Front Page Headlines
Illinois Begins Issuing Civil Union Licenses. Same-sex couples in Illinois celebrated on June 1st, lining up before sunrise to obtain newly-issued civil union licenses. This is the result of a law signed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn in January, which grants same-sex partners who wish to enter a civil union many of the rights afforded to straight married couples, such as “the power to decide medical treatment for an ailing partner and the right to inherit a partner’s property.” One of the champions of this law, Illinois Rep. Greg Harris, was honored on June 2nd at a Chicago PFLAG National event.
Catholic Adoption Agency Says They Will Refuse Services to Same-Sex Couples. With the state of Illinois allowing same-sex partners to obtain civil unions as of June 1st, adoption agencies cannot refuse to serve same-sex couples who have a civil union. However, Catholic Charities’ adoption agency, which has traditionally referred same-sex couples to secular agencies, has threatened to refuse services to same-sex couples. While Catholic Charities is hoping for an amendment that will allow religious agencies to continue discriminating against same-sex couples, the state of Illinois has asserted that if Catholic Charities continues this discrimination, they will no longer give state funding to their organization. Currently, Catholic Charities receives over $30 million a year from the state of Illinois.
Air Force Service Member Discharged Under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. An airman in the United States Air Force was discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) ban on openly gay people serving in the military. The service member was discharged on April 29th, but the Air Force did not make an announcement until June 2nd. This is the first military discharge under DADT since President Obama signed legislation that is the first step towards ending the discriminatory policy. The military can continue to discharge service members under DADT until the repeal is finalized.
No Widespread Military Resistance to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal. Approximately half of United States troops (approximately one million) have been given training about the implementation of the DADT repeal. Military officials have informed the Pentagon that most troops are not being adversely impacted. To those service members who morally object to the repeal, Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that all troops are required to complete their enlistment regardless of their moral stance on LGBT people serving openly.
Some Georgia Schools in Hot Water with the ACLU for Internet Filter. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned Gwinnet County, Georgia schools that filtering of and barring student access to websites that mention sexual orientation or gender identity would be met with legal action if not stopped. As of the release of this update, Superintendant of Gwinnet County Schools, J. Alvin Wilbanks, has not yet responded to the ACLU’s request.
Public Policy Watch
Nevada Passes Anti-Discrimination Bills. On June 1st, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law two bills that aim to protect transgender people. One law prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public places, while the other prohibits discrimination against transgender people in the housing and property realm. These laws follow a prohibition on discrimination against transgender people in the workplace that Governor Sandoval signed on May 14th.
Maine Lawmakers Keep Protections for Transgender People. Both the Maine House and Senate rejected a bill that would have stripped transgender individuals of protections which allow them to access public accommodations, such as restrooms and locker rooms.
Seth’s Law Advances in California Legislature. On June 1st, the California State Assembly passed Seth’s Law, anti-bullying legislation, that will implement mandatory policies in public schools aiming to reduce and prevent bullying. The law is named for a 13-year-old gay Californian who died by suicide. The legislation needs to be approved by the California Senate and signed by Governor Jerry Brown before it can be implemented.
The Case for Passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy has found that 15 to 43 percent of LGBT people have encountered job discrimination. Job discrimination is especially common for transgender individuals: over 90 percent of transgender people have been harassed or mistreated at work. Discrimination in the workplace leads to economic inequalities for LGBT people. It is important, therefore, that we continue to work towards passage of ENDA, which would protect LGBT individuals from discrimination and harassment at work, and increase their employment and financial stability.
Connecticut Anti-Bullying Law Advances in Legislature. The Connecticut State Senate unanimously passed a bill in May that expands the definition of bullying to include cyber bullying as well as offering protections to those who are bullied based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill also requires schools to create and implement “safe school climate plans”. The bill has been passed on to the State House.