National News: February 2014
When Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took the stage at LA’s Staples Center on January 26th to perform their hit single “Same Love” during the 56th annual Grammy Awards, they created an historic event. The duo, whose song has become a gay rights anthem, was joined by singer Mary Lambert, pop superstar Madonna and 33 same-sex and heterosexual couples who were married in the aisles live during the broadcast.
The marriages were officiated by rapper-actress-TV host Queen Latifah, who was sworn in earlier as a commissioner by the state of California in order to perform the ceremonies. “It was something I took very seriously,” Latifah told Huffington Post. “That is someone’s life commitment to one another, you want to make sure you do it right.”
On January 1, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) welcomed openly gay members for the first time, marking a major reversal of policy brought on by years of advocacy from GLBT groups and allies. The change comes more than six months after the BSA National Council approved ending the ban and instituted a policy that forbids any applicant younger than 18 from being denied admittance based on their sexual orientation. Advocates say they plan to push the organization to end their long-standing ban on admitting openly gay adult Scout leaders, which was left in place.
Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald, a Minneapolis transgender woman imprisoned for a fatal stabbing during a racially charged brawl, has been released after serving 19 months of her 41-month sentence. McDonald, who is transitioning from male to female, was kept in a men’s facility.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, McDonald, who is black, was reportedly walking with her friends on June 5, 2011 when a group outside a bar began yelling racial, homophobic and transgender slurs. Police said a fight ensued and a woman reportedly cut McDonald in the face with a bar glass before McDonald fatally stabbed her attacker in the chest with scissors.
McDonald’s imprisonment outraged GLBT advocates who argued that she was unjustly criminalized after defending herself against a hate crime.
Virginia Senate Democrats have promised to make the expansion of gay rights in the state a priority this term. Lawmakers announced a legislative agenda that includes codifying nondiscrimination laws protecting gays in the state workforce, and allowing public colleges, universities and localities to extend benefits to same-sex partners. Additionally, Sen. Adam P. Ebbin, D-Alexandria, announced SJ1, an amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would repeal the 2006 amendment barring same-sex marriages.
In related news, hours after his inauguration ceremony in January, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order that prohibits workplace discrimination against GLBT state employees.
Gay Marriage on Hold in Utah
Late last year, Federal District Judge Robert Shelby struck down Utah’s marriage-equality ban. The court’s decision caused uproar in the historically conservative state, resulting in The Supreme Court to step in and order a stop to same-sex marriages while the state appeals the ruling. In the two weeks gay marriage was allowed, nearly 1,400 couples were wed.
Immediately following The Supreme Court’s decision, state Gov. Gary Herbert instructed state agencies not to recognize those unions. Attorney General Eric Holder shot back, promising the couples that they will be recognized as legally married by the federal government.
Marriage Equality is OK in Oklahoma
A federal judge ruled that an Oklahoma law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples violates the U.S. Constitution. U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern, who wrote the decision, said that the court would not, however, immediately enforce it. Kern did say that Part A – which expressly prohibits same-sex marriage – is “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a government benefit.”
Maryland Delegate Jon Cardin introduced a bill that would prohibit GLBT “conversion therapy” on minors. Additionally, Senator Rich Madaleno, who is gay, introduced legislation that seeks to ban transgender discrimination statewide. Similar bills voted down in 2011 and 2013.