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August 10, 2012

News Briefs

Marriage would bring $165 million to Ohio, study finds

Columbus--Barring same-sex marriage costs the state of Ohio the equivalent of $165 million over the course of three years, according to a study by Bill Lafayette of Regionomics.

The study was commissioned by Freedom Ohio, which is circulating petitions for a 2013 ballot measure to allow full marriage in the state.

Lafayette’s research indicates that weddings and wages paid to those in the wedding industry would amount to $165 million over three years. That would also see Ohioans getting married at home, instead of heading to New York, Massachusetts or some other state or country that allows full same-sex marriage.

It could also bring in people from outside Ohio, especially those in Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and West Virginia, since Ohio would be closer than many other destinations.

The estimates agree with statistics released by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg last month, which showed $275 million in economic benefits to the city since same-sex marriage was legalized in the state last year.

Mullen pleads guilty to one charge

Columbus--The former executive director of Equality Ohio pleaded guilty to a single charge of disorderly conduct on July 16, and was fined. A second charge of menacing was dismissed.

Ed Mullen was ordered to pay the costs, a total of $140.01, and he closed out the case that day.

The issue stemmed from a June 16 verbal altercation after Columbus Pride with a resident of Buttles Ave., in the man’s front yard a block from the Pride festival in Goodale Park.

He was arrested 80 minutes after the altercation was called in, and released on his own recognizance the following day.

Director of Programs and Outreach Kim Welter assumed the mantle of interim executive director following Mullen’s resignation, which took effect on June 29.

Mullen joined Equality Ohio in February 2011, after former executive director Sue Doerfer left. Mullen did not respond to requests for comment on whether he would return to Chicago, where he had worked as a civil rights attorney advocating for people with disabilities before taking the post with Equality Ohio. He also handled some pro bono cases on LGBT issues.

Dems add marriage to their platform

Washington, D.C.--The drafting committee for the Democratic National Convention has unanimously approved adding a call for same-sex marriage to the party’s platform, as promised by Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

According to an August press release from committee member Rep. Barney Frank, the matter now goes to the full platform committee, meeting in Detroit this weekend, then the platform goes on to the national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina next month.

It will the first time the party’s platform has included marriage equality.

While Republican leaders have yet to comment on the issue, they have had a plank in their platform opposing same-sex marriage since 1992. Its most recent version calls for a federal constitutional ban amendment which would strip marriage rights in states that have passed full same-sex marriage.

“Most Republican Party leaders seem to have lost the stomach for this fight,” Dan Schnur told the blog Politico. Schnur is at the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. “Some of that results (from) the number of large-scale donors who support same-sex marriage, some of it’s a result in an increasing number of party leaders who support same-sex marriage, and a lot of it is public opinion polling which shows a shift in the way voters feel about same-sex marriage.”

Health care act bars TG discrimination

Washington, D.C.--The United States Department of Health and Human Services says that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--often called “Obamacare”--prohibits discrimination by gender identity and sexual stereotypes under its rules against sex-based discrimination.

The clarification came in a letter sent to a coalition of LGBT groups.

“We agree that [the]sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and will accept such complaints for investigation,” civil rights director Leon Rodriguez wrote.

Masen Davis, the executive director of the Transgender Law Center, said, “This is an important clarification for all transgender people, who so often face extraordinary barriers in accessing health care. I’m incredibly proud of Transgender Law Center, our partner organizations, and the thousands of individual advocates who have made this moment possible through years of tireless education and advocacy.”

Medical providers who accept federal funding of any sort are bound by the rules, and those who feel they are discriminated against can file complaints with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Pupil dilation may reveal orientation

Ithaca, N.Y.--A new study indicates that pupil dilation might be an indicator of sexual orientation.

Cornell University researchers used special infrared lenses to measure changes in the pupils of people watching erotic videos.

It is similar to using other physiological measurements, like the arousal of genitals, but that is invasive and can be at least partially overcome by concentration. The pupil measurements, taken as participants watched erotic videos with a range of sexual acts and gender combinations, is believed to be more effective.

Heterosexual men showed strong responses to videos of women, and little to videos of men, while heterosexual women showed responses to both sexes.

Bisexual men in the study showed strong reactions to both men and women, despite earlier ideas that bisexual men based their attractions on romantic and identity issues, but not on sexual arousal.

“We wanted to find an alternative measure that would be an automatic indication of sexual orientation, but without being as invasive as previous measures,” lead author Gerulf Rieger said of the study, which was published in PLoS One. He was quoted in Science Daily. “Pupillary responses are exactly that.

