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News items affecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals & transsexuals

2011-October: 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 second half of 2011-SEP

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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-OCT-04: MD: Potential "Game Changer:" Local NAACP supports SSM: African American support for SSM has been significantly lower than the general population. One reason was given by the Rev. Johnny Hunter of Cliffdale Community Church in Fayetteville NC when the Republican Party initiated a state constitutional amendment to ban SSM. He said that gay-rights activists have offended black people by equating the efforts to support SSM with civil-rights activism in the 1960s. Referring to slavery and Jim Crow-era laws, Hunter said:
    "Blacks know what real discrimination is all about. They're disrespecting ... the foot soldiers of the civil-rights movement'."

    A second factor limiting African American support for SSM may be because a larger percentage of African Americans attend conservative Protestant churches than does the general population. Opposition to SSM in the U.S. comes mainly from fundamentalist and other evangelical denominations.

    However, there may be signs of a change. In the same article, the Winston-Salem Journal article said:

    "... the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP], said the sponsors of the amendment bill, who are overwhelmingly Republican, are trying to take civil rights backward with the amendment.

    'No matter our color or faith traditions, those who stand for love and justice are not about to fall for this amendment mess,' Barber said in a statement released by the gay-rights group Equality North Carolina." 1

    The Maryland chapter of the NAACP is taking the same position. CBS News in Baltimore reports: "NAACP [Baltimore] is jumping in the battle -- a potential game-changer." CBS News reporters wrote:

    " 'I'm looking forward to some people changing their mind,' said Tessa Hill-Alstin, President of the Baltimore NAACP.

    This time, the NAACP is jumping in the battle. It’s a potential game-changer and they’re already lobbying African-American lawmakers who voted against the marriage bill last season.

    'We’ve always been, for over 100 years, fighting for the rights for all people and we want everyone to live the way they want to live. The NAACP is a force that believes in equality for all people,' Hill-Alstin said. ...

    The most recent poll shows a majority of Marylanders are in favor of extending marriage rights to same-sex couples." 2

  • 2011-OCT-13: Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) increases activity protecting LGBTs: HUD has tripled the number of discrimination cases that it acts upon from the LGBT community while trying to rent housing -- ranging from an apartment to a bed at a homeless shelter. Kenneth Carroll, director of HUD's Fair Housing Assistance Program Division handled 114 complaints during the Obama Administration's first two years. HUD:
    • requires anyone receiving money from HUD to follow antidiscrimination laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity.
    • has created a new web site to help LGBT individuals file a complaint.
    • Is creating a national study of the prevalence of discrimination against the LGBT community.
    • proposed a definition of "family" for federal government use that is more inclusive.
    • Launched a new ad campaign to raise awareness about housing discrimination against the LGBT community.

  • 2011-OCT-20: Spirit Day celebrated: The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) reports that "[m]illions of Americans wear purple ... as a sign of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth and to speak out against bullying. Spirit Day was started in 2010 by teenager Brittany McMillan as a response to the young people who had taken their own lives. Observed annually on October 20, individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, media professionals and celebrities wear purple, which symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag. Getting involved is easy -- participants are asked to simply "go purple" on October 20 as we work to create a world in which LGBT teens are celebrated and accepted for who they are.

    The Alliance group provided coding so that individuals could color their facebook and twitter profile photos. 3

    One of the web sites altered for Spirit Day was the White House Facebook and Twitter page. 4

  • 2011-OCT-20: Lesbian soldier allowed to bring partner to military event: New Hampshire National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan recently returned from a deployment in Kuwait and wanted to attend a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event. These are intended to reconnect and support families after partners and spouses return from deployment. Initially, she was told that she could not bring her same-sex partner of 11 years to the event. However, after the intervention of one of her Senators, Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), she was allowed to attend. More details.
  • 2011-OCT-23: World: Decriminalizing same-gender behavior: The British Commonwealth consists of 54 countries of the former British Empire. Of these, 41 still criminalize same-gender sexual behavior. The Commonwealth is meeting in Perth Australia this week, and there are rumors that the Canadian Government will push for decriminalization of this activity across the Commonwealth. The Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, said in the House of Commons: "It is completely unacceptable that homosexuality continues to be criminalized in a a majority of Commonwealth countries, and we will certainly take that issue to the summit." 5

  • 2011-OCT-27: NY: Lawyers.com reported that married same-sex parents in New York State who break up now have the same custody rights to their children as do opposite-sex couples. 6

  • 2011-OCT-27: USA: Major employers equalize health benefits for employees of all sexual orientations: The Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA) requires the federal government to treat same-sex married couples as roommates -- as "legal strangers" to each other. As a result, even though same-sex couples are married in states across the U.S. and their marriages are registered, employees in same-sex marriages have to pay extra taxes on health insurance for their spouses. Married opposite-sex couples do not have to pay these taxes.

    Starting 2012-JAN-12, Microsoft and Yahoo! Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and American Express have announced that they will compensate employees in same-sex marriages to cancel the effect of the extra taxes. 7

  • 2011-OCT-27: USA: The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network -- a group for LGBT service members -- has launched a lawsuit in federal court in Massachusetts to have the Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA) declared unconstitutional. More details.

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See also events during 2011-November

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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. JournalNow staff, "Rhetoric heats up in fight over same-sex marriage," 2011-SEP-07, at: http://www2.journalnow.com/
  2. CBS News Baltimore, "NAACP [Baltimore] is jumping in the battle - a potential game-changer," CBS, 2011-OCT-04, at: http://www.marylandersformarriageequality.org/
  3. "Wear purple on October 20 for Spirit Day," GLAAD, 2011-OCT-20, at: http://www.glaad.org/
  4. "Welcome to the White House," Snapshot of the White House facebook page, at: http://metroweekly.com/
  5. Tim Harper, "Tim Harper: Tories can be louder speaking up against homophobia," Toronto Star, 2011-OCT-23, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  6. Larry Bodine, "Married same-sex parents now get the same custody rights as biological parents in New York," Lawyers.com, 2011-OCT-27, at: http://www.jdsupra.com/
  7. Tara Siegel Bernard, "Microsoft and Yahoo equilize health benefits for gay employees," The New York Times, 2011-OCT-29, at: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-OCT-29
Author: B.A. Robinson
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