60-percent backing in the months before the vote, in part because it's easier to urge a no vote. Gary Glenn, co-author of the state's 2004 ban and president of the American Family Association of Michigan, said he is convinced voters would retain the law limiting marriage to one man and one woman. He promised to defend the measure. "You can count us among those who simply do not believe that everybody everywhere all of a sudden has changed their mind on this issue," Glenn said. "We think these polls are simply a reflection of an echo chamber, a Hollywood and mainstream media culture that tells everybody that everybody everywhere suddenly overnight now supports so-called homosexual marriage. We simply don't believe it." Some people responding to polls "prefer not to be seen as out of what the media is telling them is the mainstream," he said, but vote the opposite in the privacy of a voting booth. With the U.S. Supreme Court expected to rule this month in two same-sex marriage cases, Senate Democrats said it was the time to propose their legislation. They know it is a longshot getting two-thirds backing in the House and Senate this two-year session yet want to be ready for what the high court decides and keep the issue alive. Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, has avoided taking a position on gay marriage. "It might be time to have citizens help us put this back on the ballot in front of our community, in front of the voters of the state," said bill sponsor Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor). "What's exciting is we have several different tools in our toolbox right now, a lot of different ways we can get at making this change in Michigan. The legislative remedy is just one of them." A federal judge is waiting to rule on the constitutionality of Michigan's gay marriage ban until seeing how the nation's highest court handles cases involving a gay marriage ban in California as well as the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The state case involves two Detroit-area nurses, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, who are challenging a law that prohibits them from jointly adopting children because they're not married. "I think the residents of Michigan are ready to overturn this," DeBoer, 42, said of the same-sex marriage ban. She said as more gays and lesbians come out of the closet and get engaged, their friends, families and co-workers are seeing the unfairness of their plight, adding that, "It's an archaic law that really bans equal rights for people.”

Twenty years ago, Gene Barfield marched on the White House and returned his service medals from his time in the U.S. Navy in protest of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Next week, Barfield and his husband, Tim LaCroix, will be going back to the White House, this time as guests of the President for a reception honoring LGBT Pride Month, reports MLive.com. "So now we"re going to have cookies and milk with the chief executive?" Barfield said on Friday. "To be invited to the White House just blows us away." Barfield and LaCroix were the first gay couple married within the geographic boundaries of the Michigan peninsulas. President Barack Obama invited the couple to an LGBT Pride Month reception on Thursday at the White House. Barfield and LaCroix, who have been together for 30 years, were married in March by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians reservation near Harbor Springs in March. While the marriage is not recognized by Michigan, it is the first gay marriage to be performed in Michigan. The Band of Odawa Indians was the third tribe in the nation — and the first in Michigan — to pass laws accepting marriage for gay couples. When Barfield and LaCroix received the invitation last week in the mail, they were shocked. They were supposed to be in Sacramento next week but canceled to the trip so they could go to the White House. Barfield said he didn't think he would live to see the day when Don't Ask Don't Tell would be repealed. And to meet the President that helped lead the repeal? "We're always going to be in shock about this," Barfield said. “The fact that there is going to be an LGBT celebration at the White House, times change, times change."

In Massachusetts, thousands marched in the annual Boston Pride parade Saturday to show their support for the gay community. Attendees included local lawmakers, members of the Boston police department, and NBA veteran Jason Collins. Collins walked alongside his one-time roommate at Stamford University, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III. Collins wore a tee shirt that read #BeTrue. In April, Collins became the first active player in one of the four major U.S. professional sports leagues to come out as gay. He wrote in a story posted on the Sports Illustrated website that the decision to go public came when Kennedy, now a Democratic congressman, marched in last year's parade and Collins didn't feel that he could join him. Collins also said the Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that things can change in an instant, so he might as well live truthfully. Former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, who represented Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District before Kennedy, also marched in the parade. Frank was the first sitting member of Congress to enter into a same sex marriage. The parade's grand marshal, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, did not march because he is recovering from prostate surgery. Still, he came out of the city-owned house to greet Collins, Kennedy and other marchers as they passed by. This year's parade, which carried the theme "Moving Forward… Proud, Strong, United," comes just weeks before the Supreme Court will determine whether or not the Defense of Marriage Act is Constitutional. The law prevents same sex couples from getting the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

