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News items affecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals & transsexuals

2011-AUG (second half): Accelerating steps toward
equality etc., after DOMA decision in early 2011

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We use the acronym "SSM" throughout this section to represent "same-sex marriage"
We use the acronym "LGBT" to refer to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. The acronym "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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See also the previous essay describing events during the first half of 2011-AUG

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Background:

The Obama administration announced on 2011-FEB-23 that it would no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. They cited an earlier decision in a Massachusetts federal court that found multiple reasons why the federal DOMA legislation violates the U.S. Constitution and is thus invalid.

Some commentators predicted that this decision will generate a tipping point that will lead to a more rapid decline in discrimination against sexual minorities in the U.S.

This prediction may be coming true. We have noticed an increase in events -- some important, some minor, some merely symbolic -- that indicate a gradual evaporation of animosity and homophobia against sexual minorities.

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Developments toward marital equality and a lessening of discrimination against sexual minorities:

  • 2011-AUG-18: IL: Catholic Charities initiates court case to preserve its right to discriminate: The Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act became effective on 2011-JUN-01. It created a system of civil unions in Illinois that gave registered couples all of the state rights, privileges and responsibilities of marriage, including the right to be considered for licensing as potential foster parents.

    Catholic Charities in four Illinois dioceses decided to ignore the state law. They automatically rejected applications for foster care licenses from all couples in civil unions. Even though they accepted funding from the government, they regarded themselves as exempt from this Act. They believed that they had to follow their religious beliefs concerning the nature of sexual orientation. This led to their need to discriminate against LGBT couples in civil unions. This became another of many recent instances where religious freedom has become interpreted as the freedom to discriminate against minorities.

    When their contracts with the state ended in 2011-JUL, Catholic Charities in Springfield, Peoria, Joliet and Rockford launched a lawsuit to have their contracts renewed: The case is "Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Springfield-in-Illinois et al. v. Illinois et al." They were represented by the Thomas More Society, a Catholic legal defense group who obtained a temporary injunction to allow Catholic Charities to continue to receive funding pending resolution of the case.

    Oral arguments were heard on 2011-AUG-17. On AUG-18, Judge John Schmidt ruled that the state was not required to renew its contract with Catholic Charities. About 2,700 children will be transferred from the four Catholic Charities to either secular adoption/foster care agencies, or non-discriminatory religious agencies. 1,2,3

  • 2011-AUG-23: IN: Wrongful death lawsuit with complications: Tammy Van Dam was killed during the recent stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair. Her spouse, Beth Urschel, is suing the state and three companies for Tammy's wrongful death. Newser.com reports that Beth and Tammy were married in Hawaii, but their marriage is not recognized in Indiana. In Indiana, only the next of kin or a spouse of the victim can benefit from a wrongful death lawsuit. Her lawyer said: "Just because her spouse happens to be a woman and she happens to be a woman doesn't make it any less painful, any less egregious, and any less compensable." There are two complications in this case: Indian does not allow its same-sex couples to marry and does not recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Also, no same-sex couple has ever married in the State of Hawaii; they can only enter into a civil union. 4

  • 2011-AUG-24: CA: Openly gay Mormon called to leadership position in LDS: Mitch Mayne had been attending a Mormon congregation in Oakland, CA. Mormons there have been investing a lot of effort to repair damage made to inter-faith relationships and to the relationships between the Mormon Church and LGBT groups since the LDS fought so heavily to pass Proposition 8 in California. That was the citizen initiative that has at least temporarily stopped same-sex marriages in the state. Mitch had been involved in a monogamous relationship with a male partner until a year ago when he ended the relationship. He has not been involved since. In spite of being openly gay, he was asked to serve as ward executive secretary for the San Francisco Bay Ward. 5

  • 2011-AUG-25: USA: According to the Christian Post, a new Census report shows: "Gay Couples Spread in U.S., Behave Like Straight Couples" The Christian Post is an evangelical Christian news service. They reported on a late-August report by the U.S. Census Bureau report. It showed that the number of same-sex couples increased by 50% over the past decade; they now total 901,997. Actually, this number only represents those same-sex couples who were willing to admit their status in a country where gay bashing, and hatred of gays is still pervasive. The true number will never be known, but it is certain to be many more than a million. 60% of the couples are composed of two females. 22% are raising children. 6

  • 2011-AUG-29: USA: The Public Religion Research Institute has conducted a new survey: It shows:
    "... that the Millennial generation (age 18 to 29) is transforming the landscape on gay and lesbian issues in American religion, politics and society.  There is at least a 20-point generation gap between Millennials and seniors (age 65 and older) on every public policy measure in the survey concerning rights for gay and lesbian people. These large generational differences on gay and lesbian issues persist even among conservative political and religious groups such as Republicans and white evangelical Protestants.  

    This is the first year that support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry is not a minority position. Overall trends and the strongly supportive attitudes of the Millennial generation suggest that we will look back on 2011 as the year marking a sea change in American attitudes on gay and lesbian issues. 

    Despite the conventional wisdom that religious groups generally oppose rights for gay and lesbian Americans, the new survey finds that there are major religious groups on both sides of the debate. The survey also found broad general acceptance of same-sex relationships in society. 7

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See also events during 2011-September

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
  1. Letter: Illinois Department of Children & Family Services to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria, 2011-JUL-08, at: http://www.scribd.com/
  2. Tom Clesielka, "Illinois Seeks to Remove 2,500 Children from Catholic Charities' Care," Christian News Wire, 2011-JUL-11, at: http://www.christiannewswire.com/
  3. "Catholic Charities Battle to Keep Serving IL Children with Foster Care/Adoption Services," Thomas More Society, 2011-AUG-16, at: http://www.thomasmoresociety.org/
  4. Evann Gastaldo, "Stage Collapse Lawsuit to Test Gay Marriage Law," Newser, 2011-AUG23, at: http://www.newser.com/
  5. Joanna Brooks, "Openly Gay Mormon Appointed to LDS Church Leadership Position," Religion Dispatches, 2011-AUG-24, at: http://www.religiondispatches.org/
  6. R. Leigh Coleman, "Gay Couples Spread in U.S., Behave Like Straight Couples," The Christian Post, 2011-AUG-25, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  7. "Executive Summary: Generations at Odds: The Millennial Generation and the Future of Gay and Lesbian Rights," Public Religion Research Institute, 2011-AUG-29, at: http://www.publicreligion.org/

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-SEP-06
Author: B.A. Robinson
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