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November 29, 2015

News Briefs


All 435 House districts support ENDA, study says

Los Angeles--The Employment Non-Discrimination Act or similar legislation is supported by a majority of Americans in every congressional district in the country, according to a survey by the Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles.

The results come from pre-election polls in 2008 and 2012. While the sample size is not large, multilevel regression and post-stratification, high-level statistical tools, were used to determine results with the limited respondent pool.

However, with congressional elections coming up next year and primaries often ruled by the extreme wings of the parties, popular support does not necessarily translate into congressional support, so it is still questionable whether the LGBT job equality bill, which passed the Senate earlier this month, can pass the House of Representatives.

Pastor suspended for son’s wedding

Spring City, Pa.--Rev. Frank Schaefer of Zion United Methodist Church was suspended for 30 days after being found guilty by a church court of performing a same-sex wedding for his son.

At least nine of the 13 pastors who served as the jury found him guilty of violating church doctrine, which finds homosexuality incompatible with the denomination’s interpretation of Christian teaching.

The wedding was performed in 2007, and Schaefer told the ecclesiastical court that, when faced with a choice between honoring his son and the denomination, he chose his love for his son. He kept it to himself, but the church member who complained about it to the church hierarchy said that it was a violation of the trust of his congregation.

It’s the first such trial since the denomination reaffirmed its opposition to homosexuality in its 2012 general assembly.

Scotland marriage bill passes first vote

Edinburgh, Scotland--Same-sex marriage passed its first vote in the Scottish Parliament on November 20, by a lopsided 98 to 15.

A second vote is expected soon, and if it passes, the measure goes to a third, final vote, which could happen early next year.

The vote was the first clear indication that a majority of members of Scottish Parliament supported the legislation. It now goes to the Equal Opportunities Committee for second-level examination and amendments. The first vote approved the legislation “in principle.”

Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages Alasdair Allan said he would not vote for the bill, but expected it to pass.

England and Wales passed a full marriage bill last summer, which takes effect next year. Fourteen other nations, and parts of three more, have marriage equality. Nine of these are in Europe.

Partners accept presidential medals

Washington, D.C.--President Barack Obama presented Medals of Freedom to astronaut Sally Ride and civil rights activist Bayard Rustin on November 20. The medals were given to their surviving partners.

Tam O’Shaughnessy, Ride’s partner, and Walter Naegle, Rustin’s partner, accepted the medals, the highest civilian honor that the government can bestow. The award was created by President John F. Kennedy and is given for “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, and Rustin organized the 1963 March on Washington, in addition to introducing Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Mahatma Gandhi’s tenets of non-violent protest.

‘San Antonio Four’ are released

San Antonio, Texas--Three of four lesbians who were convicted of molesting young girls almost two decades ago have been released pending a court decision on whether to grant them a new trial.

The prosecutors in the case have said that if the court does grant one, they will not pursue it.

The so-called “San Antonio Four,” the other member of whom was paroled last year, were convicted in part because of testimony by a child abuse expert who said the older girl, who was nine at the time of the alleged assaults, had scarring on her hymen that meant she had been sexually abused.

However, a 2007 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics said that a damaged hymen would not have scarring.

A law was passed in Texas earlier this year that allows defendants the opportunity to introduce scientific findings that may call their convictions into question, like the 2007 study.

The girls accused the four women of attacking them in July 1994 on two occasions when they were visiting their aunt, Elizabeth Ramirez. The other women, Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera and Anna Vasquez, are friends of Ramirez.

The case came at a time of other high-profile child ritual or sexual abuse cases in the 1980s and ’90s, some of which have also been discredited.

The girls said that the women touched their breasts, held them down and poured white powder and liquid in their vaginas. Since then, the younger one, who was 7 at the time, has recanted her story in the media, although not to the prosecutors.

Law allows HIV+ organ transplants

Washington, D.C.--The HIV Organ Policy Equity Act was signed into law on November 21 by President Barack Obama

The law allows scientists to research organ donations from one HIV-positive person to another.

“For decades, these organ transplants have been illegal,” Obama said. “It was even illegal to study whether they could be safe and effective. But as our understanding of HIV and effective treatments have grown, that policy has become outdated.”

“The potential for successful organ transplants between people living with HIV had become more of a possibility,” he continued. “The HOPE Act lifts the research ban, and, in time, it could lead to life-saving organ donations for people living with HIV while ensuring the safety of the organ transplant process and strengthening the national supply of organs for all who need them.”

Missouri will recognize vows

Jefferson City, Mo.--Gov. Jay Nixon announced on November 14 that, by executive order, Missouri will recognize same-sex marriages performed in jurisdictions where they are allowed, and those couples may file joint state tax returns.

“This is not about the definition of marriage,” he said. “This is about the structure of our tax code.”

“Missouri is one of a number of states whose tax code is directly tied to that of the federal government and under Missouri law, legally married couples who file joint federal tax returns with the IRS must also file joint state returns with our state Department of Revenue,” he noted. “As a result, accepting the jointly-filed state tax returns of all legally-married couples who file federal returns is the only appropriate course of action, given Missouri statutes and the ruling by the U.S. Department of Treasury.”

Oregon, which like Missouri has a marriage ban amendment, announced last month they will also recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Ohio, faced with the same tax issue as Missouri, opted to have a separate form with a space for a couple’s joint federal adjusted gross income, but the couple still has to file state taxes individually.

Cheney sisters feud over marriage

New York City--The daughters of former vice president Dick Cheney are suffering through a spate of highly publicized sibling rivalry, as Liz Cheney, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Wyoming, and her lesbian sister Mary have a war of words over same-sex marriage.

Liz is trying to seem hard on social issues to appeal to her Republican base, while Mary married her partner Heather Poe in 2012.

Mary said that her older sister is on the wrong side of history, and that expressing her joy at her sister’s wedding, then opposing her right to marry, is contradictory.

Their father expressed his belief in 2009 that same-sex marriage should be left to the states, and that people should be able to enter into any union they wish, putting ideological distance between himself and George W. Bush.

A conservative super-PAC put out an ad last month accusing Liz of not being conservative enough on same-sex marriage because she opposes a federal marriage amendment and supported the State Department extension of benefits to same-sex couples.


Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.








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