Illinois is set to become the 15th state in the nation to provide same-sex couples the freedom to marry.
On Tuesday, the Illinois House of Representatives voted 61-54 to approve the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, affirming the freedom to marry for all same-sex couples in the state. The bill passed the state Senate in February and will soon go to Governor Pat Quinn, who has expressed strong support for marriage and will sign it into law.
“It’s a fabulous day for Illinois! The Illinois House of Representatives finally made legal what the majority of Illinoisans have long understood–that love is love and all families deserve to be treated as equal under the law,” said Jim Bennett, Midwest Regional Director of Lambda Legal. “Same-sex couples and their children can celebrate a new era of equality in the Land of Lincoln. With the 5th most populous state in the union embracing the freedom to marry, we have moved much closer to bringing equality to all Americans. This victory will be a catalyst in our ongoing efforts to achieve full equality across all fifty states.”
“This was an enormous group effort and along with the leadership from the House, Senate and Governor’s office we’d like to thank our colleagues at the ACLU of Illinois, Equality Illinois, all of the members of the Illinois Unites for Marriage campaign and advocates from across the state who called, wrote letters and made visits to their elected officials,” added Bennett.
“Today’s vote by the Illinois House means the Land of Lincoln will be our nation’s 15th freedom to marry state. This is great news for the thousands of committed same-sex couples in Illinois who will now be able to make the ultimate vow before their friends and family, protected and supported by their marriage,” said Freedom to Marry’s national campaign director, Marc Solomon.
President Barack Obama released a statement following the passage of marriage equality in Illinois. It read:
Tonight, I applaud the men and women of the Illinois General Assembly, a body in which I was proud to serve, for voting to legalize marriage equality in my home state.
As President, I have always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally under the law. Over time, I also came to believe that same-sex couples should be able to get married like anyone else. So tonight, Michelle and I are overjoyed for all the committed couples in Illinois whose love will now be as legal as ours – and for their friends and family who have long wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and equally under the law.
I also commend the members of the General Assembly for approaching this issue in a fair and open way, and for recognizing the importance of our commitment to religious freedom by engaging the religious community in this conversation. Throughout this debate, they’ve made it clear that this is about civil marriages and civil laws, and made sure that churches and other institutions of faith are still free to make their own decisions that conform to their own teachings.
As I said in my Inaugural Address last January, our journey as a nation is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. And tonight, I’m so proud that the men and women elected to serve the people of the great state of Illinois have chosen to take us one step further on that journey to perfect our union.
The National Equality Action Team (NEAT), a project chaired by Marriage Equality USA, provided support to Illinois Unites for Marriage. In the spring of 2013, NEAT volunteers in New York City and across the country had 1812 conversations with constituents in Illinois. This fall they had an additional 1900 conversations with Illinois voters which resulted in 700 calls to undecided Illinois representatives.
“I am so proud of the work MEUSA and our partners in the Illinois coalition accomplished! The dedication this summer to redoubling efforts, reevaluating strategy, and expanding our work has paid off for thousands of LGBT families in the Land of Lincoln,” stated MEUSA Executive Director Brian Silva.
Among the active members of the NEAT Illinois campaign were the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Triangle, North Carolina chapter of the Human Rights Campaign.
NOW Action Vice President Bonnie Grabenhofer reported, “With training and support provided by Marriage Equality USA, NOW members from all over the country were able to have conversations with Illinois voters in the districts of undecided representatives. Those Illinois voters then left messages for their representatives urging them to support the marriage equality bill.”
NEAT held phone banks for Illinois Unites for Marriage in 27 different locations. Physical phone banks for Illinois were held in 3 states and remote phone banking was done from the homes of people in 18 different states. Key leaders in the Triangle (NC) Chapter of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) set up an in-person phone bank in Raleigh with MEUSA’s assistance.
Carson Fernandez, Triangle Chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, added, “Although North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment that prohibits our state from recognizing any kind of union other than heterosexual marriage, many of us doubled our efforts to help Illinois win the freedom to marry.”
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Married Americans spend more than those in any other marital status category, across age groups. Americans who have never married spend significantly less, particularly for those younger than 50, suggesting that if the marriage rate increases, overall spending in the U.S. may increase and benefit the U.S. economy.
Married Americans report a daily spending average of $102, followed by $98 among those who are living in domestic partnerships, $74 by divorced Americans, $67 by those who are single and never married, and $62 by those who are widowed. As shown in the accompanying graph, across all age groups, those who are married spend more than those of other marital statuses.
