Fair Housing for LGBT People Rejected in Louisiana

On March 31, the day before the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) marked the beginning of Fair Housing Month, Louisiana lawmakers said "no" to affording greater protections for LGBT people under state housing discrimination law.

Under current law, Louisiana protects the ability "to compete for available housing on an open, fair, and equitable basis, regardless of race, color, religion, [and] sex." House Bill 804, introduced by Representative Jared Brossett of New Orleans, would have added to the list protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and marital status.

Unfortunately, Monday's House committee vote ended in a 13-5 defeat of Representative Brossett's bill.

Equality Louisiana has shown that Louisianans strongly support on the side of housing fairness:

Equality Louisiana polls shows 93.7% oppose LGBT housing discrimination

But the opposition didn't miss a beat. The Times-Picayune's Laura McGaughy reported:

Kathleen Benfield, from the conservative Christian organization the American Family Association of New Orleans, also testified against the bill on behalf of the Louisiana Family Forum's Gene Mills, who she said could not make the hearing.

She said the issue presented by the bill was "to protect certain sexual practices outside of marriage" and said this isn't a civil rights issue since sexual identity and gender expression are not "immutable" like race and "can change over time." She also said Brossett didn't present proof that homosexuals are being discriminated against in Louisiana.

"In my opinion, this legislation is a solution in search of a problem -- that there is not a problem," said Benfield.

Right Wing Watch has more on the American Family Association.

In other news on the fight for LGBT equality, Illinois moves toward banning sexual orientation conversion therapy while Minnesota falters on that front, and marriage equality developments continue to unfold in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Check out PFAW’s website for more LGBT equality updates.

PFAW

Young People Are Leading the Way on Marriage and Family Equality

Last week's Washington Post-ABC News poll revealed that a supermajority now supports marriage equality, and half believe it's a constitutional right.

This week the Pew Research Center released its own numbers. 54 percent of respondents to the Pew poll, conducted in February, support a legal right to marry for gays and lesbians. Ten years ago, that number was just 32 percent. And in June 1996, the earliest available data, it was 27 percent.

Then Pew dug a bit deeper into the generation gap.

18- to 29-year-olds are leading the way overall (69 percent), both among Democrats (77 percent) and Republicans (61 percent). It's in the Republican Party where the generation gap is widest, with 30- to 49-year-olds 18 points behind at 43 percent, 50- to 64-year-olds 31 points behind at 30 percent, and those 65 and older 39 points behind at 22 percent.

The numbers on family equality tell a similar story.

PFAW will continue to support not only the freedom to marry nationwide and but also a definition of family that doesn't rest on parents' sexual orientation or gender identity.

In other LGBT news, new marriage equality litigation continues to pop up in the states, and Michigan has its first openly LGBT federal judge.

Check out even more news from our friends at GLAAD, the Victory Fund, and the Washington Blade.

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From "Right to Discriminate" to "Don't Say Gay," Standing up in Tennessee

With "right to discriminate" bills making news across the country, Tennessee's "don't say gay" battle continues to have a lasting – and inspiring – impact.

In 2011, Tennessee made national headlines for its effort to pass a "don't say gay" bill that would have prohibited educators from discussing any sexual orientation other than heterosexuality with students in kindergarten through eighth grade. This not only applied to lessons in classrooms, but to all discussions between educators and students. Any acknowledgement that LGBT people exist was officially prohibited, a cruel effort to isolate and declare as abnormal any children who were LGBT or who had LGBT family members (including parents).

It's come back in various forms since then, but it has yet to become law – thanks in part to courageous young people like Marcel Neergaard, who has consistently spoken out against the legislation and its chief sponsor, John Ragan, and who has also advocated for policies to protect LGBT students in the Volunteer State.

This week, Marcel wrote for the Huffington Post:

I know I am not alone in my struggles. I know I have to be happy with the progress LGBTQ people have made. I also know that it's not okay to be called out for being different. I know I can be helped by Tennessee's Dignity for All Students Act (HB927). It is important to say students cannot be harassed, intimidated or bullied because they are gay or perceived to be gay. The Dignity for All Students Act specifies many other groups, like kids who are bullied because of their religion, race, gender, gender identity or gender expression. It even helps the kids who are brave enough to be friends with students who are "different."

I'm not the only gay youth in Tennessee. I'm not the only gay kid in Oak Ridge. I'm not even the only gay student in my school [–] I'm just someone who is standing up. I know I have written about bullying many times, but this is still happening to kids like me everywhere and I refuse to let it continue. I will go on educating my school system, and the people around me who believe the gay stereotypes, but we [cannot] do this alone . . . We need . . . to convince legislators that students everywhere deserve safe places to learn. We also need people to encourage our representatives, who are supposed to represent us, to pass bills like the Dignity for All Students Act and federal legislation such as the Safe Schools Improvement Act. I want to make sure other kids do not have to go through what I have. This week I will be in Nashville for Advancing Equality on the Hill Day talking to my senator and (hopefully) representative about making schools safer for kids like me. What will you do?

