National News: January 2014

Gay Weddings Begin in Hawaii

As Hawaii says aloha to same-sex weddings, gay couples are taking advantage, with several tying the knot almost immediately after the new law took effect. Mass ceremonies were held at a resort in Waikiki, while an assembly of clergy who had backed the new law hosted a wedding for an openly gay Unitarian minister at a church near downtown Honolulu.

Hawaii’s marriage laws allow couples to register for a license and be married the same day, a process conducive for tourists only in the state a short time. Couples can sign up for a license online, then be verified by any license agent throughout the state.

An estimate from a University of Hawaii researcher says Hawaii will get a $217 million tourism boost over the next three years as a result of gay marriage.

States Agree to Process Benefits for Gay Couples

Five of the states that defied the Pentagon’s orders to extend benefits to same-sex partners of National Guard personnel are now switching gears. National Guard officials in Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia announced that they are backing off their opposition to the Department of Defense directive that federal National Guard facilities offer benefits to partners of soldiers on the federal payroll.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a “compromise” was struck that “allows Georgia not to violate state law while also treating all members of their National Guard and their same-sex spouses equally.” Major Jon Craig, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau in Georgia, declined to expand on the details of the compromise.

The Mississippi National Guard is still refusing to comply, and gay couples must travel to federal bases to register for a military spouse ID.

‘H8GAYS’ Confirmation Code on Delta Boarding Pass

A Delta Air Lines customer was recently surprised with a boarding pass confirmation code reading, “H8GAYS.”

Passenger Jeff White recently told The Telegraph, “At first I didn’t think I read it right. I was worried that another customer might think I somehow picked that code. If I were a gay male, I might have thought that a Delta worker purposely gave me that code, and that would have made me extremely uncomfortable.”

According to Delta Air Lines, which apologized for any “concern or misunderstanding,” the codes are computer generated and random.

Not Disclosing HIV Status to Partner is a Crime

ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom, recently reported that in the past 10 years there have been at least 541 cases in which people were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, criminal charges for not disclosing that they were HIV-positive. The defendants in these cases have been sentenced to years, sometimes decades, in prison. In 19 U.S. states, failure to disclose HIV-positive status is considered a crime. Additionally, 35 states have laws that criminalize exposing another person to HIV.

In one such example, Nick Rhoads of Waverly, Iowa was sentenced to 25 years for having sex without disclosing his HIV status. According to ProPublica, Rhoads used a condom, was taking medication to suppress the virus, and didn’t actually transmit HIV.

Some health and legal experts argue that relying on a partner to know, let alone disclose, their HIV status is a “risky” proposition. According to the Center for Disease Control, 1.1 million Americans are currently living with HIV, but one-fifth of them don’t know it. Studies show that about half of newly infected people got the virus from those who didn’t know they had HIV.

U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has introduced legislation, The Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal (“REPEAL”) HIV Discrimination Act, aimed at helping end stigma, discrimination, and stereotypes that negatively impact Americans living with HIV/AIDS.

Let Them Eat Cake

A Colorado judge has ordered a Lakewood bake shop owner to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple after he has openly refused to bake cakes for gay couples. While Masterpiece Cakeshop owner, Jack Phillips reportedly said it would violate his Christian beliefs to bake cakes for same-sex couples, Administrative Law Judge Robert N. Spencer declared that it is discrimination against those couples’ sexual orientation.

Spencer ruled that the cake-maker must “cease and desist from discriminating” against gay couples. He did not impose any fines, but said that the business will face penalties if it continues to turn away gay couples who want to buy cake.



Waitress Fired Over Tip Hoax

Last month, Living Out reported that a New Jersey waitress was allegedly denied a tip because of her sexual orientation. Shortly after Dayna Morales’ story went viral, it was revealed that the woman might have lied.

NBC4, a local New Jersey affiliate, uncovered a receipt from the accused family showing an $18 tip on a bill of $93.55, as well as a credit card statement with the same total value to back it up.

Bobby Vanderhoof, manager of Bridgewater’s Gallop Asian Bistro told CNN that after conducting an internal investigation of the incident, it remains “inconclusive” as to exactly what happened that night. However, he also announced, via the restaurant’s Facebook page, that Morales no longer works at the establishment.

Transgender Model Gets Fashion Spread

Jenna Talackova made headlines in 2012 when she was the first transgender woman to enter the Miss Universe Canada Pageant. She’s gaining attention once again  – The 25-year-old landed a fashion spread in the January 2014 issue of Elle Canada, which spotlights the blonde as a fashionable beauty as well as an advocate for transgender rights.

Talackova will also be at the center of her new reality TV show, “Brave New Girl,” which will follow her as she pursues a modeling career.


A “Duck” Under Fire

Reality TV star Phil Robertson, patriarch of A&E’s hit series “Duck Dynasty” has recently found himself in hot water after making a number of highly offensive anti-gay remarks in an interview for the January issue of GQ. According to Robertson, his stance on homosexual “behavior” is based on his Christian beliefs, but even ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” did not air all of the comments while covering the news, citing their overly offensive nature.

The reality series, which follows a Louisiana family that has garnered success on duck calls, typically thrives on controversy. Howevear, A&E has suspended Robertson indefinitely. A&E said in a statement, “We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series ‘Duck Dynasty’.”

At press time, A&E reinstated Robertson.

New Mexico Legalizes Gay Marriage

New Mexico has become the 17th state to legalize gay marriage, following Hawaii. It is the first in the American Southwest.

In a unanimous decision that it is unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is legal.

“We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law,” Justice Edward L. Chavez wrote in the decision.

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