Gallup asked Americans to report how much money they spent the prior day, excluding payments for normal household bills and major purchases such as homes or cars. The figure gives an estimate of discretionary spending. The current analysis is based on January through September 2013 Gallup Daily tracking interviews with more than 130,000 U.S. adults.
These results suggest that if more Americans are married, and fewer are single/never married, overall spending might increase. Similarly, if more Americans are in domestic partnerships and fewer are single, that too would appear to be related to higher spending.
The Relevance of Income
Married Americans spend more than the average American in part because they have higher-than-average incomes. Single Americans spend less, at least in part because they have lower-than-average incomes. Those in domestic partnerships spend almost as much as those who are married but have lower average incomes, similar to single Americans’ incomes, suggesting that domestic partners in some sense overspend what would be predicted from their incomes alone. This hypothesis is supported by additional research showing that those in domestic partnerships have a relatively high rate of spending when income and other demographic factors are controlled for.
The U.S. marriage rate has declined in recent years, but recent Gallup analysis shows that it is possible that the marriage rate in the United States will go up in the future, based on a pent-up demand for marriage. Based on the spending habits of married Americans compared with their single counterparts who have never married, such a change could be expected to give a boost to the economy, if those marriages come from the ranks of those who are single/never married. Similarly, an increase in the percentage of Americans living in domestic partnerships as opposed to being single would have an apparently positive impact on the economy. If, however, Americans in the future become less likely to jump from single status to marriage and more likely to move into domestic partnerships, the impact on the economy would be less significant.
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In June, the Supreme Court declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional thereby allowing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages performed in the current states where it is legal. This sea change in the recognition of same-sex marriages has led to significant new changes in public attitudes with strong implications for the American economy and workplaces. In a new Harris Poll released Thursday and commissioned by Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, nearly half (49 percent) of gay and lesbian adults would consider changing jobs if their employer required them to transfer to a state where same-sex marriages were not recognized, compared to just 30 percent last year.
The new survey also reveals that two-thirds (67 percent) of all Americans today, regardless of their feelings of approval or disapproval, believe that marriage equality is “inevitable everywhere in the U.S.”
“With the end of DOMA and our recovering economy, major corporations and employers that operate in states that don’t yet recognize same-sex marriage will find it tougher to recruit and keep the best LGBT talent,” said Selisse Berry, Out & Equal Founding Executive Director. “Same-sex marriage recognition by the federal government is an historic breakthrough. It’s now time to renew our efforts to pass a federal employment nondiscrimination law that is truly inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The U.S. Congress is today considering passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would provide protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. If this legislation were enacted, the new poll reveals that at least one-third (34 percent) of LGBT adults who are not yet open about their sexual orientation or gender identity at work would become comfortable “coming out” at work. Regrettably, the survey also reveals a need for greater education on the issue since nearly eight of 10 (76 percent) adults wrongly think it is currently illegal, under federal law, for an employer to fire someone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).
The annual 2013 Out & Equal Workplace Survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive in conjunction with Out & Equal Workplace Advocates and Witeck Communications, among 2,577 U.S. adults, of whom 2,150 indicated they are heterosexual and 371 self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (including an over-sample of gay and lesbian adults). Begun in 2002, this survey has become a trusted annual barometer of attitudes surrounding LGBT issues in the workplace and is the longest-running national survey of its kind.
When it comes to career advancement, the new survey reveals a clear majority (60 percent) of gay and lesbian adults also would consider declining a job promotion if it required them to transfer to a state where same-sex marriages were not recognized, compared to only a third (33 percent) when asked last year. Also, eight out of 10 (79 percent) gay and lesbian adults, other factors being equal, would prefer a job with an employer in a state where same-sex marriages are recognized over an employer in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages, compared to 68 percent in 2012.
Past polls show that non-LGBT allies are dedicated partners in the fight for workplace equality and, according to the new survey, they are growing in number. More than a third (35 percent) of heterosexual adults consider themselves to be an ally of LGBT people, compared to a quarter (27 percent) who declared so two years ago. Also, more than one out of four (28 percent) heterosexual adults say they keep informed about issues of importance to the LGBT community, compared to just a fifth (19 percent) in 2011.
