News items affecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals & transsexuals
2011-November: Accelerating steps toward
equality etc., after DOMA decision in early 2011
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.
See also the previous essay describing events during 2011-OCT
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.
Developments toward marital equality and a lessening of discrimination against sexual minorities:
- 2011-NOV-02: UK: Civil partnerships to be allowed in religious settings: When legislation was passed to legalize civil partnerships in 1994, the law contained a stipulation that the ceremonies could not be held in religious locations. Reform Jews, Quakers, Unitarians and other faith groups objected and lobbied to be allowed to hold ceremonies with religious readings and hymns in their buildings.
Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, announced in parliament on 2011-NOV-02 that the restriction would be lifted in England and Wales. Faith groups would still have the right to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to hold civil partnership ceremonies. She said:
"The government is advancing equality for LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) people and ensuring freedom of religion for people of all faiths. No religious group will be forced to host a civil partnership, but for those who wish to do so this is an important step forward.
The state church, the Church of England, plans to continue to discriminate against same-sex couples. 1
- 2011-NOV-08: IA: Democrat win in Senate preserves SSM: Liz Mathis (D) received 56% of the votes for an empty Senate seat over Cindy Golding's (R) 44% share. This means that the Democrats hold a 26-24 seat majority. A Republican win would have resuted in a 25-25 seat tie and thrown the control of the Senate into question.
An Iowa court ruled in favor of SSM in the state during 2009. Back in 2011-FEB, the Iowa House, which is under Republican control, approved a constitutional amendment to exclude loving, committed same-sex couples from both marriage and civil unions. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D) has said that the measure will be shelved as long he remains in control of the chamber. 2
- 2011-NOV-08: VA: First openly gay senator elected: Adam Ebbin (D) was elected to the Virginia Senate and became the first openly gay person to hold that post. His district is solidly Democratic and includes parts of Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax counties. He received 65% of the votes compared to 35% for his Republican rival, Timothy McGhee. Previously, Ebbin was the state's only openly gay member of the House of Delegates. He has made as one of his priorities an anti-discrimination law to protect state employees fom job discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 3
- 2011-NOV-10: USA: DOMA repeal bill passed by Senate Judiciary Committee: All 10 Democrats on the committee voted in favor of repeal; all 8 Republicans voted against it. This is purely a symbolic action, because the companion bill has zero chance of being passed in the Republican-dominated House. 4
- 2011-NOV-21: Canada: First research chair in homophobia: Jean Charet, Premier of the Quebec Government, announced that the University of Quebec in Montreal will receive a CDN $476,000 -- equivalent to about US $456,000) grant to establish North America's first research chair in homophobia. A group of 20 researchers will study the effects of homophobia on mental, physical and sexual health of its victims. Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier said: "The most recent statistics paint an alarming portrait. We can see that homosexual people are almost three times as likely to become victims of a violent crime as heterosexuals.
One gay or lesbian person out of two has suicidal thoughts because of the homophobic violence at school. Elderly gay and lesbian people fear going into a residence, out of fear they'll have to hide their sexual orientation." 5
- 2011-NOV-22: Canada: Supreme Court in British Columbia rules polygamy illegal: Many individuals and groups opposed to SSM have argued the slippery slope case: that if we allow a loving, committed same-sex couple to marry, that people will want to legalize polygamy, men will want to marry their dogs. An aide to Michelle Bachman -- a Republican candidate for the Presidency in 2012 -- suggested that women might want to marry objects. She suggested women marrying the Eifill Tower in Paris as one example. The decision to keep polygamy illegal in Canada will probably have no effect on SSM in North America. However, if polygamy had been legalized, those opposed to SSM would have had a field day with the news. More details.
- 2011-NOV-28: USA: Don't Ask Don't Tell policy ended without any significant negative effects: After slightly more than two months following the end of the DADT policy, it would appear that no significant problems involving military discipline, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, military recruitment and military retention have materialized.
General James F. Amos, who heads the Marines, had publicly opposed the repeal of DADT during 2010-DEC, when he testified to Congress that he anticipated negative effects on unit cohesion. On 2011-NOV-28, he said that he is pleased at how smoothly the military has adapted to the change. During the previous week, he had held more than a dozen town-hall meetings with Marines in Afghaistan,and wasn't asked even once about the DADT repeal. He said: "I’m very pleased with how it has gone." 6
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Trevor Grundy, "UK to allow religious gay partnership ceremonies," Anglican Journal, 2011-NOV-02, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com
- Chris Johnson, "Democratic win preserves marriage rights in Iowa," Washington Blade, 2011-NOV-08, at: http://www.washingtonblade.com/
- Lou Chibbaro Jr., "Election roundup: Va. elects first openly gay senator," Washington Blade, 2011-NOV-08, at: http://www.washingtonblade.com/
- "DOMA Repeal Bill Clears Senate Judiciary Committee Vote," Huffington Post, 2011-NOV-10, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
- "Montreal Research Chair On Homophobia Launched At Universite Du Quebec A Montreal," The CanadianPress, 2011-NOV-21, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/
- "Marine chief: DADT repeal is working," Politico, 2011-NOV-28, at: http://www.politico.com/
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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-DEC-03
Author: B.A. Robinson