Bill Protecting Religious Freedom Passes Arizona House

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Senate Bill 1178 Passed the House of Representatives with a 32-24 Vote

Last Wednesday, May 15, 2013, the Arizona House passed a measure that would offer further protection for the religious liberties of its state citizens. The bill seeks to strengthen religious freedom in the state by predominantly giving all “impending” religious liberty violation, as opposed to a violation which has already taken place. The measure also expands the definition of exercise of religion to specifically include both the practice and observance of religion.

Will Bill Hurt Small Business?

The bill passed despite opposition from civil liberties groups who are afraid that the measure will inspire lawsuits over alleged First Amendment violations. They believe that the bill will be a nightmare for businesses because it doesn’t specify what constitutes a potential violation of religious liberty.

The Original Bill

Senator Steve Yarbrough of Chandler, the bill’s sponsor, initially introduced a broader bill that would have alllowed people to sue governments over attacks on religious freedom, regardless if the government was involved in the claim.

The original bill also stipulated that governments could only limit religious liberties to further an “interest in the highest magnitude.” If allowed, that version of the bill, would have been one of the strongest in the nation, according to supporters.

Stricter Language on New Version

Arizona law and the U.S. Constitution already protect the free exercise of religion, but proponents want stricter language.  The Center for Arizona Policy,which supports the bill, said in a statement on its website that “it is necessary to update Arizona’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and to close loopholes that might jeopardize a person’s free exercise of religion in Arizona.” Persecuting individuals or groups for their religious beliefs creates second-class citizens who are seen as less valuable because of their faith.”

“To ensure religious liberty is protected to the maximum extent possible in our state, “ the bill “makes important clarifications and updates,” says The Center for Arizona Policy.

Drawbacks of New Bill

Rep. Chad Campbell (D-Phoenix) does not like the revamped bill because it does no longer allows a defendant to sue to the government over an attack on religious freedom regardless of the whether the government is involved.  He remarked to the AZ Capitol Times “while you may not be encouraging litigation (with the new version of the bill), …I think you are opening the door for litigation that is probably unnecessary and burdensome, especially for small businesses. “

Yarbrough said on May 15th that he would have preferred the original version, but he supports the amended measure and wants to see Senate Bill 1178 go to a Senate vote.

 

Connecticut Bill to Restore Benefits for Discharged Gay Veterans To Hit Gov.’s Desk soon

Gay and Lesbians Veterans Discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) was the official United States policy on gays serving in the military from December 21, 1993, to September 20, 2011.  The policy prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual persons from military service.

The act prohibited any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation or from speaking about any homosexual relationships, including marriages of other familial attributes, while serving in the United States armed forces.  The act specified that service members who disclose that they are homosexual or engage in homosexual conduct should be separated (discharged) except when a service member’s conduct was “for the purpose of avoiding or terminating military service: Since DADT ended in 2011, open gays and lesbians have been able to serve.

Veterans’ Eligibility for State Benefits

On May 16, the state House of Representatives voted 134-0 in favor of legislation making veterans eligible for state benefits if they have been denied federal benefits solely because of their sexual orientation. Another requirement is that the veteran’s federal benefits must have been reinstated.

Last month, the bill, in a 34-0 vote, was passed by the Senate. Senator Carlo Leone ( D-36 of Stamford and Darien) said last month that the bill “cannot undo the mistakes of our past but can help restore rightly earned benefits.”

The legislation will soon be on Governor Dannel Mallory’s desk.

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Gay Marriage Bill Passes in Minnesota

State Senate Voted 37 to 30 for Passage After Four Hours of Debate

Minnesota became the 12th State to Legalize Gay Marriage on May 13, 2013.  Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill the following day that allows same-sex couples to marry on August 1st.

Just four days after the House passed the bill on a 75-59 vote, Minnesota became the third state in the past eleven days,after Rhode Island and Delaware, to recognize gay marriage.  In Illinois, a gay marriage bill awaits a House vote after clearing the state Senate.

Minnesota becomes the first state in the Midwest to make gay marriage legal by way of a legislative vote.  Iowa, since 2009, has had same-sex marriage approved by a court ruling.

Minnesota Reverses Itself from November’s Voting

Less than a year ago, voters in Minnesota were weighing a constitutional ban on same-sex unions. Some thirty states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage that can require a statewide vote to overturn.  Two years ago, Minnesota’s legislature that was controlled by Republicans backed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, defining marriage as strictly between a man and a woman.  The measure failed last fall, with 47% of the vote.  The legislature, controlled by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, with a 39-28 majority, wastold by Democratic Governor Dayton that he would sign a bill legalizing same-sex marriage if lawmakers could pass one.

Those Opposed to the Bill

Most Republicans, except for Branden Petersen of suburban Andover, opposed the legislation.  In the Minnesota House and Senate, votes were allied along party lines. except for three Democrats, all from rural Minnesota who voted against the bill.   Opponents argued that gay marriage threatens religious liberties and contradicts biblical teachings.  They are also afraid that churches, schools, and businesses could be accused of discrimination because they oppose homosexuality.

