October 2008 Archives

October 30, 2008

Anti-Gay Laws on Ballot in Four States

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California's Proposition 8, which would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, has been getting national press for weeks. That's probably because it's the first such law that would actually take away existing marriage equality, as well as because campaigns on both sides are spending unprecedented amounts of money to get their message out.

But anti-gay laws are on the ballots in three other states as well.  

Florida's Amendment 2 would not only affirm the state's ban on same-sex marriages -- the constitutional amendment states that "no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized." This means that couples married in California, Connecticut, or Massachusetts, or legally joined in a domestic partnership or civil union in another state, would not be considered legal spouses or partners in Florida. The good news is that unlike Prop 8 in California, which would pass with a simple majority, Florida requires 60% of voters to approve Amendment 2.

Arizona's Proposition 102 is another amendment to write discrimination into the state constitution by limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.

And Arkansas has a ballot initiative that would preclude any unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children in the state, called Initiated Act 1.

October 15, 2008

Gender Transition Means Less Pay for MTFs

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In case you were wondering whether the pay gap between men and women that still exists in this country is a result of (a) women choosing lower-paying, more flexible jobs so that they can care for children, or (b) flat-out sex discrimination, an interesting new study indicates that it's the latter.

The "first systematic analysis of the experiences of transgender people in the labor force," according to a Time magazine article, has shown that female to male transsexuals earn more as men than they did as women, and -- guess what -- vice versa. All the participants were adults with established careers, and although some changed employers when they transitioned and some didn't, and some were out to their employers and some weren't, the pattern was clear: MTFs lost 32% of their earning power after transitioning.

It's nice to have a clear answer, isn't it? Maybe now we can do something about it.

October 15, 2008

Pioneering Gay Lawmaker Dies in Minnesota

Allen H. Spear died in Minnesota on October 15th of complications after heart surgery. You may not have heard of Spear, but he was ahead of his time as one of the nation's first openly gay lawmakers -- he came out in 1974 while serving as a State Senator, a post he held until 2000. At the time he was one of only two openly gay legislators in the country.

Spear served as Senate President from 1993 to 2000. He was instrumental in amending Minnesota's Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation -- an amendment completed in 1993, also somewhat ahead of the times. As is the case with Del Martin, we owe a debt of gratitude to Allen Spear as a pioneering force for LGBT rights.

 

October 15, 2008

Prop 8 Would Eliminate the Right to Marry in California

On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that the state's law prohibiting same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, and cleared the way for weddings to begin in June. Thousands of couples have married in California since then.

Now, anti-gay groups (most from out-of-state) are pouring millions of dollars into California in support of Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that, if passed, would eliminate that right and again limit marriage in California to a contract between "one man and one woman".

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Both sides have been fundraising like crazy. The "yes" side is funded by enormous contributions from religious groups, especially Mormons. At least some Mormons are criticizing their church, however, and arguing that the church is using fear to sway voters. This charge is certainly true, as the "yes on 8" campaign has flooded the airwaves with false and misleading information, including the charge that if Prop. 8 isn't passed, churches will be forced to perform same-sex weddings and schools would have to teach children about same-sex marriage -- neither of which is true.

Quite simply, what Prop. 8 would actually do is eliminate marriage equality and write discrimination into our state constitution. Get the facts (and a snazzy button like the one pictured here!) and vote no. 

October 10, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust: Same-Sex Marriage Prevails in Connecticut

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On Friday, October 10, Connecticut became the third U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage when its Supreme Court ruled that the state's ban on gay nuptials violated Connecticut's constitution.

In a progression similar to California's, Connecticut first enacted a civil union system that gave same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities of marriage. Same-sex couples sued, arguing that separate-but-equal is a consitutional violation, and the state Supreme Court agreed. The 4-3 majority opinion held that the ban on same-sex marriage violated the state constitution's equal protection clause. Two justices filed dissenting opinions.

October 5, 2008

Doctors Can't Discriminate Against LGBT Patients

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Guadalupe Benitez, a lesbian, wanted to have a baby, so she went to a local fertility clinic seeking help to become pregnant through donor insemination. The doctors there refused to provide her with medical services, claiming that as fundamentalist Christians, they would violate their own religious beliefs by doing so.

In August, the California Supreme Court held that the physicians' refusal to provide medical services to Benitez violated California's Unruh Act, a state law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination by businesses. The court rejected the doctors' argument that their refusal was based on Benitez' status as an unmarried woman, not her sexual orientation, and held that their religious freedom did not trump the state's compelling interest in ensuring full and equal access to medical care, according to a Los Angeles Times articleand this note at the website of Lambda Legal, which represented Benitez.

Once again, the California Supreme Court, full of Republican appointees, finds in favor of an LGBT plaintiff on a matter of fairness and equality. Makes a person proud to live here in the Golden State.

October 2, 2008

Transgender Veteran Wins Suit Against Library of Congress

In a landmark victory for transgender rights, Diane Schroer won her lawsuit against the Library of Congress for sex discrimination last month. Schroer, a former Army commander with action-hero credentials and precisely the experience needed for the job was offered a position as a senior terrorism research analyst at the Library of Congress. Then presenting as a man named David, Schroer went to lunch with her future boss and outlined her plans to finish her gender transition and her intention to present as female when she began working at the Library of Congress.

The next day, she received a call rescinding the job offer. She filed suit, and on September 19 a federal judge ruled that the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment, Title VII, applies to transgendered people, and that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is sex discrimination. The ACLU, which represented Schroer, has a case summary and legal documents, including a link to the judge's opinion, on its website. The decision is the first to hold that gender identity is covered under Title VII, and thus is a giant step forward for transgender rights.

See a video of Diane Schroer telling her own story here.