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CONFERENCE ON GAY RIGHTS AGENDA AND STATUS, 1997

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Sponsored link.

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Source: USA Weekend Magazine. Article titled "GAY RIGHTS: WHAT'S THE AGENDA?: by Carol Clurman, with Myron B. Pitts and Sandra McElwaine

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A conference is being held in Washington DC by the 175,000-member Human Rights Campaign, (HRC) the largest US gay-right group in the US. Their priority will be to urge Congress to pass a bill to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the workplace. Such a bill, Employment Non-Discrimination Act failed by only one vote in the Senate last fall. Other main topics to be discussed are marriage, parenthood and job benefits for gays and lesbians. HRC head, Elizabeth Birch, sees a "tremendous mainstreaming" of gay issues "We are sitting at the table of power...We have to be reckoned with...Gays are most concerned about employment, personal safety and AIDS...Only half of them think marriage is an important issue."

One of the leading opponent to equal rights for gays is Robert Knight of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. He said that there is a limit to public tolerance on gay-rights, which he believes that Americans view as a moral debate, not a conflict over rights. "They've made rocket-like progress over the past five years toward normalization of homosexuality in culture, but they are about to hit a stone wall." [We don't think that he intended this as a pun on the Stonewall riot]

Status of the fight for equal rights:
bulletSame-Sex Marriage: 16 states have banned gay marriage; 17 are considering such a bill. Many people predict that same-sex marriages will be legal in Hawaii when the state Supreme Court rules on a lower court's decision. A bill is being debated in Hawaii to amend the state Constitution to ban gay marriage
bulletJob Benefits: Tremendous gains are being made with respect to equal access to health and insurance benefits. At least 313 companies, including IBM and Disney, extend benefits to "domestic partners." The 16 million membership of the Southern Baptist Convention called for a boycott of Disney for its equal treatment of gays and lesbians Even the Roman Catholic Church is extending benefits to homosexual employees in San Francisco in a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The Virginia legislature is considering a bill to extend benefits to its homosexual employees.
bulletParenting: Gay and lesbian couples are increasingly raising children via adoption, foster parenting or artificial insemination. 13 states allow gay and lesbian adoptions, only Florida and New Hampshire ban them. A Virginia mother gave up a three year court battle to regain custody of her 5 year old son; she had been ruled unfit because of her sexual orientation.
bulletJob Discrimination: The HRC considers a federal anti-job-bias bill as the top priority. Republican Jesse Helms, NC, has introduced a bill to roll back regulations banning discrimination against gays in the federal workforce.

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