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April 3, 2015

Gay marriage film wins CIFF competition

Cleveland--With over 100,000 people attending this year’s Cleveland International Film Festival, one of the Ten Percent Cinema films took the Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition, which honors “films with a conscience.”

The film that took the honor was Limited Partnership, about the 1975 marriage of Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan in Colorado. Now, 40 years later, the couple is still together, and the film makes sure that an early chapter in the history of marriage equality in the United States was told.

Anti-gay attorney willing to cross Supreme Court

Austin, Texas--An anti-gay attorney testified before the state legislature that Texas should obey the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on same-sex marriage… depending on what the court rules.

Jonathan Saenz, the head of Texas Values, spoke during a committee hearing on a bill that would ban state officials from giving out marriage licenses to same-sex couples or recognizing their marriages, even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage nationally.

Saenz first came to fame working for the Liberty Legal Institute in 2005, but he became a joke last year when it was revealed that in his 2011 divorce, his wife had left him for another woman.

Rep. Sylvester Turner pushed Saenz on the issue, drawing comparisons to the attempt to keep same-sex couples from marrying to efforts to discriminate against African Americans. Turner is black, and pointed to Supreme Court rulings barring discrimination against African Americans.

The bill was left without a vote after hours of testimony, and may fall to an issue of finance, instead of to one of social justice. The legislation calls for moving responsibility for issuing marriage licenses to the Secretary of State, instead of to county clerks, which would take millions in revenue away from counties. Dallas County alone would lose $1.3 million. Meanwhile, technology and labor costs to the state would be around $1.5 million.

Oregon house passes conversion therapy ban

Salem, Ore.--The Oregon House of Representatives voted 41 to 18 on March 17 to bar so-called “conversion therapy” from being practiced on minors.

Seven Republicans stepped across party lines to support the bill, which is now headed to the state senate.

California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. have already passed bans on “conversion therapy,” while about a dozen other states are currently fielding similar bills.

Puerto Rico to drop marriage opposition

San Juan, Puerto Rico--The commonwealth is no longer defending it ban on same-sex marriage, Justice Minister César Miranda said at a press conference.

The announcement went along with a brief filed with the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston by Gov. Alejando García Padilla’s administration. The court hears federal appeals for the American protectorate.

The brief notes that the majority of federal court ruling on the issue have decided that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, and notes that the Supreme Court will be hearing the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals cases that could set federal precedent, asking the First Circuit to hold off on oral arguments until after the Supreme Court rules.

“The Government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has a strong interest in guaranteeing the equal protection of the law to all persons,” the brief reads. “This includes eliminating all forms of discrimination and unequal legal treatment within the Commonwealth’s borders. Although the main Defendant, the Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, has defended the legal definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman, the aforementioned recent doctrinal developments in this area of law have led the Commonwealth to recognize that Puerto Rico’s marriage ban must be examined through heightened scrutiny, whether it be under the Equal Protection Clause or the Due Process Clause.”

The government had earlier argued that federal courts did not have jurisdiction over the matter, but the brief notes that the Supreme Court agreeing to take up the Sixth Circuit cases trumps that belief.

Chicago pol caught making anti-marriage comments

Chicago--Alderman Emma Mitts, representing the city’s 37th ward, came out against same-sex marriage at a candidate forum on March 21, despite the fact that Illinois has full same-sex marriage.

While she has voted with Mayor Rahm Emanuel almost all of the time, and Emanuel has expressed support for the city’s LGBT community, Mitts said that she doesn’t “support the fact that we can have two women marry, two men marry and we then we pay our fees,” she said, according to the Windy City Times. “The tax dollars go and they get just the same benefit as a woman or a man and I don’t that playing field is level.”

The newspaper notes that increased levels of anti-LGBT violence have been reported in the neighborhood Mitts represents.

Mitts, whose comments were videotaped, accused her opponent, Tara Stamps, of stretching the truth to discredit her.

“I support marriage equality and my comments were meant to address the financial realities that come with it,” she said. “I have reached out to my friends and colleagues on the City Council to clarify this statement.”

Canadian province sees spike in syphilis among gay men

St. John’s, N.F.--As of March 17, there were 15 cases of syphilis confirmed in Newfoundland, mostly among gay men 2049, compared to 26 in all of 2014.

The province’s health department made the information public, worried about the increase in cases. The province is not large, and has a commensurately small population.

Eastern Health’s Medical Officer for Health Dr. David Allison said that 10 of the 41 cases since January 2014 have also had HIV, and that the ulcers in initial stages of syphilis can make it easier for one to become infected with HIV. He urged condom use.

Indiana facing public health emergency over HIV rates

Indianapolis--The same day Gov. Mike Pence signed an anti-gay “religious freedom” bill into law, he announced a public health emergency for Scott County in southeastern Indiana.

Pence said that the 79 cases in Scott County were linked to injection drug use of the opioid oxymorphone, known by the trade names Opana and Numorphan.

The state does not allow needle exchange programs, which have been shown to lower the spread of HIV through sharing used needles. However, Pence’s declaration of a public health emergency will give officials some leeway to institute temporary programs until the outbreak is brought under control.

The day before Pence’s announcement, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed a law that includes a needle exchange program as a method for fighting heroin abuse.












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