Gore Vidal dies at age 86

Hollywood Hills, Calif.--Prolific author and commentator Gore Vidal passed away on July 31 of complications from pneumonia. He was 86.

A noted wit, his 1948 novel The City and the Pillar was both hailed and criticized for its casual treatment of homosexuality.

He is also famous for calling noted Conservative William F. Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” during television commentary of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, at which point Buckley called him a queer and threatened to punch him if he called him that again.

He wrote a series of historical novels, incliding Burr and Lincoln, and was noted for his acerbic one-liners, like, “A narcissist is someone better-looking than you are.”

Gore disliked being called gay; he believed that people were not defined or bound by whichever impulses of theirs they acted upon, and that everyone had a mix of impulses. He also accused the word “gay” of being twee.

Vidal spent 50 years with Howard Austen, but after they moved in together, they never had sex again. Austen died nine years ago.

Amway owners gave $500K to NOM

San Francisco--Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay donations have made the news lately, but another company has donated a half-million dollars to the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.

The DeVos family, which owns Amway, the Orlando Magic basketball team, hotels, car dealerships and gyms, donated $500,000 to NOM, making it the organization’s second-largest donor, behind the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Church’s political arm in the United States.

Rights Equal Rights, formerly Californians Against Hate, are calling for a boycott of Amway and other DeVos family businesses. The group was founded to fight Prop. 8, the anti-marriage amendment in California whose campaign was funded in large part by the Catholic church and the Mormons.

“With four crucial gay marriage elections coming up on November 6, we feel that an Amway boycott will send a message to Amway owners and other potential mega-donors that if you plan to give lots of money to anti-LGBT organizations like NOM or directly to the November anti-gay marriage campaigns, we may well take action against you,” said group president Fred Karger.

Record $2.5 million for marriage law

Olympia, Wash.--Amazon founder Jeff Bezos donated $2.5 million to the campaign to keep Washington state’s new marriage equality law, joining Bill Gates, Starbucks and Nike.

The donation by Bezos and his wife is the largest publicly-reported donation to support the pro-marriage side of a referendum.

Lawmakers in Washington and Maryland both passed same-sex marriage earlier this year, but both bills were forced onto the ballot by anti-gay repeal campaigns.

Minnesota will vote in November on a marriage ban amendment similar to ones in Ohio and 30 other states.

General Mills, headquartered in Minnesota, spoke out against the measure, and the head of RBC Wealth Management U.S. is pressing Minnesota companies to oppose the amendment, arguing that it is detrimental to the ability of companies in the state to attract and retain top talent.

A fourth state, Maine, has a measure on the ballot to enact same-sex marriage.

DOMA struck down in Connecticut cases

Hartford, Conn.--A United States district judge in Connecticut struck the federal Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional on July 31, saying that it “obligates the federal government to single out a certain category of marriages as excluded from federal recognition.”

Judge Vanessa L. Bryant’s 104-page ruling noted the “long and significant history of purposeful discrimination” against gay men and lesbians.

The case involved six same-sex couples, legally married, who were denied federal benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Social Security and the New Hampshire Retirement System’s Medicare contribution, as well as federal tax codes.

A federal appeals court in Boston ruled the law unconstitutional in May, and the Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to take a number of cases--all with lower court rulings against the law--in one decision.

Tasmania may legalize nuptials

Hobart, Tasmania--This island may become the first Australian state to legalize same-sex marriage, with the legislation possibly passing this year.

Premier Lara Giddings on August 4 promised to push the legislation, which would also allow couples from other Australian states to marry in Tasmania.

Constitutional scholar Prof. George Williams opined that, while the federal government is examining same-sex marriage laws that are unlikely to pass at the national level, that does not preclude individual states from doing so as well, as he believes marriage falls under shared powers in the constitution.

In another part of the British commonwealth, Scotland is examining the issue of same-sex marriage, and might wind up passing it before the main Parliament of the United Kingdom, which would be a blow to Prime Minister David Cameron’s government, which has made passing a marriage law a priority.

Appeals court upholds hate crime act

Cincinnati--The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit arguing that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act violates the freedom of speech of anti-gay clergy.

Three pastors from Michigan brought the suit, supported by the Thomas More Law Center in Chicago. The suit alleged that the Shepard-Byrd Act created “thought crimes” and was trying to stifle religious dissent to homosexuality.

The appeals court found that the plaintiffs had no actual intent to cause physical injury to gay people, so the law does not apply to them, since it does not outlaw speech.

The ruling said that even if they quoted the Leviticus passage calling for men who have sex with men to be killed, the had only truly demonstrated an intent to quote that passage, not an intent to kill gay men.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.







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