In a memo sent to state agencies on October 16, state Chief Operating Officer Michael Jordan said same-sex couples married in places where it’s legal are immediately eligible for the same benefits as other heterosexual couples. Said Matt Shelby, spokesman for the Department of Administrative Services, “it’s pretty wide- ranging if you think about all the places where a married couple could interact with a state agency. Whether it is income taxes or filing a business or the other multitude of places where a married couple would have some rights or responsibilities, this decision be applied in many other states with constitutional bans.”
Last May, France became the fourteenth country to legalize gay marriage and gay adoption. (Other European Nations that allow gay adoption include Belgiium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Britain). Many Parisiens, particularly rural Catholics, did not cotton to the law that was signed by President Francois Hollande, and took to the streets in droves to protest. The marches focused heavily on adoption rights.
Court Denied Christie’s Request for Delay
Starting at 12:01 a.m. on October 21, same-sex couples in New Jersey will finally be able to wed, the Supreme Court ruled on October 18, 2013. The Court denied the Christie’s Administration’s request to delay a lower court order that the state recognize gay marriage.
The Laramie Project Play Interrupted by Hecklers
On October 8th, 125 people attended The Laramie Project based on the 1978 murder of gay Wyoming student Matthew Shepard at the Meek Auditorium at “Ole Miss” (University of Mississippi). To commemorate the 15th anniversary of Shepard’s death and tying it in with October as anti-bullying month, schools around the country were performing this play.
Hecklers Disrupt Play
According to the play’s director and theatre faculty member Rory Ledbetter, some audience members use derogatory slurs like “fag” and heckled both cast members and characters they were portraying for their body types and sexual identities. It was reported that twenty football players from Ole Miss disrupted the performance as did other attendees, using catcalls, giggling, inappropriate coughing, and burping.
These rude outbursts began during the first act and escalated into the second act.
Said gay Junior Theatre Major Garrison Gibbons: “ I played a gay character in the show and to be ridiculed like that was something that really made me realize that some people at Ole Miss and in Mississippi still can’t accept who I am.”
Punishment for Team
When the Athletic Department got word of the incident, it forced players to sign a letter of apology and deliver it to the cast after the show. According to USA Today,
the University has referred the incident to committees that handle bias and LGBT discrimination on campus. The students’ disciplinary action could range from a public apology to expulsion.
Judy Shepard, mother of slain Matthew Shepard and President of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, had this to say about the incident: “ using hate-filled words to interrupt a play about anti-gay hate is a sad irony.”
No Reverence From Christian Conservative Groups For Shepard
Sandy Rios, talk show host, last week told a group of Christian Conservatives in Washington, including the American Family Association, that Shepard should not be revered. The Fox News contributor does not like society’s acceptance of LGBT people in general and the depiction of certain anti-gay organizations as hate groups.
Rios cites award-winning journalist Stephen Jimenez’s reporting on Matthew Shepard’s case, calling Shepard’s murder “a complete fraud.” Jimenez, the author of the recently-released The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, like Rios, believes that Shepard was a drug addict and dealer and that his murder was the result of “a drug deal gone bad.” They believe that Shepard was sexually involved with one of his killers, Aaron McKinney. (Two men have confessed guilt in Shepard’s murder).
Rios believes that the crime was not hate-motivated against gays. “A fairy tale has been built around Shepard’s death,” she said.
At the gathering, Rios read a letter from civil rights groups, including the Southern
Poverty Law Center and People For The American Way, which urged Republican officials to skip the Values Voter Summit. Rios used the letter as proof to her audience that “it is a dangerous time to be a Christian Conservative in America.”
Rick Shaftan Inferred Lonegan’s Opponent Is Gay
Conservative pollster and media consultant Rick Sheftan was fired on October 10th after insinuating that Senate candidate Steve Lonegan’s rival, Democratic Newark Mayor Corey Booker is gay. In a lengthy interview with a political news site, Sheftan suggested that voters would be turned off by Booker’s “odd” behavior that included Twitter messages that Democratic Booker tweeted to a stripper Lee who works at a club Casa Diablo in Portland.
Booker, 44, single, dated several women, including model Veronica Webb..
Booker’s sexuality became an issue in the campaign when he refused to answer whether he was gay because he said it shouldn’t matter. Shaftan inferred that because Booker didn’t comment on Lee’s sexiness.
Sheftan described the tweets as “strange and like hat a gay guy would say. He was hiding something and causing people to question his leadership.”
Tactless Comments to the Press
“It’s the way he was talking to her,” said Shaftan explaining Booker’s responses to Lee’s tweets. “It’s just like there was no sexual interest at all. I don’t know. To me, if I was single and you know like some stripper was tweeting me, I might take advantage of the perks of the office, you know?”
Lonegan’s senior staffer and key strategist, Sheftan was fired on the same day he granted the profanity-laced interview. Lonegan, according to the Star-Ledger, told the newspaper, that Shaftan’s comments “are distasteful and offensive and his contract as a vendor for his campaign will be terminated immediately and that his comments are not reflective of my views or that of my campaign.”
