National News: July/August 2015

ACLU_LorettaLynch ACLU urges DOJ to end workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking that the Justice Department recognize that anti-gay discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The request follows the Justice Department’s decision in December 2014 to treat cases of anti-transgender discrimination as violations of Title VII.



Texas Gov. Abbott: No special session will be called on marriage equality

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he wouldn’t hold a special session for lawmakers to reconsider anti-gay marriage measures struck down during the legislative session – which is now over – despite petitions by social conservative groups asking Abbott to recall lawmakers.


Medical association says no medically-valid reason for trans military ban

The American Medical Association unanimously passed a resolution against the trans military ban, concluding there is “no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from service in the U.S. military.” An estimated 15,500-transgender people are serving in America’s armed forces and under current policy are banned from being treated by doctors.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory delivers the State of the State address at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, Feb. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

N.C. House passes override vote on Gov. McCrory’s marriage bill veto

The North Carolina House passed an override measure against Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of a bill that allows court officials to opt out of presiding over same-sex marriages for religious objections. According to The Charlotte Observer, the law, which was written and backed by the leader of the state Senate, Phil Berger (R-Eden), says magistrates can now recuse themselves from performing all marriages and that assistant and deputy registers of deeds can opt out of issuing any marriage licenses. Gov. McCrory expressed discouragement, issuing a statement that criticized the override – and how fellow Republicans in the House handled it.


PA Senate appoints trans woman as state physician general

The Pennsylvania state Senate unanimously voted to appoint Dr. Rachel Levine as state physician general, making her the first transgender person in Pennsylvania appointed to a governor’s cabinet, as well as one of the highest-ranking transgender public officials in the U.S. “I think [being trans] has helped me in terms of the LGBT community in terms of understanding what all the issues are,” said Levine in an interview with The Patriot-News. “I’ve been able to serve as a mentor and role model to LGBT individuals at the medical center as well as in the community.”



Unknown babies in nursery

Mich. Gov. approves legislation allowing adoption agencies to refuse LGBT parents

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder approved several bills that will allow publicly funded adoption agencies to turn away LGBT parents on religious grounds. The Michigan state Senate voted Wednesday to pass the bills by a 26-12 vote. The ACLU announced it is preparing a lawsuit challenging the bills as discriminatory, the Lansing State Journal reported.


Judge: Arkansas must recognize in-state same-sex marriages

An Arkansas judge said officials must recognize over 500 same-sex marriages performed in the state last year, which will allow couples to receive same tax benefits as married, heterosexual couples. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen validated marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples after another judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban last May. The state Supreme Court halted the distribution of marriage licenses to gay couples after a week in May 2014 and is considering the appeal over a voter-approved same-sex marriage ban.


Ban on gay adoptions repealed in Florida

Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation that repealed an almost 40-year ban on same-sex couples adopting children. The Florida law has not been enforced in five years, and the repeal will take effect on July 1. Rep. David Richardson, Florida’s first openly gay lawmaker, was responsible for amending the adoption bill to remove the ban.


DefenseSecretaryPentagon updates anti-discrimination policy

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the Pentagon has updated its non-discrimination policy to include “sexual orientation.” Carter discussed the need to uphold “diversity and inclusion,” but did not explicitly comment on the ban on transgender service members.




ColoradoCongressman calls for the investigation of school that blocked gay grad speech

Evan Young, the valedictorian of Twin Peaks Charter Academy in Longmont, CO, was allegedly barred from speaking at the school’s commencement ceremony because he reportedly planned to announce that he is gay during the speech. The school has denied that was the reason for his preventing him from speaking, saying instead it was “based on a concern that the speech would compromise the “solemnity” of the occasion, and that Young failed to submit a draft of his speech in advance to reflect requested changes. According to the Daily Camera, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis has requested that the St. Vrain Valley School District or another “mutually agreed” third party to investigate the incident. Kathy DeMatteo, president of the Twin Peaks Charter Academy Board of Directors, released a statement saying that, in accordance with its grievance policy, “an investigation will be launched following the June board meeting and a written response will be provided within 30 days.”

Ky. city approves LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance

Midway, Ky., approved an ordinance that prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The ordinance passed the City Council 4-2, making Midway the eighth city in the state to pass an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance.

MercedesTransgender teen is 9th slain this year

Alabama transgender teen Mercedes Williamson was killed in George County, Ala. last month. Josh Brandon Vallum, 28, and a self-described member of the Latin Kings has been charged with her killing. Vallum allegedly confessed the crime to his father, and her body was found in a field behind his dad’s house, the Sun Herald reported.Williamson’s murder marks the ninth reported homicide of a trans woman this year.

IBM calls off ceremony over religious freedom executive order by La. governor

IBM called off its ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Baton Rouge, La., headquarters of the technology company’s new services center. The decision came after Gov. Bobby Jindal passed an executive order allowing businesses to turn away those who conflict with their religious beliefs. “A bill that legally protects discrimination based on same-sex marriage status will create a hostile environment for our current and prospective employees, and is antithetical to our company’s values,” IBM’s James Driesse wrote in an April letter to Jindal against enacting the bill.


ChicagoHealth officials suggest gay men get meningitis vaccinations in Chicago

Chicago health officials are urging gay men there to obtain meningitis vaccinations after a recent cluster of cases and a death. The Chicago Tribune reported that six men have been diagnosed with meningitis since early June, five in Chicago and one in DuPage County. One of those men has died, and lab results are pending for a seventh person also thought to be stricken with the disease.

By Rachel Roth

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