Marcel's words ring especially true in the month leading up to the Day of Silence, an annual event organized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) that is meant to draw attention to the "silencing effects" of anti-gay harassment and name-calling in schools and to be a way for students to show their solidarity with students who have been bullied.

As we approach April 11, this year's Day of Silence, PFAW will be doing its part to spread Marcel's message – the idea that all students deserve far better than what they're getting when it comes to bullying and harassment in schools.

In the meantime, check out Big Bullies: How the Religious Right is Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for Gay Kids and its 2012 update.

In other LGBT news, Wisconsin marriage equality advocates are trying to get their litigation on the fast track.

Check out even more news from our friends at GLAAD, the Victory Fund, and the Washington Blade.

PFAW

Behind the Scenes with the Right-Wing on Arizona's "Right to Discriminate" Bill

At the end of February, Right Wing Watch introduced us to the Center for Arizona Policy's Cathi Herrod, who helped lead the effort to pass a "right to discriminate" bill in Arizona.

Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy accused the bill’s opponents of “incredible hostility to religion.”

“Our first freedom, our ability to live out our religious belief as our founders intended, as wars have been fought for our right to live out our religious belief, that is what is very much under attack,” Herrod said, adding that she is shocked that people would oppose the right-to-discriminate bill. “This was non-controversial until the last four or five days.”

She told Perkins that listeners should “pray for a miracle and to pray for an intervention” for the governor to sign the legislation.

Now that SB 1062 has been vetoed, we're learning more about the Center's involvement.

Documents recently obtained by Capitol Media Services detail meetings between the Center and Governor Jan Brewer's office.

“But the intent of the meetings, the purpose of the meetings, was to thoroughly vet the language, address their concerns, and make changes in the language pursuant to their concerns,” Herrod said. She said her organization addressed every concern raised by Hunter and Sciarrotta with the idea that this year’s version would not meet the same fate as a similar bill Brewer vetoed last year.

What led to this year’s veto, Herrod insisted, had nothing to do with the wording of SB 1062.

“Opponents made the bill about something it was not,” she said, with Brewer reacting to the highly vocal opposition, particularly from the LGBT community, rather than the language of SB 1062. “The governor vetoed a bill that didn’t exist.”

People For the American Way President Michael Keegan spoke earlier about the Right's influence:

In Arizona and across the country, Americans can see through the Right’s continued attempts to cloak anti-gay bigotry in the language of First Amendment rights. We hope that the pushback Arizona received this week will be a message, loud and clear, to the states with similar bills pending. Americans don’t want to live in a country where businesses have free rein to post a ‘No Gays’ sign.

In other LGBT news, Illinois continues implementing marriage equality; court cases progress in the Michigan and Virginia marriage battles; and Oregon Republicans stand up for the freedom to marry.

Check out even more news from our friends at GLAAD, the Victory Fund, and the Washington Blade.

PFAW

Supermajority now supports marriage equality; half believe it's a constitutional right

The march toward marriage equality is gaining momentum at a rate that not many of us predicted, with 17 states and DC having legalized marriage for same-sex couples, and litigation underway in 26 others. Seven to go!

It's also clear that the American people are standing more firmly on behalf of fairness for all couples than ever before. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released yesterday shows not only that a supermajority (59%) favors marriage equality, but also that half (50%) believe it's a constitutional right.

As you can see, the margin for marriage equality has essentially reversed over the last ten years.

Marc Solomon, Freedom to Marry:

Bipartisan momentum is overwhelmingly on our side. A supermajority of Americans believe in freedom and fairness, and support is growing at an unprecedented speed. Overwhelmingly, Americans – no matter where they live, how old they are, or what party they belong to – believe in treating their gay and lesbian family members and friends with dignity and respect by supporting their freedom to marry. It’s the right thing to do on both moral and constitutional grounds.

PFAW will continue to support the freedom to marry nationwide and will remain vigilant against backlash like that in the Grand Canyon State.

PFAW

New Mexicans unite for marriage

December 2013 marked a southwestern step toward marriage equality nationwide when the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state is required by its constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Today the state said no to dismantling that progress when its legislative session ended without any consideration of a proposed constitutional amendment. With bipartisan support, SJR 6 is dead, and New Mexico still represents the seventeenth state (plus DC) to have legalized marriage for same-sex couples.

New Mexicans United for Marriage:

When the Supreme Court ruled that our state constitution guarantees all New Mexicans the rights and responsibilities of marriage, we expected there would be some who would seek to overturn the decision. But the Legislature listened to the citizens of New Mexico and stood strong against attempts to deny New Mexicans their constitutional right of marriage equality. This should prove once and for all that marriage equality is here to stay in New Mexico and that all families in our state are valued and secure.

