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News items affecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals & transsexuals

2011-APR: Continuing steps toward marriage
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.

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See also events for previous months of 2011-FEB & MAR

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Background:

The Obama administration announced on 2011-FEB-23 that it would no longer defend 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.

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.

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

  • 2012-APR-05: IL harassment: A federal appeals court in Illinois upheld the right of Walmart Stores to fire an employee for her anti-gay comments towards a lesbian co-worker. The fired employee described herself as an Apostolic Christian; she claimed that she was fired for her faith-based statements about lesbians and gays, and that this was protected speech under the 1964 Civil Rights Act because it was religious in nature. She allegedly screamed that God does not accept gays, that gays should not "be on earth" and that they will "go to Hell" because they are not "right in the head." 1

  • 2011-APR-05: TN non-discrimination policy: By a vote of 21 to 15, the Nashville Metro Council approved a new non-discrimination policy for city contractors. They are no longer allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. They are required to sign affidavits confirming that they had adopted this policy. 2

  • 2011-APR-06: Poll on same-sex marriage (SSM) in New York State: The Sienna College Research Institute sampled 777 New York state registered voters, for a Margin of Error of ±3.5%.The results showed unusually high support for SSM. The poll broke many records when compared with previous state and national polls in the U.S.:
    • A 22% margin of support among all voters (58% support; 36% opposition; 6 don't know or didn't answer!)
    • A 30% margin among Whites.
    • A majority support by Blacks for the first time in any survey that we have seen.
    • 59% support among Roman Catholics. This is the highest of support by members of any organized religious group in the state. It showed a massive rejection of the teachings of the Catholic hierarchy.
    • 74% support among young adults.
    • 78% among non-Judeo-Christians, a group that lumps together a very diverse group of Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, Scientologists, Sikhs, persons with no religious affiliation or identification, etc.More detailed information.

    These results caused David Badash, a writer for The New Civil Rights Movement, to ask the question: "Is There Anyone Left In New York Who Does Not Support Same Sex Marriage?" 3

    One might suggest the 32 Republican State senators and at least one Democrat senator who are almost certain to vote against a SSM bill when they have the next opportunity in spite of the overwhelming support by the citizens of the state.

  • 2011-APR-07: AK Same-sex adoption: The Arkansas Supreme Court declared Act 1 -- a voter-approved state initiative -- to be unconstitutional. It barred same-sex couples and unmarried opposite-sex couples from adopting children or serving as foster parents. The ruling was based on the law's violation of fundamental privacy rights. Earlier, in 2010-APR, a country circuit judge had ruled that the law forced unmarried couples to choose between their relationships and their desire to become adoptive parents. 4

  • 2011-APR-13: IL Same-sex adoption: In Illinois, there are over 50 agencies in the adoption/foster care field. Only three automatically reject same-sex couples. One is evangelical, one is Catholic and one is affiliated with the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, a very conservative Lutheran denomination. The state government is investigating and may remove tens of millions of dollars of annual funding from these agencies because of their discriminatory policies against same-sex couples. On APR-13, a bill which would have legalized their discrimination failed in the Illinois Senate. The law probably would have been found unconstitutional by the courts if it had passed. More details.

  • 2011-APR-14: DE: Civil unions: The Delaware legislature approved a civil unions bill. It is now on the desk of Governor Jack Markell (D) who supports the legislation. The Democrat-controlled House passed the bill 26 to 15 after a short two hour debate. One of the two House Republicans who voted for the bill, State Rep. Nick Manalakos rejected the argument that civil unions would start Delaware down a "slippery slope." He said: "I thought about it; prayed about it long and hard myself and decided I took an oath that put people's business before my personal interests." State Rep. Earl Jacques (D) who voted for the bill, said: "It became confused in a lot of people's minds, so the fears were out there that we were stepping off the ledge, morally, and I just didn't get that sense from reading the bill." Unlike the legislation for civil unions in Hawaii and Illinois, which took years to complete, the process in Delaware took only three weeks. 5

  • 2011-APR-16: US: SSM: Rep. Barnie Frank (D-MA), who is openly gay, said during an interview with Playboy magazine:

