National News: March 2014
Arizona Governor Vetoes Anti-Gay Bill
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the controversial “license to discriminate” bill that would have given Arizona business owners the right to refuse service to GLBT people if serving them would have offended the business owners’ religious beliefs.
Brewer said the bill was unnecessary legislation that threatened the state’s recovering economy by driving away high-profile events such as next year’s Super Bowl and corporations looking to relocate to Arizona. “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value — so is non-discrimination,” Brewer said at a news conference announcing the veto.
She said the proposed law, known as Senate Bill 1062, was too broadly worded and could have resulted in “unintended and negative consequences.” Brewer also said she hasn’t heard of a single instance in which an Arizona business owner’s religious liberty was violated.
“After weighing all of the arguments, I have vetoed Senate Bill 1062 moments ago,” Brewer said during the news conference. “Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes. However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve.”
Kansas House Passes Bill Allowing Service Refusal to Gay Couples
The Kansas House OK’d a bill that aimed at keeping individuals, groups and businesses from being compelled to help with same-sex weddings.
According to The Kansas City Star, exemptions apply to individuals, groups and businesses who cite religious beliefs in refusing to recognize a marriage or civil union, or to provide goods, services, accommodations or employment benefits to a couple. Anti-discrimination lawsuits also would be barred. Individual workers and government employees also would get some protections. The bill now goes to the Senate.
Mizzou’s Michael Sam Announces He’s Gay
For the first time in history, an openly gay man will play professional football. Assuming of course, the University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam is drafted in May.
Sam, who came out to his college teammates before the start of the 2013-14 season, was this year’s Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year and named a first-team All American player. Prior to his coming out he was projected to go in the third round, according to ESPN.com. However at least eight NFL executives and coaches – who chose to remain anonymous – told SI.com they predict his draft ranking will drop as a result of his coming out.
NFL senior vice president of communications Greg Aiello praised Sam for his “honesty and courage.” In a statement on behalf of the NFL, Aiello said; “Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”
Court O.K.’s Gay Couples Adoption
Idaho’s top court granted adoption rights to the spouses of gay and lesbian couples. The unanimous decision reverses a lower court’s ruling and states, “a person’s gender or sexual orientation [is] not part of the legal criteria that allowed a minor to be adopted by an in-state adult resident.”
Reuters reports that the ruling stems from an adoption petition filed last year by an Idaho woman shortly after her marriage in California to her same-sex partner, who has two sons.
Rights Expanded for Lesbian and Gay Couples
Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, a slew of state governments have struck down same-sex marriage bans. Hawaii, Kentucky and Virginia are the most recent to join the growing list of states recognizing gay marriages. Additionally, court decisions are pending in Nevada, Utah and Oklahoma.
The federal government has also expanded recognition of same-sex marriages in federal legal matters, including bankruptcies, prison visits and survivor benefits.
In a memo to all employees, Attorney General Eric Holder announced, “It is the (Justice Department’s) policy to recognize lawful same-sex marriages as broadly as possible, to ensure equal treatment for all members of society regardless of sexual orientation.”
Holder promised that married couples would be federally recognized regardless of whether or not it’s legal in their home state.
In response to the announcement, Republican Sens. Ted Cruz from Texas and Mike Lee of Utah introduced a bill that would ensure that the states that adhere to the “traditional” definition of marriage receive the same level of regard as the 17 states that recognize same-sex marriage.
“The Obama Administration should not be trying to force gay marriage on all 50 states,” Cruz said in a statement. “We should respect the states, and the definition of marriage should be left to democratically elected legislatures, not dictated from Washington. This bill will safeguard the ability of states to preserve traditional marriage for its residents.”
Senate Considers Bill for Discharged Gay Veterans
A bill has been introduced in the Senate that would grant honorable discharges to gay and lesbian veterans who were expelled under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which was overturned in 2011. The Washington Blade reported that Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced the bill. According to the article, roughly 114,000 service members were dishonorably discharged because of their sexual identity.
Ad Represents Gay Families
Gay couples were featured on Super Bowl Sunday – in the commercials, that is. A Coca-Cola ad showed two men and their daughter at a roller rink. Their family outing was accompanied by a multilingual rendition of “America, the Beautiful.”
White House to Consider ENDA Executive Order
President Barack Obama is considering an executive order that would ban contracts with federal contractors who don’t have protections for employees. In an interview with Bloomberg News’ Al Hunt, White House counselor John Podesta said that issue is one of the administration’s priorities. He said that, while Congress is urged to pass ENDA, the President is prepared to take action.
“Well, what [the President] said in the State of the Union was, he was going to require federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $10.10,” he said. “The order that you’re talking about is under consideration at the White House. We’re looking at that.”
Maine Court Rules in Favor of Trans Student
Maine’s Supreme Court ruled last month that the school district of Orono violated state law by prohibiting a transgender student from using the girls’ bathroom at a public elementary school.
According to the Bangor Daily News, this decision marks the first time an American court has ruled it unlawful to force a transgender child to use the school bathroom designated for the sex he or she was born with rather than the one with which the child identifies, according to the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders of Boston, which represented the girl and her family.
Disney Channel Airs First Gay Couple
For the first time in the network’s history, The Disney Channel featured openly gay characters on a January episode of the hit show, “Good Luck Charlie.”
In June, the Disney Channel issued a statement announcing its plans for the episode, by stating; “Like all Disney Channel programming, it was developed to be relevant to kids and families around the world and to reflect themes of diversity and inclusiveness.”