April 2009 Archives

April 30, 2009

Transgender Veteran Awarded Nearly $500,000 in Discrimination Suit

Just a quick followup on an earlier post here about Diane Schroer, the former Army commander who won a lawsuit last October against the Library of Congress for employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Yesterday, a judge awarded her $491,190 in back pay and damages.

In an LA Times article, Schroer said she was "happy with the judgment but more importantly that the judge recognized her treatment as job discrimination", linking the high rates of underemployment for transgendered individuals to the continued acceptance of discrimination against them in society. What makes this ruling especially significant? According to the ACLU, this is the first time a federal judge has affirmed that it's a violation of federal law to discriminate against someone for changing genders.
April 29, 2009

Transgender-Inclusive Hate Crimes Bill Passes House

By a vote of 249 to 175, the United States House of Representatives voted today to pass a bill (H.R. 1913) that would include the categories of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability in existing federal hate crimes legislation for the first time. This is especially good news for the transgender community, which continues to be targeted disproportionately in bias-motivated crimes. If you have any doubts about that, you didn't follow the Angie Zapata trial in Colorado, which recently ended with a guilty verdict against the murderer of a transgender woman. The hate crimes bill now moves to the Senate.
April 27, 2009

Same-Sex Weddings Begin in Iowa

Beginning this morning, same-sex wedding bells are ringing in Iowa. A number of couples obtained waivers of Iowa's three-day waiting period and were legally married on the day the recent state Supreme Court decision became effective.

A related MSNBC story describes Iowa's history as a state in the "forefront on social issues," including segregation, slavery, and women's rights. Apparently we should not be surprised that Iowa is now one of only four states offering full marriage equality to its lesbian and gay citizens.

April 9, 2009

District of Columbia Votes to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages From Other States

Seemingly out of the blue, the District of Columbia City Council, D.C.'s governing body, voted unanimously on Tuesday to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. This doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen -- the vote isn't final, and once it is it has to go to the mayor for approval and then to the U.S. Congress for a legislative review and vote, according to this CNN story. But it's a big step forward for D.C. and another positive development in the march toward marriage equality.
April 8, 2009

Vermont is First State to Legislate Same-Sex Marriage

Sheesh! Every time you turn around, some state or another is achieving marriage equality! At the rate of two per week, we'll have the country turned around before baseball season's over. 

But I digress. The latest to jump on the marriage equality bandwagon is Vermont, which became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by legislative action rather than court decision. The legislature passed a bill last week that removed from Vermont's law the requirement that married couples be of the opposite sex, and then overrode Governor Jim Douglas's veto to become the fourth state in the U.S. to offer full marriage equality (following Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa).
April 3, 2009

Marriage Equality Arrives in the Midwest: Iowa Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

Who would have expected that Iowa would be the next U.S. state to have full marriage equality? But today the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the state's law limiting marriage to one man and one woman violates the state Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

The Supreme Court's decision was unanimous; the justices held that a law that is inconsistent with the state constitution must be declared void, even if it is "supported by strong and deep-seated traditional beliefs and popular opinion." The Iowa court found that sexual orientation is a suspect class, so that any law affecting that class must be reviewed under a heightened level of scrutiny.

The court rejected the argument that the same-sex couples weren't "similarly situated" to heterosexual couples because we "can't procreate naturally." It also concluded that the state's position that opposite-sex parents provide the optimal environment for raising children doesn't provide a valid basis for limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples -- even if that's true, the court said, the law doesn't prohibit sexual predators, deadbeat parents, abusers, or violent felons from marrying and becoming parents, and so it can't prohibit same-sex couples from doing so. (Gee, thanks.) Other arguments considered and rejected by the court: promoting the stability of opposite-sex relationships, conservation of resources, and finally, tradition and religious opposition.

The decision will become final in 21 days. That means same-sex couples should be able to marry beginning April 24.

During the presidential caucuses, we hear it said that, "As Iowa goes, so goes the nation." One can only hope!