Others like Troy Stevenson of Garden State Equality found Shaftan’s comments “homophobic, misogynistic, and pornographic and a disgrace.” Stevenson said that Shaftan needs to apologize to Booker and the people of New Jersey.
Shaftan has since posted a non-apology on his Facebook page: “I apologize to Steve Lonegan and his supporters if any statements I have made have hurt his candidacy and do not want these comments or my presence in this campaign to serve as a distraction to his efforts to win this election and save our nation from the radical left-wing policies of Obama and Cory Booker.”
But as Lee comments, Shaftan is trying to make Booker look bad, but ended up making himself look worse.
First USPS Stamp Commemorating openly LGBT Official
The iconic civil rights leader HARVEY MILK (1930-78) who was the first openly gay man to hold public office will, in 2014, be the first in USPS history to be commemorated on a stamp. Milk moved from New York City to San Francisco where he owned a camera shop in the famous Castro District. After three unsuccessful attempts at public office, he finally won a seat in 1977 as City Supervisor in San Francisco.
Harvey worked hard to introduce a gay rights ordinance to help gay and lesbian people hae the same rights as everyone else in the communities around San Francisco. On November 27, 1978, at San Francisco’s City Hall, Milk was gunned down, along with Mayor GEORGE MASCONE, by a retired city supervisor, DAN WHITE, who wanted his job back.
Milk’s Far-Reaching Influence
Milk was awarded posthumously the PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM by President Obama in 2009. In 2012, the movie MILK, based on Harvey’s life, garnered a Best Actor Oscar for SEAN PENN and a Best Screenplay Oscar for DUSTIN BLACK.
“Harvey’s story, example, and courage continues to inspire across the globe and issuance of the first U.S. postage stamp for an openly LGBT in my uncle’s name will not only educate but will provide hope, hope that is still critically needed today.” – STUART MILK, co-founder in 2009 of the HARVEY MILK FOUNDATION with ANNE KRONENBERG, Harvey’s Campaign Manager and political aide.
The U.S. Postal Service selects only about twenty subjects per year for a stamp. The service receives thousands of proposals reviewed by a citizen advisory committee.
This November, San Francisco’s ballot will have question to voters whether to name the San Francisco Airport – HARVEY MILK-SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.
Highest Ranking Openly Gay Judge in U.S. History
The Senate confirmed Todd Hughes, previously a Department of Justice lawyer, as their choice to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circult. on September 24, 2013. With a 98-0 vote, Hughes became the highest ranking openly gay judge in the nation’s history. He will deal with appeals of cases involving specialized issues like patent and trademark law, veterans’ benefits, international trade and government contracts. (The Courts of Appeals sit one level below the Supreme Court) .
Hughes, a native of Delaware, Ohio, has specialized in the kinds of issues that come before the court.
He has been a deputy director in the Justice Department’s civil division since 2007. He also was President Barack Obama’s second out gay nominee to the Federal Circuit. Many of the President’s circuit judges have broken new diversity barriers – including three Hispanic, two Asisn American, and one African American who are “firsts” in their respective courts.
Comments About Hughes’s Normination
A spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, Michael Cole-Schwartz, of the gay rights group, said that “Judge Hughes is an eminently qualified nominee who will happen to shatter a barrier as the first openly gay federal appellate court judge. It’s a testament to how far we have come as a country that his sexual orientation is irrelevant to his ability to serve on our nation’s courts.”
The general counsel for the Office of Management and Budget, Geovette Washington, described him as “ a problem solver” who can do very complicated constitutional issues” but also brings a degree of pragmatism to cases.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy said “I’m proud today that the Senate is finally taking this critical step to break down another barrier and increase diversity on our federal bench.”
Obama’s Administration Firsts
The Obama administration has won Senate approval for six openly gay nominees so far this term. They are four ambassadors: Dan Baer to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, John Berry to Australia, Rufus Gifford to Denmark. and James Costos to Sapin. The remaining two are: Stuart Delery, assistant attorney general for the Civil Division at Justice, and Elaine Kaplan as a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
City Council Votes New Mayor
If you think of California as a bastion of liberal thought, then consider Porterville, California, a remote central Valley farming town, about 150 miles North of Los Angeles, with a population of approximately 54,000.
In September 2008, Porterville became the only California city to pass a resolution supporting Proposition 8 that banned gay marriage in the state. In 2008, Councilwoman Virginia Gurrola voted with the rest of the five-member Porterville City Council to issue a resolution supporting Proposition 8.
However, like President Obama and Governor Jerry Brown of California, Mayor Gurrola in 2013 issued a proclamation declaring June LGBT Pride month. She had been asked in the spring by a LGBT group to do this. Like President Obama, Gurrola had evolved!
