Saturday, July 16, 2016

15 of the Top News Stories for the Week Ending July 15, 2016

America's Debate Between LGBT Rights and Anti-LGBT Discrimination in the Name of “Religious Freedom” Was On Full Display Tuesday During a Congressional Hearing on the First Amendment Defense Act
The House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform held the three-and-a-half hour hearing on the federal legislation on the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chair of the committee, said during his opening statement he convened the hearing because free exercise of religion “has been and still is the fundamental part of the foundation of our nation.” Introduced by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) in the U.S. House and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the U.S. Senate, the First Amendment Defense Act would block federal government action against individuals and businesses that oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds, but critics contend it would legalize anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom.” Opponents of the First Amendment Defense Act say it would allow businesses to withhold benefits from LGBT employees, allow companies to deny time off to an employee to care for a same-sex spouse and permit housing discrimination against same-sex couples. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), top Democrat on the committee, said during his opening statement the hearing marks a “terribly sad day” for LGBT people and the nation because of the one-month anniversary of the Orlando shooting. “As I sit here now, it is difficult to imagine a more inappropriate day to hold this hearing,” Cummings said. “Even if you truly believe that being gay is morally wrong, or that people should be allowed to discriminate against gay people, why in the world would you choose today of all days to hold a hearing on this discriminatory legislation? To say this hearing is ill-timed is the understatement of the year.” Cummings asked during his opening statement for Labrador and Lee to address what is the difference between discriminating against someone for being gay and being black. “With everything going on in the country right now — these horrific shootings of gay people, black people, police officers — what we should be doing is coming together as a nation, not tearing each other apart, which is exactly what this bill does,” Cummings said. READ MORE

Suicide Is Now The Leading Cause of Death for Utah Youth (Ages 11 to 17), Is Anti-LGBT Mormon Church Partly To Blame?
Utah suicide rates are skyrocketing and are now the leading cause of death for Utah youth. The youth suicide rate has tripled in Utah since 2007 -- jumping from three out of every 100,000 youth to 8.5, an alarming increase not seen anywhere else in the country. In November, the LDS church added same-sex marriage to its definition of apostasy, excluding children of same-sex marriages from membership until they turn 18. If children of gay couples wish to become members as adults, the Church requires them to disavow their parents' practice of same-sex cohabitation or marriage and stop living within the household. The church's governing First Presidency would need to approve such baptisms. READ MORE

Canada's Anglican Church Reverses Course, Finally Approves Gay Marriage
A day after the Anglican Church of Canada narrowly voted not to authorize gay unions, questions about the integrity of the voting process emerged Tuesday, leading to a reversal of the result with the church approving the measure. More than 200 delegates attending the six-day General Synod 2016 narrowly rejected the resolution Monday night after hearing from more than 60 speakers, most of them in favor of gay marriage. However, on Tuesday - the last day of the triennial conference - some members stood up to say their ballot had not been recorded during voting late Monday, when the resolution failed to pass by a single vote. Delegates requested a detailed hard copy of the electronic voting records, which lead to a recount. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the church then declared the resolution in favor of same-sex marriage passed, a resolution that aligns with secular Canada, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2005. READ MORE

Court in Malta Allows Historic First Adoption of Child By Gay Couple
A gay couple has become the first in Malta to adopt a child in the wake of its civil union. One News reported that the go-ahead for adoption was given by the Family Court yesterday for the adoption by the two men. The Civil Unions law gives same-sex couples the same rights as in marriage, including the right to adopt, although gay adoptions were never technically illegal. The adoption process is centred around an assessment of the suitability of the applicants by the Family Court. READ MORE

Eye on the Opposition: Enemies of Equality
Following the Supreme Court’s historic victory legalizing marriage for all Americans, opponents of LGBT equality are shifting nearly all their efforts to discriminate from the national stage to the states. It’s no coincidence that state legislatures were flooded with over 200 anti-LGBT bills this year.

Gay Political Power Reaching Record Levels as American Attitudes Shift
When gay Americans notched some of their biggest political victories in the last year for same-sex marriage and military service, opponents were already preparing an intense battle to roll back the new rights. That onslaught, in state legislatures and Washington, has raised the stakes in the 2016 election for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, which is trying to leverage its unprecedented political power to elect lawmakers who would extend federal protections at work and home to gay citizens, just as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protected race, religion and gender. “It was easy to forget how big the challenge still is,” said Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, the first openly gay congressman chosen by New Yorkers in 2012. “It’s more important than ever that we have people in elected office, that we have strong organizations in the community and that we continue to build alliances in the straight community.” The Republican majority in Congress is still hostile to these issues, he added. The gay power base has never been stronger. Maloney is one of seven openly gay U.S. lawmakers -- the most ever -- and membership in the House LGBT Equality Caucus has surged 58 percent this session. There are about 500 LGBT politicians serving in elected office at all levels of U.S. government and almost 200 more running for office this year, including 11 for Congress, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports those candidates. READ MORE