    "I don't see anything about gay marriage happening on a federal level. More and more states will go that way, though. When they do, people will see, as with health care and the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' that there are no negative consequences. Places that have gay marriage have had none of the negative consequences that people warned us about. Zero. The divorce rate hasn't gone up. There have been no calamities. Marriage hasn't lost its meaning. Same-sex marriage as a divisive issue is losing its steam. Overall I think anti-gay prejudice is on its way out. ... Overall, anti-gay prejudice is diminishing. It won't be used by the far right the way it once was. It just doesn't work anymore. But I worry about what will replace it." [Emphasis ours] 6

  • 2011-APR-18: OR: Lesbian and gay teen suicides: A study of almost 32,000 students showed that conservative areas of Oregon that don't have programs like Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA's) promoting LGBT rights and an end to harassment in high schools have significantly higher rates of suicides by lesbian and gay teens. About 20% of Oregon's gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth attempted suicide within the previous 12 months, compared to 4% of straight youths. This might motivate people who resist equal rights and protections for LGBT persons to question whether they have blood on their hands. Michael Resnick, a professor of adolescent mental health at the University of Minnesota's medical school, said the study "... certainly affirms what we've come to understand about children and youth in general. They are both subtly and profoundly affected by what goes around them." 7

  • 2011-APR-19: KY: Church no longer signs marriage licenses: The congregation of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) unanimously voted to stop their practice of signing marriage licenses. They objected to the state's policy of giving legal protections and benefits to opposite-sex married couples while denying the same benefits to same-sex couples. Until the state changes its marriage law, the church will only perform religious wedding ceremonies. Associate minister Rev. Ryan Kemp-Pappan said:

    "As an Open and Affirming Community of Faith (a designation signifying DBCC's commitment to full acceptance of all people, regardless of race, gender, age, or sexual orientation), our membership is committed to treating homosexuals and heterosexuals equally. Our congregation believes it is unfair to provide different services and benefits to heterosexual couples than we can provide to gay and lesbian couples,"

    Senior minister Rev. Derek Penwell said:

    "Heterosexual couples enjoy a number of benefits that result from having state-sanctioned union. They may inherit property, adopt children together, visit one another in the hospital, and save thousands each year in taxes by filing as a couple. Ministers, as agents of the state, have the power to confer these benefits -- and the imprimatur of normalcy -- on heterosexual couples -- but we do not have the honor to bestow these benefits on gay and lesbian couples."
    Rev. Chuck Lewis, Chair of Elders said:
    "In our attempt to live out God's call to pursue justice for all, the Elders of the congregation joined the Pastors in witnessing to the right for gay and lesbian persons to God's blessing on their union and witnessing to the Commonwealth toward ending the refusal to recognize these unions." 8
  • 2011-APR-20: USA: The FiveThirtyEight blog in the New York Times speculates about a tipping point on SSM: Nate Silver maintains this blog. Its mission is:

    "... to help New York Times readers cut through the clutter of this data-rich world. The blog is devoted to rigorous analysis of politics, polling, public affairs, sports, science and culture, largely through statistical means. In addition, FiveThirtyEight provides forecasts of upcoming presidential, Congressional, and gubernatorial elections through the use of its proprietary prediction models. ... It is produced in conjunction with The Times’s graphic and interactive journalists and its team of political editors, correspondents and polling experts."

    He commented on the very narrow losses by LGBT marriage advocates of two SSM ballot proposition battles: Proposition 8 in California during 2008 and Question 1 in Maine during 2009. Silver wrote:

    "Both the California and Maine results were close, and because opinion is shifting so quickly on the issue, the outcomes would probably be different if they were voted on again today. At the same time, the people who turn out to vote are considerably older than the population as a whole, so gay marriage will not perform quite as well at the ballot booth as in surveys of the general population. In addition, whenever a position is gaining ground, its newly won support is often tentative and can be peeled away by an effective counter-campaign.

    But Republican candidates, who have placed less emphasis on gay marriage in recent years, probably cannot expect their opposition to it to be a net electoral positive for them except in select circumstances. If support for gay marriage were to continue accelerating as fast as it has in the past two years, supporters would outnumber opponents roughly 56-40 [percentage points] in the general population by [the next major election day in] November 2012.

    Past trends, of course, are no guarantee of future ones, and it’s always possible that the momentum toward increasing support for gay marriage could flatten out or even reverse itself.

  • But this does put Republicans in a tricky position. Their traditional position on gay marriage is becoming less popular. But to the extent they disengage from the issue, they may lose even more ground. One way to read the trends of the past few years is that we have passed an inflection point wherein it is no longer politically advantageous for candidates to oppose same-sex marriage, which in turn softens opposition to it among the general public, creating a sort of feedback loop and accelerating the trend." [Emphasis ours] 11

  • 2011-APR-24: USA: High level of Catholic support for same-sex marriage and civil unions: The New York Times reported on a national survey on marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples. They found that: 74% of American Catholics favored states recognizing same-sex relationships. This compares to 40% among white evangelical Christians and 67% among the general American adult population. 3,000 adults were sampled. Essentially all of the leaders in evangelical Christian and Catholic denominations are unalterably opposed to any form of recognition of same-sex relationships. When two out of three adults favor some form of recognition, legislators may suffer voter support if they don't act. When three in four Catholics abandon the teachings of their church leaders, the hierarchy's credibility will suffer. 10

  • 2011-APR-30: Mainline Christian pastor organizes counter demonstration against homophobia: A United Methodist Pastor and veteran, Ken Bann, has organized some fellow bikers to protect the funerals of fallen soldiers against anti-gay demonstrators. The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) of Topeka, KS is an independent Baptist church known for its extreme stance against homosexuality. They regularly picket the funerals of soldiers, carrying signs reading: "Thank God for dead soldiers;" "Not blessed, just cursed;" "Semper fi semper fag;" "Thank God for IEDs; "Thank God for 9/11," etc. Their message is that God is killing American soldiers because America's is too soft on sexual minorities. In order to shield the mourners, hundreds of bikers place themselves between the Baptist demonstrators and the mourners so that the latter can neither hear nor see the hate-filled protests of the former:

9

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See also events for the next month: 2011-MAY

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Upcoming development:

  • 2011-JUN-01: IL Civil unions: Civil unions will become available to loving, committed same-sex couples in Illinois on this day. They will no longer be treated like roommates by the state. Their relationships will be recognized. They and their children will be at least partly protected. The enabling bill was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn (D) during 2011-JAN.

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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. "Court rules Walmart was justified in firing anti-gay employee for harassment," LGBTQNATION, 2012-APR-05 at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/
  2. "Nashville council approves LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy," LGBTQNATION, 2012-APR-06 at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/
  3. Sandhya Somashekhar and Peyton Craighill, "Slim majority back gay marriage, Post-ABC poll says," Washington Post, 2011-MAR-18, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  4. "Arkansas Supreme Court rules gay adoption ban ‘unconstitutional'," LGBTQNATION, 2012-APR-07 at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/
  5. "Delaware's Earl Jacques, Nick Manalakos On Civil Unions Vote." On Top magazine, 2011-APR-17, at: http://www.ontopmag.com/
  6. "Barnie Frank to Playboy: 'Antigay prejudice is diminishing," New York Times, 2011-APR-15, at: http://nymag.com/
  7. "Gay Teen Suicides (And Straight) More Common In Politically Conservative Areas," Huffington Post, 2011-APR-19, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  8. "Local church votes for marriage equality, ends practice of signing marriage licenses," WHAS11.com, 2011-APR-19, at: http://www.whas11.com/
  9. "Christian bikers protect the funeral of fallen soldier," You Tube, 2011-APR-30, at: http://blog.beliefnet.com/
  10. Austin Considine, "For Catholics, open attitudes on gay issues," New York Times, 2011-APR-22, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  11. Nate Silver, "Gay Marriage Opponents Now in Minority," FiveThirtyEight.com, 2011-APR-20, at: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/

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

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