Up in Arms
However, the rest of her City Council was still stuck in prejudice. A City Council Member elected June 5, 2012, Gurrola was ousted last week and replaced with City Council member Cameron J. Hamilton, a businessman elected to City Council in ’08. His term ends in June 2016. Not only was Gurrolo ousted, by a 3 to 2 vote, but the other four City Council Members refused to sign her procleamation. There was no explanation for her removal at the city coucil meeting last week.
Her proclamation was replaced with a more generalized agenda, last July, a measure declaring June “ a month of community charity and goodwill to all in Porterville. ”
An openly gay resident of Porterville California, Brock Neeley, commented that he was disappointed with Gurrola’s outster, but was not all that surprised. “ I figured that five years, maybe things had healed enough that we could do this without any real controversy. Obviously, I was wrong. We need to have people there whose strings aren’t being pulled by churches.”
The city of Porterville has always been torn between inclusion and diversity and fanatical religious groups. Some at its city council meetings have even called for the deaths of LGBTQ persons, blaming LGBTQ people for everyting from diarrhea to natural disasters and unwanted pregnancies.”
Still, Gurrola, a retired Director of Admissions at Portervillve, Ca. College and mother of three, has no regrets.
But Gov. Christie Vows Appeal
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson’s ruling on September 27 would make New Jersey the 14th stateto allow same-sex couples to marry. Judge Jacobson directed that her ruling take effect on October 21 to allow the state enough time to put the ruling into place or to appeal it.
Christie Expected to Appeal Decision
Republican Governor Chris Christie favors civil unions which New Jersey has had in place since 2007. Under the state constitution, civil unions guarantees those same-sex couples the same rights and benefits of opposite- sex married couples.
Governor Christie opposes gay marriage and plans on appealing the head judge of Mercer County’s deccision – all the way to the Supreme Court. Christie wanted to have a referendum on gay marriage on Election Day. He argued that the matter was out of Jersy’s hands since the only pressing questions were over federal, not state benefits.
However, since the Democrat -contolled Legislature refused to allow the people to decide, the state Supreme Court will make the constitutional determination which could take months. In the interim, Jacobson’s order may be frozen while the appeal is pending.
State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) and U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) are both urging Christie NOT to appeal. The Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey Udi Ofer, stated that a coalition of groups would keep pressing state lawmakers for an override of Cristie’s gay-marriage veto last year.
The Law According to Jacobson
According to Jacobson, who granted an emergency request by six couples, said that gay couples would be denied federal benefits if the state kept allowing only civil unions. Jacobson modeled her decision on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on United States v. Windsor.
This is the first state judicial ruling ordering same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last June. The judge wrote in her 53-pageopinion that “same sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey constitution. The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts. For example, civil union partners who are federal employees living in New Jersey are ineligible for marital rights with regard to the federal pension system, all civil union partners who are employees working for businesses to which the Family and Medical Leave applies may not rely on its statutory protections for spouses, and civil union couples may not access the federal tax benefits that married couples enjoy.”
New Jersey to Become 14th State Allowing Gay Marriage
If the ruling stands, New Jersey will be the fourteenth state to allow same-sex marriage. If not appealed, “October 2 should be a very exciting day for many loving couples. Justice has already been denied for far too long. Let’s clear the way for equal rights for all families.”
Support for LGBT Youth in Isolated Areas of Ireland
“In rural areas, it can be harder for LGBT people to get to know other LGBT people or to find support, and sometimes LGBT people can experience discrimination or harassment or may feel isolated,” said Brian Sheehan, Director of GLEN, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network. Sheehan has been involved in LGBT equality and rights for over twenty years.
GLBT Advances in Ireland Should be Enjoyed by All
Ireland has seen many successes with LGBT equality. Every county in Ireland now has civil partnerships. Last June, over 35,000 people marched in Dublin’s LGBT Pride Parade. In 1993, the five -year campaign by GLEN, the ICCL and trade union movement among others led to Justice Minister Maires Geoghan –Quinn bringing a bill to the Oireachtas in 1993 which decriminalized homosexuality on the basis of equality.
Nevertheless, Sheehan wanted to ensure that visibility and positive change are available to everyone in the rural areas. Garvan Hickey, Chairman of the Rural Youth Initiative committee of Macra na Feirme, a youth group composed of 17 to 35 year-olds interested in agriculture, sports, travel, public speaking, performing arts, and community service, said he was “delighted to be involved with the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network to drive the campaign. It’s a natural partnership that facilitates the continued development of people in rural areas and raises important issues such as mental wellbeing.”
Booklet Aimed at Reducing Loneliness and Despair
Ireland’s suicide rate for young men is four times greater than in the UK, with over a quarter of young and gay men have attempted suicide. The new booklet, distributed by GLEN, targets the GLBT youth, especially in rural areas, to promote positive mental health and to highlight the support services available.
Campaign Plans Announced at National Ploughing Championshps
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in Edna Kenny’s Coalition Government, since March 2011, Simon Coveney, unveiled the plans at the National Ploughing Championships held in Ratheniska, County Laois. For the first time in the Championship’s eighty-two –year history, a LGBT group attended the event.