9th Circuit Court refuses to lift stay of same-sex marriage

A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday left in place a ban on gay marriage in California, denying requests to allow same-sex couples to marry during a lengthy appeals process.

Federal Judge Vaughn Walker ruled last year that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional and ordered that same-sex weddings be allowed to resume, but his decision is on hold pending the appeal.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is waiting for California’s supreme court to issue guidance on whether Prop. 8 sponsors have legal standing to defend the law in court when the state will not.

California’s decision could add nine months to a year to the federal appeal process.

Unfortunately, that may be too late for some longtime gay or lesbian couples. As I wrote here recently, Ed and Derence of Palm Springs, a couple that has been together for 40 years, demonstrate that lives are in the balance. Ed suffers from advancing Alzheimer’s. The California Supreme Court and now the 9th Circuit have decided to make Ed and Derence wait at least 9 more months before they might enjoy the fundamental right to marry. By then, it might not matter anymore. By then, Ed fears he may not recognize the love of his life, his own home or anything else.

Sometimes you hear people say “what’s the rush?” or “we’ll get there, don’t worry.”

Ed and Derence worry.

Colorado: Civil Unions bill moves forward in state Senate

The Colorado Civil Union Act cleared its first vote in the state Senate today.

The bill, sponsored by Denver Democrat Pat Steadman, and co-sponsored by every other Democratic member of the Senate, passed after a debate mostly focused on reciprocity, or how Colorado would recognize civil unions and same-sex marriages from other states like Iowa and Illinois.

If the legislation becomes law, it would establish a new form of relationship recognition for both same-sex couples and heterosexuals. Most of the protections and rights married Coloradan couples would also be made available to those couples in civil unions.

The bill will have one more vote tomorrow and is expected to be passed. It will then head to the Republican controlled House where Rep. Mark Ferrandino will sponsor it. A co-sponsor, and out lawmaker, Rep. Sue Schafer said the bill would probably be introduced in a week.

Brad Clark, executive director of One Colorado, a statewide GLBT advocacy organization, applauded the vote:

“Today is a tremendous victory for gay and lesbian couples across the state—and for all fair-minded Coloradans,” Clark said. “We look forward to working with House Republican leadership who have promised a fair hearing. Issues of significant importance with overwhelming public support like civil unions deserve a full and fair hearing with an up-or-down vote by the entire House.”

(from Out Front Colorado)

Indiana Marriage Ban Moves Forward

A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions is headed to the Senate floor after passing out of the Senate Judiciary Committee 7-3.

The committee voted down an amendment that would have limited the ban only to same-sex marriage, leaving the door open for Indiana to legalize civil unions in the future.

Thirty states have constitutional bans on marriage. Twenty also ban civil unions in their constitutions.

The measure has already passed in the Indiana House. The legislature will have to approve the bill a second time by 2014 in order to get it on that year’s ballot, the earliest voters would see it.

Obama Administration Asks United Nations to Support LGBT Rights

The Obama administration, on Tuesday, introduced a declaration to the United Nations calling for better treatment and protections for LGBT people internationally.

The declaration, announced at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, has the support of more than 80 countries, according to the Associated Press. The document demands that countries end persecution of gay people and asks the U.N. to review how governments treat their gay citizens.

In a statement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights. We will continue to promote human rights around the world for all people who are marginalized and discriminated against because of sexual orientation or gender identity. And we will not rest until every man, woman and child is able to live up to his or her potential free from persecution or discrimination of any kind.”

In opposition to the proposed declaration, The Family Research Council, an SPLC-certified hate group released a statement saying “Our global neighbors have the freedom to believe that homosexuality is wrong–just as they have the freedom to legislate against any behavior they think is harmful to society. That freedom–and their very sovereignty–would be threatened by this effort.”

The move represents a break on the part of the US from the Bush administration, which declined to support a 2008 document written by the French government similar to the one being proposed.

The new resolution now has support from Thailand, Rwanda, El Salvador, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, which did not support the 2008 document.

Homosexuality is still punishable as a crime in at least 85 countries, including Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan, and Ghana.

Colorado House approves anti-bullying bill

The Colorado House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill that would reduce incidents of bullying in Colorado public schools.

If passed by the full legislature, the bill — HB-1254 — would clearly define bullying, create a state grant program to which schools can apply in order to fund bullying prevention programs, and require each school district to adopt a comprehensive, evidence-based anti-bullying policy.

The measure, which is co-sponsored by Representatives Sue Schafer and Kevin Priola, would overhaul current state anti-bullying guidelines for schools which would include sexual orientation and establish a state government organization to raise money for anti-bullying programs.

The measure requires that the state’s school districts implement programs to train teachers and create databases about bullying incidents in schools.

Elizabeth Taylor: Tireless AIDS Activist & Film Legend passes away at 79

Elizabeth Taylor, the violet-eyed film star whose sultry screen persona, turbulent personal life and worldwide fame and glamour made her one of the last of the classic movie stars and a template for the modern celebrity, died Wednesday at age 79.

