Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Policy Matters 2/8/12

Front Page Headlines

Church of England Clergy Rebel on Same-Sex Ceremonies: Nearly 100 clergy of the Church of England signed a letter asking that priests be allowed to personally decide whether or not to conduct civil partnership ceremonies in their churches. In December the Church decided that civil partnership ceremonies would not be permitted on Church property without the approval of its general assembly, but some clergy argue that priests should have the same rights with same-sex civil partnership ceremonies as they do with the marriages of heterosexual couples, namely the right to personally decide whether or not to conduct a ceremony on a case-by-case basis. [AFP]

Gay California Veteran Sues Over Denial of Benefits: Gay army veteran Tracey Cooper-Harris and her wife are suing the federal government after they were denied the benefits that heterosexual married couples receive. The couple argues that the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the military from granting benefits to the partners of married gay veterans, is unconstitutional and discriminatory. [New York Times]

Representative Barney Frank to Marry Longtime Partner: Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank, a famous gay champion of LGBT rights in Congress, will marry his long-time partner, Jim Ready. Representative Frank is retiring at the end of this term after more than 30 years in Congress. [New York Times]

Policy Watch

White House Responds to Virginia Anti-Same-Sex Couple Adoption Bill: The White House, in response to a Washington Blade inquiry about anti-gay adoption legislation moving through the Virginia Legislature, said Monday night President Obama believes adoption placement shouldn’t be “based on discriminatory and irrelevant factors.” A bill moving through the Virginia Legislature would allow private adoption agencies to discriminate in placements conflicting with their religious or moral beliefs, including on the basis of sexual orientation. [Washington Blade]

Washington State Senate Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill: The Washington State Senate has passed a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry as early as this summer. The House, which has even greater support for marriage equality than the Senate, could vote on the bill next week. Governor Christine Gregoire has promised to sign the bill into law, which would make Washington the seventh state (including the District of Columbia) to legalize same-sex marriage. [New York Times]

Washington Post, New York Times Opinion Pages Cover Contractor Executive Order Proposal: This week both the Washington Post and the New York times featured opinion pieces supporting a proposed executive order to prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity employment discrimination among federal contractors. [Metro Weekly]

NC Gov. Beverly Perdue’s Withdrawal from Race Shakes Up Prospects for Same-Sex Marriage Ban: A ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage was set to be voted on during the North Carolina Republican primaries for Governor and President in May. The expected effect of this timing was that turnout for the vote would be overwhelmingly Republican. Now that Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue has withdrawn from the race, Democrats will be holding their own primary election for Governor, which will likely lead to higher turnout by Democrats for the vote on outlawing same-sex marriage. This could change the dynamic for the vote on the ballot measure. [Washington Post]

Court Strikes Down Ban on Same-Sex Marriage in California: This week the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 that California’s Proposition 8, which was a voter-passed state constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, violates the United States Constitution. Writing for the majority, Judge Reinhardt stated that “The People may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry.” Defendants of Proposition 8 will be allowed to appeal and have vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if the larger 9th Circuit Court upholds this decision. [New York Times]

Maryland Governor Urges Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage: Governor Martin O’Malley testified before the State Senate on Tuesday, urging the legislators to pass a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. The Governor has taken the lead on the fight for marriage equality in this session, following similar leadership by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in that state’s marriage equality victory. A recent Washington Post poll shows that a majority of Marylanders support marriage equality, but there is some division among state Democratic politicians over the issue. [New York Times]

Question from the Field

Dear Policy Matters,

This week I saw opinion pieces in both the Washington Post and the New York Times calling on President Obama to issue an executive order to protect LGBT federal contractors from discrimination. I have a few friends who work for federal contractors and would greatly benefit from this kind of action. Is the President likely to issue such an executive order in the near future?

Thank you,

Katherine

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Dear Katherine,

The fact that on the same day the Washington Post and the New York Times both featured opinion pieces supporting an executive order to protect LGBT federal contractors from discrimination, suggests strong public support for extending sexual orientation and gender identity workplace protections through an Executive Order issued by the President.

As you suggested, this would be great news for many LGBT employees and their families. The proposed executive order would extend sexual orientation and gender identity workplace protections to more than 16 million Americans who do not currently have them. LGBT employees all too often face a disproportionate level of discrimination in the workplace, which leaves these employees and their families vulnerable to economic ruin.

With little to no movement in Congress on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would outlaw LGBT discrimination in the workplace nationwide, an executive order by President Obama may be one of the best ways to address part of the problem of employment discrimination that LGBT people face in the interim of a broad legislative change

Thanks for the great question!

Policy Matters

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P.S. Have you downloaded our new edition of Bringing the Message Home yet? Get your 2011 version of the how-to guide to PFLAG advocacy now and share it with your chapter. Visit PFLAG nationals' website for more information now!

If you would like to have a policy-related question featured in our next edition, please e-mail rperry@pflag.org with your question no later than Friday, February 17th, 2011.

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