LGBT History Lessons Heading for California Classrooms
In second grade, California students will learn about families with two moms or two dads. Two years later, while studying how immigrants have shaped the Golden State, they will hear how New York native Harvey Milk became a pioneering gay politician in San Francisco. The State Board of Education unanimously approved those changes in classroom instruction Thursday to comply with the nation's first law requiring public schools to include prominent gay Americans and LGBT rights milestones in history classes. Allyson Chiu, who just finished 11th grade at Cupertino High School, said the revisions would make LGBT students more comfortable. She and seven others spoke in favor of how the guidelines address gay issues. "My classmates can solve quadratic equations or cite the elements on the periodic table. They can't tell you who Harvey Milk was or the significance of the Stonewall Riots," Chiu said. READ MORE

Teacher Who Was Fired for Being Gay Receives $110,000 from New Jersey School District
The Scotch Plains-Fanwood school district agreed to pay $110,000 to a former teacher who claimed he was fired because he is gay, according to papers filed in court. Matthew Richards, 29, agreed to the settlement last May to resolve the lawsuit he filed in October 2014. Richards, who acknowledges that he is gay, started working as a third-grade teacher at the William J. McGinn Elementary school in August 2011 as a maternity-leave replacement, according to his lawsuit. After completing the school year, Richards was hired to teach the third grade for the following year. Then in January 2014, Richards announced he was marrying his partner, the court papers state. That same month, on Jan. 30, a parent falsely accused Richards of keeping her son after class, after the other students were dismissed "with an innuendo of sexual impropriety," the lawsuit says. That same parents "spread blatant slurs Richards' sexual orientation and solicited other parents to support her vendetta against Richards," court papers state. READ MORE

Texas Gun Range Offers Free Training to LGBT People
The killing of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Florida has shaken America’s LGBT community. The attack has led some of the community’s members to consider carrying guns. A gun range in Houston, Texas is now offering free training to LGBT people. LGBT is short for the words lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Many people have signed up for the classes because they fear they could be a victim of violence. Texas law requires an operating permit for people to carry a gun, whether it is concealed or not. “There is a target that has been painted on people’s backs now if they are part of the LGBT community,” class member Cheryl Burgin said. Burgin knows how to use a gun. She once served in the U.S. Marine Corps. She now feels the need to have her own gun to protect herself and her wife. Even with a legal permit in Texas, guns are barred from some public places, such as schools and hospitals. They are also not permitted in most drinking establishments and nightclubs, like the one attacked in Orlando. Burgin admits that taking a gun into a bar or club would not be a good idea. “You don’t want to mix alcohol and firearms. It is not the smartest thing to take it into a club. But if I need to have it nearby, I will make sure I have it with me.” Jess Sanford is General Manager of Houston’s Shiloh Gun Range and 3D Archery. He says his decision to drop the usual $69 class fee for the LGBT community has been warmly received. “What we thought was going to be two classes, with maybe 40 people total, has now just totally blown up to 13 classes, and we've got over 550 signed up, with over a hundred done already.” He says people receiving the training enjoy being with like-minded people who do not judge them. READ MORE

FBI: Shooter Didn't Choose Pulse Because It Was a Gay Club
The FBI claims there is no evidence Omar Mateen, the gunman who murdered 49 and wounded 53 in a June massacre at the gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, targeted the club due to its LGBT clientele, The Washington Post reported today. “While there can be no denying the significant impact on the gay community, the investigation hasn’t revealed that he targeted pulse because it was a gay club,” a U.S. law enforcement official, not identified by name, told the paper. According to the Post, "The assessment is based on interviews and an examination of his computer and other electronic media." Officials told the paper there was "nothing to suggest that he attempted to cover up his tracks by deleting files" and "added he did not make gay slurs during the shooting spree inside the club, based on witnesses." Still, in order to commit his crime, Mateen traveled nearly two hours from his home in Fort Pierce, Fla., in order to reach Pulse. According to Yelp, there are just 11 gay bars in the Orlando area, compared with 1,916 nongay bars. Could targeting a gay club nearly two hours from his home really be a coincidence? READ MORE

In Show Of Party Unity, Bernie Sanders (Finally) Endorses Hillary Clinton
The lingering chasm between presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her chief primary rival was bridged Tuesday, with Sen. Bernie Sanders teaming up with Clinton at a campaign event, where he formally endorsed Clinton's bid for the White House. "Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process, and I congratulate her for that," Sanders said. "She will be the Democratic nominee for president and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States. "I have come here today not to talk about the past but to focus on the future. That future will be shaped more by what happens on Nov. 8 in voting booths across our nation than by any other event in the world. I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president." READ MORE