The issue of gay marriage has pitted Minnesota’s most urban area around the Twin Cities against rural sections of the state which are not as enthusiastically in favor. Hotly contested, the bill considered drew thousands of spectators last Thursday after the House vote.

Next month, the United States Supreme Court is expected to deliver a ruling that may establish same-sex marriage as a right.

 

 

 

 

 

Historic Gay Marriage Cases Set for Late March

U.S. Supreme Court will Hear Two Oral Arguments

On January 7, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 Hollingsworth v.Perry, the constitutional amendment that forbids same-sex marriage on  March 26, and on March 27, it will listen to oral arguments in U.S. v. Windsor, the ACLU’s case challenging the constitutionality of DOMA which denies federal recognition to same-sex couples’ marriages. The court has scheduled only one hour’s worth of arguments each day. However, justices can extend the time allotted to arguments in each case.

The nine Supreme Court Justices involved in these cases are:  John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Broyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayer, and Elena Kagan.

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The Proposition 8 Case

The Justices will be considering if Proposition 8 violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  In November 2008, the ballot initiative banning gay marriage in California was passed by popular vote.

AFER,the American Foundation for Equal Rights, filed the lawsuit against Proposition 8 on behalf of two couples: Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo and Sandy Belzer Stier and Kris Perry. In February 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declared the law unconstitutional and this ruling was then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The couples will be represented ironically by” hotshot” lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies. These lawyers were adversaries in the 2000 Bush vs. Gore case, resulting in GeorgeW. Bush becoming the U.S. President. Boies and Olson have argued over 170 cases in the Supreme Court and have winnings in the Federal District Court and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Eleven California couples are hoping for the Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8.

The Doma (Defense of Marriage Act) Challenge

Federal appeals courts in New York and Boston had ruled that the law is unconstitutional. The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court Justices agreed to hear the case of Edith Windsor, a Manhattan native. Windsor, legally married in Canada, is suing the federal government because they do not recognize her same-sex marriage to her late wife Thea Spyer.

Because DOMA does not allow the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex marriages (even in states where gay marriages are legal), couples cannot file joint federal tax returns or receive survivor benefits if one spouse dies.  In 1996, DOMA was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President William Clinton.  Windsor has sued because she was required to pay a $350,000 federal estate tax bill on Spyer’s estate.

All nine justices could participate in this case.  It only takes four votes to hear a case.

Justice Kennedy believed to be the Fulcrum

Justice Kennedy authored the Lawrence v. Texas ruling that struck down state anti-sodomy laws in 2003 so he is expected to proceed on a course that is favorable to gays and lesbians. However, as much as homosexuals may want him to bring marriage equality to the entire country either by resorting to the fundamental right to marry or deeming sexual orientation a suspect classification, the March outcomes may have more limited victories.

Gay Hero Duncan Hosie, A Name Gays Can Trust

Princeton University Student Challenges Supreme Ct. Justice Scalia

Duncan Hosie, a San Francisco native interested in constitutional law, wasn’t ‘buying’ Supreme Court Justice’s Antonin Scalia’s equating laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and even murder.  “Why do you think it’s necessary to liken the consenting relationships of gay adults to animal rapists and murderers?”, he asked Scalia.

A Princeton 2016 classman, Hosie, was in the University’s audience during a question-and-answer period following the promotion of Antonin Scalia’s new book, “Reading Law.”  Based on Scalia’s Supreme Court votes, speeches and writings on the subject, Hosie, who had just come out a month before, found his rhetoric offensive.

Justice Scalia Put On the Spot

The U.S. Supreme Court Justice answered Hosie by saying “ I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective because legislative bodies can ban what they believe to be immoral. It’s a form of argument that I thought you would have known, (says Scalia in a condescending tone) which is called the ‘reduction of the absurd.’  If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

Scalia affirmed that he was not equating sodomy with murder, but drawing a parallel between the bans on both. Hosie wasn’t satisfied with the answer.  In fact, according to http://LGBTQ Nation, 12/16/12/Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: A duplicitous, totalitarian bigot,” “Scalia is widely known for keeping alive the tradition of disingenuously likening homosexuality to bestiality, incest, and murder.”

Does He Speak with Forked Tongue?

Scalia is famous for his dissents of the Lawrence v. Texas case which struck down sodomy laws as unconstitutional  (“ The Texas statute undeniably seeks to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are ‘immoral and unacceptable’ – the same interest furthered by criminal laws against fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality and obscenity” ) and his 1996 Supreme Court decision overturning a voter-approved, anti-gay referendum in Colorado (“ I would no more require a State to criminalize homosexual acts – or for that matter, display any moral disapprobation of them – than I would forbid it to do so.”)