Transgender Americans remain especially at risk for workplace discrimination, yet increased visibility can lead to more respect and acceptance. Nearly eight out of 10 (77 percent) heterosexual adults agree that how an employee performs at their job should be the standard for judging an employee, not whether or not they are transgender, compared to 67 percent of heterosexual adults tested in 2007.
The Out & Equal Workplace Summit will open on Monday, October 28, and close on Thursday, October 31, 2013 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Nearly 2,500 attendees are expected from more than 30 countries. LGBT employees and straight allies, along with human resources and diversity professionals, representing a broad cross-section of the nation’s leading companies—a majority from the Fortune 500—are set to participate in this year’s Summit, focused on achieving workplace equality.
For more information about the Summit or to register, please visit www.outandequal.org.
Marriage equality advocates in California, Oregon and Washington now have the opportunity to make a real difference in making the freedom to marry a reality in Hawaii. On Thursday, October 24 at 7:30 p.m. PT, the National Equality Action Team (NEAT) is having a national “Night of Action” for Hawaii in which volunteers can phone bank from home and other locations.
NEAT is a nearly 50-member action-oriented coalition of national, regional, state, and local organizations chaired by Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA).
Tracy Hollister, MEUSA Program Manager explained: “Just as loving, committed couples’ genders should not restrict their freedom to marry; neither should their state of residence. The rest of the country, particularly National Equality Action Team partners and volunteers on the West Coast, who are in a better position to phone bank for Hawaii, stands with Hawaii in their historic bid for marriage equality.”
“We are excited that fair-minded people on the West Coast and around the country can easily make a difference simply by going to www.theneat.org and signing up,” said MEUSA Board Member Brendan Brawner. “Even in New York, the ‘City That Never Sleeps,’ we will have an in-person luau phone bank party happening live in Times Square at 10:30 p.m. ET on October 24.”
Brian Silva, MEUSA Executive Director, concluded: “Since 1991, Hawaii has been at the forefront of the fight for equal rights for LGBT families. Today, MEUSA takes another important step as an early member of the Hawaii United for Marriage coalition by organizing supporters across the country to take action in support of our friends and family in the Aloha State.”
LGBT rights may be making progress, but it’s not going quick enough for Judy Shepard whose son Matthew was the victim of a brutal anti-gay hate crime 15 years ago in Laramie, Wyoming.
Matthew died October 12, 1998 at age 21, six days after he was beaten and left on a fence by two men he met at a bar while he was attending the University of Wyoming.
“Matthew’s death gave Wyoming a perfect opportunity to take the first step toward equality,” Shepard said. “Instead, it has taken two steps back.”
Shepard is shocked the state still has no hate-crime laws, let alone one based on crimes against sexual orientation or gender identity. Because of this, she said a lot of LGBT people in Wyoming choose to stay in the closet.
During an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Shepard also talked about the play The Laramie Project that addressed the town’s reactions to Matthew’s death. The play showed at the University of Mississippi, and some of the audience members shouted antigay slurs at the actors.
“It’s disappointing the nation as a whole isn’t embracing the movement to accept people like Matthew,” she told the Times. “We’ve still got a long way to go. That’s why an incident in Mississippi can still happen.”
Shepard set up the Matthew Shepard Foundation and was described as a “tireless advocate for gay rights.” The foundation’s executive director, Jason Marsden, thinks progress has been made for the LGBT community, pointing out the openly gay state legislator from Laramie that was elected in 2009, Cathy Connolly.
Marsden did, however, dismiss the book The Book of Matt, which claims that his murder was not a hate crime, but instead over drugs. His mother had no statements concerning the book.
Shepard has never been to the spot where Matthew died. She does, however, keep her sons watch, which was rescued from the police evidence room as he was wearing it when attacked. She had given it to him as a graduation gift and now keeps the watch on her dresser “as a reminder of Matthew’s life – and that time goes on.”
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Two-time U.S. Olympian Nick Symmonds not only won a silver medal in the 800 meter race last week at the IAFF World Athletics Championships in Moscow, but he decided todedicate his medal to his gay and lesbian friends.
The Olympian became the first to “to openly criticize Russia’s controversial anti-gay law on the country’s soil.”
Russia’s anti-gay laws, prohibiting “homosexual propaganda,” have been causing a lot of controversy considering the country is hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Even president Obama is upset with Russia’s laws, but thinks it’s unfair to boycott the Olympics.
