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January 27, 2012

News Briefs

Canada reassures couples: Marriages still valid here

Ottawa--Canada’s Conservative government affirmed same-sex marriage on January 13, a day after it was revealed that the Justice Ministry was arguing against allowing a U.S. lesbian couple to divorce. The government attorneys claimed that the women’s Canadian marriage is not valid since it is not recognized at their homes in Florida and London.

The legal argument led to a flurry of stories that the Canadian marriages of gay and lesbian U.S. couples had been called into question. This was followed by statements from U.S. and Canadian LGBT legal groups that no, it is only an argument in one case, and has no bearing elsewhere.

Finally, the Canadian government cleared up the issue.

“Marriages performed in Canada that aren’t recognized in the couple’s home jurisdiction will be recognized in Canada,” said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, according to CTV. “I want to be very clear that our government has no intention of reopening the debate on the definition of marriage.”

He blamed the former Liberal government for a legislative gap that failed to update the divorce laws while allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Some gay advocates are concerned the efforts to clarify the 2004 marriage law will give the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper the opening to tinker with it, but Harper’s government says it has no intention to do so.

When his party came to power in the last decade, Harper called an open vote on whether or not to reopen the marriage issue, allowing ministers of Parliament to vote on their conscience, not along any party lines. At the time, the MPs voted against reopening the issue.

Judge: Camp was wrong to deny union

Neptune, N.J.--Judge Solomon Metzger ruled on January 19 that the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association violated state law when it prevented a lesbian couple from using its pavilion for their civil union.

The Methodist organization gained a tax exemption on the property by allowing it to be used by the public, and the pavilion and the land itself are not a religious institution. However, in 2007, the association refused to allow the oceanfront boardwalk to be used for Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster’s civil union. The association claimed that the ceremony would be contrary to scripture.

Metzger said that the decision violated the agreement to keep the property open to the public, and the association loses its tax exemption on the land.

Bernstein and Paster did not seek financial damages in their suit against the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, simply an acknowledgement that the association was in the wrong.

GSAs are taking hold in middle schools

Washington, D.C.--There are now over 500 gay-straight alliances in middle schools across the nation, according to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a response to the increasing visibility of bullying and suicide among young people.

The San Francisco Chronicle pointed to a young man named Marcel Brown, who was walking with his little brother when his brother’s friends called Marcel “faggot.”

“And I thought, ‘That’s messed up.’ My older brother is gay,” he told the newspaper.

Opponents say that middle school is too early to tackle such difficult topics, but the prevalence of anti-gay bullying in middle schools make GSAs a necessity, according to GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard.

“Thinking it’s too early is really blind to what it’s like in middle school,” she said. “Anyone who walks through the halls of a middle school knows what it’s like. The words ‘faggot’ and ‘dyke’ are weapons of choice.”

Studies show that bullying is actually more prevalent in middle school than in other grade levels.

Lawmaker would ‘stomp’ a TG person

Nashville--A state legislator said he would “stomp a mudhole” in a transgender person who tried to use a restroom his wife or daughter were in.

Rep. Richard Floyd made the statement in support of his bill that would require people to use restrooms based on the sex on their birth certificates.

He said he introduced the bill after reading about the Macy’s employee in Texas who was fired for refusing to allow a transgender woman to use the women’s dressing room.

“It could happen here,” he told the Chattanooga Times-Free Press on January 12. “I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there--I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there--I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.”

Using the “wrong” restroom would be a misdemeanor, punishable with a $50 fine.

The sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, Sen. Bo Watson, said he put it forward as a courtesy to Floyd, but that there are greater legislative priorities in the session. Watson withdrew his version on January 12.

Schools move to fire anti-gay teacher

Union Township, N.J.--The local school board filed tenure charges in December against a teacher who made anti-gay comments on Facebook.

Viki Knox was placed on paid leave in September after calling homosexuality a “perverted spirit” that “breeds like cancer,” among other things, on the social networking site.

The Newark Star-Ledger continued to quote her post, “Why parade your unnatural immoral behaviors before the rest of us? i do not have to tolerate anything others wish to do. i do have to love and speak and do what’s right!”

School board president Ray Perkins said, “Every student, no matter what race, creed, color or sexual orientation, ought to be able to come to school and feel comfortable in a learning environment that’s welcoming and nurturing.”

All of ‘Best 100’ have job bias rules

New York City--All of the “Best Companies to Work For” on Fortune magazine’s list have rules against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

It is the first time all 100 companies have had such policies. In 2008, 95 of the 100 companies did, and in 2011 it was up to 99.

Domestic partner benefits are now offered by 89 of the companies, an increase of 19 from five years ago.

In the Fortune 500, 86 percent have put forward gay-inclusive nondiscrimination policies, and 60 percent offer partner benefits. Partner benefits have nearly doubled in the last decade, and nondiscrimination policies have increased from 61 percent in 2002.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
















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