LGBT Issues Remain Hot Topic As Republicans Hammer Out Platform for Next Week's Republican National Convention
Through hours of debate on topics ranging from federal lands to immigration to the economy to family values, a handful of delegates gathered for Platform Committee meetings ahead of next week's Republican National Convention repeatedly challenged their peers to moderate provisions affecting gay and lesbian Americans. They were for the most part rebuffed by the 112-member panel, which approved a GOP platform that opposes same-sex marriage rights, supports efforts to restrict bathrooms to individuals' birth gender and protects businesses who refuse services to individuals based on religious objections to gay marriage. Pro-LGBT Republicans circulate floor fight effort. The two days of nationally broadcast, uncomfortable votes exposed a deep divide in the Republican Party over its staunch social conservatism, culminating in a dramatic effort to force the issue on the convention floor and counter cries of deceit. At the heart of the effort was a group of delegates working with American Unity Fund, a pro-LGBT Republican advocacy group funded by billionaire Republican Paul Singer. After failing repeatedly in their efforts, the group was buoyed by the number of delegates who voted in their favor, including about 20 delegates raising their hands in support of a proposal from D.C. delegate Rachel Hoff to revamp the party's position on marriage to broaden the language to include "diverse" views on marriage and support the "strength of all families" While raising the amendment, Hoff also emotionally made public to her peers that she was gay. Gays for Trump? Activist plans new effort New York delegate Annie Dickerson said the GOP Platform Committee has been resisting an obvious trend in the country toward gay rights, calling same-sex marriage "settled law," saying it is only a matter of time before federal nondiscrimination statutes protecting LGBT rights are enacted. "This is going in only one direction, so that the platform committee of the GOP hasn't caught up with it yet is unfortunate," Dickerson told CNN. "I think in 20 years we'll look at this as an unfortunate blot in the history of the Republican Party that there wasn't an embrace for our brothers and sisters." Just as pro-LGBT amendments continued to be raised at the meeting, social conservatives continued to promote traditional marriage. Hoff offered an amendment Tuesday morning to call out terrorists for targeting gay people, which was defeated, begging her colleagues: "Can you not at the very least stand up for the right for us not to be killed?" Later, as delegates supported an amendment to insert language reiterating opposition to the Supreme Court's ruling that gay marriage is constitutionally protected, Dickerson said: "Has a dead horse been beaten enough yet?" READ MORE

With Pence as VP Running Mate, Trump Doubles Down on Anti-LGBTQ Agenda
HRC blasted Donald Trump for doubling down on his anti-equality agenda by choosing as his running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who has made virulent anti-LGBTQ activism a cornerstone of his political career. “Donald Trump just doubled down on his agenda of hate and discrimination by choosing the notoriously anti-LGBTQ Mike Pence for his ticket,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Mike Pence has never left any question about his animus toward LGBTQ people, from peddling a hateful and damaging ‘right to discriminate bill’ in Indiana last year, to his longstanding opposition to marriage equality -- positions shared by Donald Trump.” Griffin Continued: “Hillary Clinton has laid out the most ambitious agenda for LGBTQ equality that our nation has ever seen from a presidential candidate. She will not only protect the gains we have made over the last eight years, but fight for full federal equality day in and day out in the White House.” Pence became a national disgrace in 2015, for his “license to discriminate” bill that could have allowed businesses to deny service to LGBTQ people -- and subsequently defending the bill over an outcry from the business community and a majority of Hoosier voters. In a now notorious interview with ABC last year, Pence refused to answer eight separate times when asked whether businesses should be able to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Pence’s discriminatory bill had enormous consequences for the business and economic health of Indiana after a flood of companies spoke out against his bill. Indianapolis’s nonprofit tourism agency estimated that in their city alone, Pence’s anti-LGBTQ bill cost up to 12 conventions and $60 million in lost revenue. Polling conducted by HRC after the 2015 fight found that 75 percent of Hoosiers said the debate was bad for the state’s economy and 70 percent of those surveyed said they [were] opposed to the law. READ MORE

Donald Trump Was Calling Top Aides at Midnight Asking if He Could Dump Pence as His VP Running Mate
Even though Donald Trump settled on Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate Thursday afternoon, and offered the Republican governor the coveted slot Thursday around 5 PM, hours later the brash billionaire was having second thoughts. So worried was Trump that he had made a bad decision, he called several top aides to see if he could backtrack and dump Pence.

Mike Pence’s Questionable 2000 Proposal On HIV/AIDS Funding
"Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior." READ MORE