“We’ve got a bunch of Americans that are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed,” he said. “Nobody’s more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and -lesbian legislation that we’ve been seeing in Russia
Symmonds said he would do all he could for the LGBT community short of getting arrested.
“As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them,” Symmonds said. “Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested.”
Symmonds seems to be true to his word. While he wanted to wear a rainbow flag during his race, the Russian government made it clear they would throw him in jail.
“I’m trying to tread that fine line of being respectful as a guest in this country and also speaking against some serious injustices that I see,” he said. “As adamant as I am about this issue, I don’t know what me sitting in jail is good for.”
Symmonds will stay civil during his races, but as he explained in a column for Runner’s World, his gay and lesbian friends will stay in his heart.
“I will say now what I said before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, when people asked me how I felt competing in a foreign country with questionable human rights standards: The playing field is not a place for politics. In a world rife with never-ending political battles, let the playing field be where we set aside our differences and compete for national pride and the love of sport.
“If I am placed in a race with a Russian athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country’s generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his ass in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home. Upon my return, I will then continue to fight for their rights in my beloved democratic union.”
This article is brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
Lambda Legal and The Center for HIV Law & Policy (CHLP), joined by eight other civil rights organizations, have submitted a friend-of-the-court brief asking the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to overturn an Immigration Judge’s ruling denying a Jamaican immigrant’s application for deferral of removal to Jamaica under the U.N Convention Against Torture (CAT).
“The Immigration Judge relied on stereotypes that greatly oversimplify the complicated journey may lesbians and gay men travel in coming to terms with their sexual orientation, and in determining to whom they come out,” Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Thomas W. Ude, Jr. said. “How do you prove to a judge that you are gay? Denying protection against torture in Jamaica based on stereotyped assumptions about the process of coming out is unjust. Relationship histories can be complicated for anyone, but this can be particularly true for LGB people from homophobic environments. Given the level of violence LGB people face in Jamaica, a decision that fails to acknowledge this complexity virtually guarantees that LGB immigrants will be sent to very dangerous conditions.”
The brief authored by Lambda Legal and CHLP concerns the case of Anthony, who immigrated to the United States when he was a teenager. He explained to the Immigration Judge that he realized he was gay when he was 25 but – like many other LGB people – continued to struggle for years to come to terms with his sexual orientation, both because of homophobia in his family and community, and reinforced by the antigay religious views of his family. He explained that while navigating his coming out process, he fathered two children. He also presented testimony from both a former and current romantic partner to support his own testimony about his sexual orientation.
“Anthony” is a pseudonym, because the immigrant seeking relief has requested anonymity based on his fear that if he is identified as a gay man, he will be tortured and killed if he is removed to Jamaica.
In the ruling, the immigration judge concluded that Anthony had not proved he was gay, pointing to the children, Anthony’s earlier relationships with women, and to testimony that Anthony had not told his children or their mothers that he is gay. However, in the friend-of-the-court brief, Lambda Legal and CHLP cite several studies documenting that for many LGB individuals, acknowledging that one is lesbian, gay or bisexual is often a prolonged process.
“Gay men can face a uniquely intense form of persecution in Jamaica,” said CHLP Legal Director Iván Espinoza-Madrigal. “Homophobia and ignorance about HIV are reflected in, and compounded by, the widely-held perception in Jamaica of gay men as vectors of disease. Gay men are presumed to be HIV positive and treated as dangerous to be around regardless of their actual HIV status.”
Lambda Legal and CHLP are joined by the following organizations as co-amici on this brief: the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Association of Social Workers Connecticut Chapter, the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.
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“We are incredibly excited to have Catie Curtis as the first brand ambassador for TomboyX,” said Fran Dunaway, CEO of Tomboy Exchange. “She’s a creative, talented woman who has never been afraid to stand up for what she believes in.”
The New Yorker dubbed her a folk-rock goddess and according to TomboyX she’s strong, smart and awesome – the perfect TomboyX woman.
“Sometimes I feel like an impostor in the women’s department, with its frills, flowers and bows–while men’s clothes don’t fit me either,” said Catie.” I’m so grateful to have discovered TomboyX where the clothing is made for women like me!”
Along with being a talented musician she is a role model. Catie started the “Aspire to Inspire” initiative to provide funding to the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers). The Foundation helps raise funds to purchase instruments for young musicians who can’t afford to buy their own.