She had extraordinary grace, wealth and beauty. She won two Academy Awards, and her advocacy for AIDS research and for other causes earned her a special Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, in 1993.

Her more than 50 movies included unforgettable portraits of innocence and of decadence, from “National Velvet” to Oscar-winning performances in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Butterfield 8.”

Longtime friend Barbra Streisand issued a statement saying “It’s the end of an era. It wasn’t just her beauty or her stardom. It was her humanitarianism. She put a face on HIV/AIDS. She was funny. She was generous. She made her life count.”

Taylor was a great ally to the LGBT community, and worked tirelessly on behalf of AIDS-related charities and fund raising. She helped start the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) after the death of her former co-star and friend, Rock Hudson.

“I remember complaining, ‘Why isn’t anybody doing anything? Why isn’t anyone raising money?’” asked Elizabeth. “And it struck me like lightning: ‘Wait a second, I’m not doing anything.’”

“I decided that with my name I could open certain doors, that I was a commodity in myself—and I’m not talking as an actress. I could take the fame I’d resented and tried to get away from for so many years—but you can never get away from it—and use it to do some good. I wanted to retire, but the tabloids wouldn’t let me. So I thought, If you’re going to screw me over, I’ll use you.” The tabloids had followed her every move for decades, and by attaching her name to the AIDS crisis, they would have to acknowledge it.

Elizabeth Taylor would breakdown the stereotypes associated with the disease and enlighten an ignorant world.

There are those who gain, use and abuse their celebrity and position without ever contributing to a greater good. And then there was Elizabeth Taylor.

8 things you should know about anti-gay Republican Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty

Eight things you should know about newly announced Republican Presidential candidate, former Governor and anti-gay Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota:

1. Pawlenty proudly opposes recognition of any same-sex unions: In a recent interview on FOX News, he told Greta Van Susteren that he will “never be at the point where I say all domestic relationship[s] are the same as traditional marriage. They are not.”

2. Pawlenty supports maintaining Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, rescinding funding to implement its repeal, and perhaps not allowing gays and lesbians to serve at all.

3. Pawlenty regrets his vote as a state legislator supporting nondiscrimination protections based on gender identity.

4. Pawlenty vetoed a bill extending end-of-life rights to same-sex couples. In addition, same-sex couples continue to be limited in the ability to seek restitution for wrongful death.

5. Pawlenty vetoed an anti-bullying bill adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Minnesota’s bullying policies and training.

6. In 2001, Pawlenty opposed labor unions’ efforts to offer benefits to employees’ same-sex partners.

7. Pawlenty vetoed a bill allowing local municipalities in Minnesota to offer domestic partner benefits.

8. Pawlenty vetoed a bill allowing state employees to use their accrued sick leave to take care of seriously ill family members.

For more detail, check out Zack Ford’s excellent article on the issues listed above.

Delaware: Civil Unions bill introduced in state senate

Today, SB 30, was introduced by Senator David Sokola & Representative Melanie George which would legalize civil unions in the state of Delaware.

The bill would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions giving them all of the rights, benefits, and obligations of marriage under state law, but would not allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses. Religious institutions may choose not to solemnize civil unions.

Currently, five states have laws providing an expansive form of state-level relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples, without offering marriage. California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington provide same-sex couples with access to almost of all the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Earlier this year, the governors of Hawaii and Illinois signed into law civil unions bills. Couples in Illinois can begin applying for civil union licenses on June 1, 2011 and in Hawaii couples can begin applying on Jan. 1, 2012.

(more from the Human Rights Campaign press release)

Op-Ed piece in Las Vegas’ leading newspaper in support of marriage equality

Very surprising but supportive op-ed piece in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal regarding whether or not Nevada is ready and should “jump in” on marriage equality, both as a matter of fairness and finance.

“Some who favor legalizing gay marriage in Nevada — including many libertarian-leaning conservatives — favor it for economic reasons. If Nevada were to become America’s super-fabulous gay marriage mecca, we’d benefit from the fees, the travel, the hotel stays and the parties.”

“It’s a natural extension of the city’s existing tolerance, too. If we’re liberal enough to let pretty much any straight couple get married while drunk, we’ve got to be liberal enough to let real-life gay couples who actually want to honor the institution of marriage do it here.”

It seems people are figuring out not only is it the right and fair thing to do, it makes money for the state and it’s citizens. Funny how money can move an issue.

Casey Heynes – the bully victim who fought back

Casey Heynes became a youtube sensation recently when, after being bullied for most of his days in high school, he stood up for himself and turned the tables on a bully.

I personally applaud him for his courage to say “enough” to the bully who wouldn’t leave him alone. I went through a lot of this in school and wish I had turned things around the way this young guy did.

In the clip below, he gives an interview describing how he suffered being bullied for years, contemplated suicide and finally how he found the strength to stand up to one of his bullies.

Good for Casey. I don’t condone violence, but he gives hope to everyone who’s ever been bullied that the day will come where the courage and confidence come together to say “enough.” I think he’s a hero and an inspiration.