In Washington, D.C., Gary Hall’s pressed blue dress shirt and white clerical collar wasn’t the most head-turning look in a crowd that featured a lot of drag queens with towering bouffants, but his presence in Saturday’s gay pride parade through the district was still a stunner for some. The Post reports that The Very Rev. Gary Hall, as he is formally known, led the first ever official contingent from Washington National Cathedral in the annual celebration of gay life in the District. “I won’t be walking bare-chested. I’m kind of a reserved person,” Hall said with a laugh before setting out from the staging area just west of Dupont Circle. “But if my being seen in the parade is a visible sign that God loves and accepts people across the full spectrum of human sexuality, it will have achieved its purpose.” Hall’s attendance is only the latest public embrace of gay equality by mainstream Protestant denominations, and by the National Cathedral in particular. Under Hall’s leadership — he was named dean less than a year ago — the church has launched an LGBT ministry group and announced that it would begin hosting same-sex marriage ceremonies in the Gothic edifice famous for society weddings and presidential funerals. But the cathedral was one of more than a dozen faith-based institutions represented in the parade for the first time this year, a sign of the continuing evolution of the parade itself, which was once known for its shock factor. Near nudity, displays of affection that left little to the imagination and Speedos that left even less have given way, in part, to lots of hand-holding, the Geico lizard and tee shirted groups from Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian congregations around the region. (But still, a lot of Speedos.) “It means so much to me to see all these straight people from church out here showing us love,” said Christopher Terry, 24, wearing a “Stop H8” T-shirt as marchers from Twinbrook Baptist filed by. “In D.C. now, a large proportion of people who come out to watch and enjoy the parade would not even identify as gay,” said Ryan Bos, executive director of Capital Pride, the organizer of the event. “It’s just a fun time.” Pixie Windsor has watched the growth of the parade since she arrived in Washington in 1985 from Cambridge, Maryland. She has attended most years and marched several times, including last year when she rode a vintage bicycle. “In the ’80s it was really crazy,” Windsor said, adding, “Drunken debauchery; kind of crazy.” This year, the parade has expanded, literally, to her front door. The newly extended route takes marchers an additional four blocks up 14th Street directly in front of the shop that she has owned for five years, Miss Pixie’s Furnishings and Whatnot. Like many storefronts along the 19-block route — which wound around Dupont Circle, New Hampshire Avenue, and 17th and P streets — Windsor’s front windows were decked with hanging rainbows and, in her case, spray-painted Peeps. She planned to close at 5:00 pm so employees could mount newly built Mardi Gras-style ladder chairs along front windows and watch the cavalcade of feather boas and the occasional Episcopal priests. It just seems to get bigger and more inclusive every year,” said Windsor, who remembers some of the early parades as more outrageous but less well attended. “The drag queens and the Dykes on Bikes are still really crazy; it’s still a lot of fun. But it’s a little more serious somehow.” The parade was also the unofficial launch of the mayoral campaign season. Candidates Muriel Bowser, Tommy Wells and Jack Evans each led dozens-strong coteries of supporters. And the council’s openly gay members marveled at how the parade had changed. “I never thought we would be so normal,” said Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), a council member since 1999. “It was a very different environment 25 years ago,” said David A. Catania (I-At Large), who became the council’s first openly gay member in 1997. He recalled topless women on bicycles and more overt sexuality in an era when gay culture was further out of the mainstream. “Now it’s really a family affair,” he said, “and I like it.” Standing on the steps of the Dupont Circle fountain, park ranger Natasha Arnold, in uniform and wearing an equality pin, gave a talk to the parade crowd about the neighborhood’s history as a center of gay life in Washington, a first this year. Not everyone was glad to see the increased presence of church groups walking in the lineup. “The modern-day churches are talking the word of God and walking all over it,” said a man from McLean Bible Church who was debating with parade-goers. He spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely about a controversial subject. “It’s not about me, it’s about Jesus.” Hall and the more than 30 church staffers and congregation members walked behind a National Cathedral banner. They seemed unfazed by the more exuberant displays of sexual identity marching around them, which included Mr. D.C. Eagle (who was wearing a black-leather kilt and little else) and a dancing troop of cross-dressers. Hall is a veteran of Gay Pride events in Los Angeles, where he worked before coming to Washington, and he once lived in one of the most established gay districts in the country, San Francisco’s Castro. “I was probably the only straight guy in the neighborhood,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll get some angry letters for participating in something this flamboyant. But you know, I think the flamboyance might actually loosen up some uptight people.” Mr. D.C. Eagle, Nigel Williams, marveled at the growth in religious groups. “I think it’s wonderful,” he said as he prepared to climb up on his flatbed. “We’re proud to walk with them.”

Friday, Patrick Schwarzenegger posted a picture post-workout to his Twitter, the shirtless Schwarzenegger a Calvin Klein underwear fan.

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