As her music progresses to inspire, so does her Philanthropy. After benefit concerts for Americans United for Separation of Church and State in 2012, Catie and a group of well known comedians took on a music video for Voices United 2– including Jane Lynch from Glee.
Look for Catie’s collaboration with TomboyX when the TomboyX Original Collection launches in July.
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Dr. Lauren Boswell (Hilarie Burton) is certainly stirring up a storm with Grey’s Anatomy’s power couple, Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), affectionately known as “Calzona.”
On the show’s season finale, Lauren shamelessly flirted with Arizona, causing even more tension between her already rocky marriage, and fans were not happy about it. In fact, Burton told Huffington Post she was receiving death threats.
“I don’t engage in social media, which has its good and bad sides, I guess – but the good side is when people hate my guts, I’m kind of oblivious to it. I’m just worried about my kid and my dog here at the house,” she said.
Lauren is a complex character because she is both good at her job and engaging, but also the “other woman,” which was something Burton found tricky to portray.
“I don’t flirt [with] married people but Lauren does,” Burton said. “So that’s what I had to do for a couple days. You just buck up and get your flirt on.”
And get their flirt on they did. Grey’s Anatomy is now on hiatus until the fall. Will Calzona still be intact when we see them next?
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Tuesday, as the Pentagon’s annual report on sexual assault showed an alarming increase in cases, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced the Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013. In an effort to reduce sexual assaults within the military and help the victims of this crime, the Combating MSA Act would address a number of gaps within current law and policy and build upon the positive steps the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has taken in recent years. According to DoD estimates, there were about 19,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2011 alone. Of these, 3,192 were reported, leaving thousands of victims to face the aftermath alone as their assailants escape justice. That number rose to 26,000 cases in 2012 with less than 3,400 of those cases being reported.
“When our best and our brightest put on a uniform and join the United States Armed Forces, they do so with the understanding that they will sacrifice much in the name of defending our country and its people. However, it’s unconscionable to think that entertaining unwanted sexual contact from within the ranks is now part of that equation,” said Murray.
“Not only are we subjecting our men and women to this disgusting epidemic, but we’re also failing to provide the victims with any meaningful support system once they have fallen victim to these attacks. And while I applaud recent efforts by the Department of Defense to turn the tide on this mounting crisis, we must do more to root out the culture that fosters this behavior and provide substantive assistance to those who face these tragedies alone,” Murray said, adding: “I am proud to join Senator Ayotte in introducing the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act, to reverse this trend and establish the necessary means for victims to take action against their attackers. It’s inexcusable for us to wait any longer to address this issue and I’m glad this bipartisan legislation is taking meaningful steps to do right by our nation’s heroes.”
Ayotte said, “The United States continues to have the best military in the world—primarily because of the character, quality, and courage of our men and women in uniform. But when a service member fails to live up to our values and commits sexual assault, we must ensure the victims have the support they need and the perpetrators face justice.”
“Sexual assault presents a serious threat to the morale, discipline, and readiness of our armed forces. I look forward to working with DoD, Senator Murray, and my Senate colleagues to strengthen existing laws and policies so that all victims can come forward without fear of retribution and with confidence that they will receive the support, care, and justice they deserve,” Ayotte added.
The Combating MSA Act would:
- Provide victims of sexual assault with Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) – a military lawyer who will assist sexual assault victims throughout the process.
- Enhance the responsibilities and authority of DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office so that it can better oversee efforts to combat MSA across the Armed Forces and regularly track and report on a range of MSA statistics, including assault rate, number of cases brought to trial, and compliance with appropriate laws and regulations within each of the individual services.
- Refer cases to the general court martial level when sexual assault charges are filed or to the next superior competent authority when there is a conflict of interest in the immediate chain of command.
- Bar sexual contact between instructors and trainees during and within 30 days of completion of basic training or its equivalent.
- Ensure that Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARC) are available to members of the National Guard and Reserve at all times and regardless of whether they are operating under Title 10 or Title 32 authority.
Last month, Murray questioned the Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, and General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, about the alarming rate of reported sexual assaults within the Marine Corps. In the coming weeks, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) will introduce companion legislation to the Combating MSA Act in the House of Representatives.
During a Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee hearing in March, Ayotte questioned DoD officials about a January report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that identified problems in ensuring proper care for service members who are victims of sexual assault.
Ayotte is a former prosecutor who has worked extensively with victims. During her time as New Hampshire’s Attorney General, she chaired the Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian