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posted Friday, April 22, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 16

National News
U.S. NEWS by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Gay bills introduced in Congress
Two recurring LGBT-rights measures were introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in April: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Uniting American Families Act.

ENDA would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in workplaces that have 15 or more employees.

UAFA would give U.S. citizens and permanent residents the right to sponsor a same-sex permanent partner for U.S. residence - a right that is available to opposite-sex binational spouses.

'Thousands of committed same-sex couples are needlessly suffering because of unequal treatment under our immigration laws, and this is an outrage,' U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in announcing UAFA's introduction.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said: 'Our nation's discriminatory immigration laws force binational same-sex families to decide between breaking up or living in exile. No American family should face this decision.'

According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, at least 25 nations allow residents to sponsor same-sex permanent partners for legal immigration, including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

ENDA and UAFA may face a tough road in Congress, in part because Republicans control the House of Representatives.

Laws similar to ENDA exist in 21 states and Washington, D.C., for sexual orientation and in 12 states and D.C. for gender identity.

Delaware Legislature passes civil-union bill, governor to sign
Delaware's Senate and House of Representatives passed a civil-union bill April 7 and April 14, respectively. The Senate vote was 13-6. The House vote was 25-16.

The measure grants same-sex couples the state-level rights, benefits, and obligations of marriage, and recognizes same-sex civil unions and marriages from other states, treating them as Delaware civil unions.

'I congratulate everyone who worked so hard to make these rights real and look forward to signing this bill into law,' Gov. Jack Markell said April 14. 'When it came to this legislation, it was clear that it was about rights, it was about opportunity and it was about time.'

Seven other states have similar laws, and five states and Washington, D.C., let same-sex couples marry. Five additional states recognize people married in other states and countries as married.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. Same-sex marriages from elsewhere are recognized as marriages in Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and California (if the marriage took place before Proposition 8 passed). Eleven other nations allow same-sex couples to marry - Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Mexico (where same-sex marriages are allowed only in the capital city but are recognized nationwide).

The states with civil-union laws that grant all marriage rights are California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington. The Hawaii and Illinois laws were passed recently and have not come into force. Five other states have Gay-union laws that extend some rights of marriage: Colorado, Hawaii (an older law), Maine, Maryland, and Wisconsin.

Prop 8 judge comes out to reporters
The judge who struck down California's Proposition 8 last August came out to reporters April 6 in San Francisco.

Former U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker also said he's in a relationship with a doctor.

Walker said his sexuality was irrelevant to his handling of the Prop 8 case, and that things such as gender, ethnicity, and national origin also should not affect which cases judges hear.

Walker's strikedown of Prop 8, which amended the state constitution in 2008 to re-ban same-sex marriage, is on appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case has been delayed because the people who were sued - including California's governor and attorney general - have no interest in defending Prop 8. As a result, the people who put Prop 8 on the ballot have intervened in the case to defend it, but it's unclear at this time if they have legal 'standing' to defend the amendment in federal court.

The 9th Circuit recently asked the California Supreme Court for its opinion on the 'standing' question. The California court is not expected to give an answer until late this year at the soonest.

Chicago elects another Gay alderman
Chicago voters elected the city's second openly Gay alderman April 5. James Cappleman will represent the 46th Ward on the North Side.

Gay Alderman Tom Tunney has represented the heavily Gay 44th Ward, just south of the 46th, since 2003.

In the Illinois state capital, Springfield, voters also elected an openly Gay alderman April 5. Republican Cory Jobe will represent the city's 6th Ward.

Maryland Trans rights bill dies
A Transgender nondiscrimination bill that had passed the Maryland House of Delegates died in the Senate on April 11. Senators voted 27-20 to return it to committee.

The development took state LGBT activists by surprise, as they believed they had lined up the needed votes for passage. In the end, 16 Democrats voted with the majority.

'Senators ... took a walk on justice and fairness today and turned their backs on the most vulnerable members of our community,' said Equality Maryland Executive Director Morgan Meneses-Sheets.

National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey added, 'Without legal protections, Transgender people are made particularly vulnerable to ... neglect, bias and abuse.'

With assistance from Bill Kelley



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