Freedom to Marry:

In the end, as we’re finding in so many other states, the freedom to marry was protected by bipartisan support. We’re indebted to the leadership of our co-chairs, including former Gov. Gary Johnson, a libertarian who speaks directly to many New Mexicans who believe that freedom means freedom for everyone.

The timing of today’s victory bodes well as two important federal court challenges to marriage bans are headed to the 10th Circuit Court in Denver. New Mexico is one of the six states served by that court and we hope the resounding silence by its political and legislative leaders to challenge the freedom to marry resonates with the justices.

PFAW stood with Freedom to Marry and other NMUM partners in asking members to make calls on behalf of fairness for all couples. We will continue to support the freedom to marry nationwide and will remain vigilant against backlash in the Land of Enchantment.

PFAW

New Mexico Becomes 17th Marriage Equality State

It has been quite a year for marriage equality. Today the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state is required by its constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry. This means that New Mexico joins the impressive list of states that legalized marriage for same-sex couples in 2013 alone, including Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, and becomes the 17th state in the country to legalize marriage equality.

As the march toward full equality nationwide continues with today’s victory in New Mexico, the momentum is undeniable. PFAW will continue to advocate for marriage equality until every couple can access the protections necessary to take care of each other for a lifetime.
 

PFAW

Hawaii to Become Marriage Equality State

At the beginning of last year, freedom to marry for same-sex couples was the law of the land in only six states and DC. Now, in less than a two-week span, Illinois and Hawaii have become the 15th and 16th states set to join a fast-growing list.

State senators in Hawaii today gave final approval to a marriage equality bill, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said he will sign it into law. Following his signature, same-sex couples will be able to marry in Hawaii beginning Dec. 2. Civil unions have been available since January of last year, and The Advocate reports that it will be possible to convert those unions into marriages online if couples so choose.

Today’s news is not only a major victory for committed couples in Hawaii, but also an exciting step in the march toward equality nationwide.
 

PFAW

Senator Portman’s change of heart and the legacy of Harvey Milk

Anyone who’s heard the story of San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk has likely heard his famous call:

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

That was one of the slogans used in the campaign against California’s Briggs Initiative in 1978. It was also the sign of something bigger for Milk, his staunch belief that sexual orientation was not a private matter, and that hearts and minds would only be changed if gays and lesbians came out to show their family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and the like that we’re all on the same team. That everyone has the same right to the proverbial life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Nearly thirty-five years after Milk was assassinated, that mantra has again proven true in the case of Will Portman and his father, US Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.

Why did Senator Portman’s change of heart take two years? Why has he continued to support the anti-gay policies of his party? There’s a lot of debate on both points, but one thing is certain: it was his son’s own coming out that forced the Senator to come out in support of marriage equality, and to do that interview and write that op-ed.

The Portman story breaks just eleven days before the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the cases challenging California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Stuart Milk recently told the United for Marriage coalition that we must have a public showing at the Court of who this impacts. In so doing, he is upholding one of the fundamental principles on which his uncle’s legacy is based.

Thank you, Harvey.

PS – If you’d like to join PFAW at the Court, click here for more information.

PFAW

PFAW is United for Marriage

On December 7, 2012, the Supreme Court agreed to hear cases challenging California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

PFAW President Michael Keegan:

As we saw with last month’s state ballot measures affirming marriage equality, more and more Americans are coming to understand that laws preventing same-sex couples from getting married do real harm to our families, friends, and neighbors . . . Laws like Proposition 8 and DOMA go against the central American ideal of equal justice under the law . . . The cases the court agreed to hear today are a landmark opportunity for our country to move towards making marriage equality the law of the land once and for all.

Now that opportunity is upon us.

In less than two weeks, oral arguments will be heard at the Court. PFAW will be there with the United for Marriage coalition.

There have been a few moments during my nearly nine years in DC that I’ve felt like I was part of history. January 31, 2006, shaking Senator Ted Kennedy’s hand just after he’d cast his “No” vote on the Alito nomination. August 29, 2009, gathering at the Capitol for Senator Kennedy’s funeral procession. June 28, 2012, standing outside the Court as the (at first false) news of the healthcare ruling spread.

Organizing with United for Marriage has already felt historic, so March 26 and 27, 2013 stand to join those moments. You can, too.

  • If you live in or near DC, or plan to be here for this historic occasion, join the PFAW delegation at the Court for the United for Marriage rallies. RSVP here then email me to let me know you're attending.
  • If you live elsewhere or know people in other parts of the country, check out a local event, or create one of your own.

Visit unitedformarriage.org for more information.

PS: We’ll be wearing PFAW shirts and carrying PFAW signs. The color of the day is red!

PFAW