Scalia emphasizes that the Constitution is not a living document, but it, and all laws, should be interpreted by requiring adherence to the words used and to their meanings at the time they were written.

From Princeton to International Recognition

The gutsy Hosie, although conceded that Scalia was polite, argued that Justice Scalia’s response was not accurate and absurd in many respects during his interview on MSNBC’s The Last Word last week. “I think there is a fundamental difference between arguing that the Constitution doesn’t protect gay rights and saying that the Constitution justifies that we need to use this language when talking about gay rights, and that was the point of my question.”   Professor Turley of Princeton, also on the show, called Scalia’s commentary “troubling.”

Hosie, who received an “overwhelmingly positive” reaction after the story appeared, said “I think he needs to persuade a lot more Americans about his views because I think they’re becoming increasingly out of the mainstream.”

A new gay rights advocate, Hosie is not alone. He speaks for other LGBT individuals who are fearful of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia sitting in judgment on the upcoming cases regarding the critical Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the overturning of California’s Proposition 8.

Perhaps, Justice Scalia should excuse himself from those deliberations?

 

Scientists Discover Epigenetics May Be Responsible for Homosexuality

Theories of Causes of Homosexuality

Homosexuality used to be thought of as a result of a domineering mother and an ineffectual father.  Religious zealots still believe it’s a “choice” of  a “gay lifestyle.”  The hereditary link has been established, but because of twins’ studies, scientists knew it wasn’t just a genetic link. In identical twins, there’s about a 20 percent chance that if one twin is gay, the other will be too. If genetic change were responsible for homosexuality, you’d expect a much higher match.

Scientists Have New Theory Why Homosexuality May Run in Families

The new study, published by William R. Rice, Urban Friberg, and Sergey Gavrilets.  Homosexuality as a Consequence of Epigenetically Canalized Sexual Development.  Review of Biology, 2012%3B 87 (4)The Quarterly Review of Biology, December 11, 2012, concludes that epigenetics that switches genes on and off may explain why homosexuality is passed on in families.

Here’s How It Works

The gene expression is regulated by temporary switches called epi-marks.  They constitute an extra layer of information attached to our genes’ backbones that regulates their expression. Epi-marks direct when, where, and how much a gene is expressed during development.

Different epi-marks protect different sex-specific traits from being masculinized or feminized – some affect the genitals, sexual identity or sexual partner preference. They protect fathers and mothers from excess or underexposure to testosterone.

These epi-marks are usually erased between generations.  However, they can cause reverse effects when the epi-marks are transmitted across generations from fathers to daughters or mothers to sons, resulting in feminization of some traits in sons, such as sexual preference, and similarly a partial masculinization of daughters.

More Study Needed

In the current study, researchers produced and biological and mathematical model that delineates the role of epigenetics in homosexuality.  William Rice, lead author of the study and evolutionary biologist at the University of California Santa Barbara, says that “these findings could explain why twin studies show that homosexuality runs in families, but no “gay gene” can be found.  Epigenetics, however, can explain the heritability without the need for a specific genetic change.”

The hypothesis could be tested by examining epigenetic marks in real-life parents-offspring pairs. There’s more verification needed, and epigenetic profiles genome-wide. Other studies are needed to look at epi-marks empirically.  This can be tested and proven within six months.

Additional Moral Concerns

Rice added “that an understanding of the biological underpinnings of homosexuality could help emphasize that same-sex behavior is not ‘unnatural.’ We think that people who are gay or lesbian have the right to know, what is the biological foundation for this condition?”

 

Conservatives like Bryan Fischer, Host of  the nationally syndicated Christian radio show “Focal Point,” and Director of Issues and Analysis for the American Family Association, are already concerned that if homosexuality is rooted in physical causes – what he terms “genetic defect”- that this discovery may lead parents to abort gay children.

 

Entrapment

When we hear the word “entrapment” it is usually used in a legal context when the police lure an individual into doing something that they could ultimately be prosecuted for.  Entrapment can also denote other things such as an employer who lays traps for employees to trip over so they can be written up by superiors or steps taken to fire a particular employee.  For the purpose of this article, the focus will be on “self-entrapment” which can be much worse than being entrapped by the police or small minded employers.

What do I mean by self entrapment?  Our minds can be like prisons.  Often times we convince ourselves other people’s impressions of us and living up to those expectations is more important than who we truly are.  The only crime involved in self-entrapment is the inability to become aware of one’s own innate potential and become the blossoming flowers we were meant to be.

The inability to accept our realities can muddy up our individual perception.  Often times we entrap ourselves into thinking we are of lesser value than our fellow human beings.  We begin to lock ourselves into limits only created in the mind, thus ultimately creating feelings of loneliness, self-pity and anger.  Destructive thoughts and behavior then simply become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Living in the closet epitomizes the definition of self-entrapment.  We deny our reality of who we truly are.  We live within a façade of lies interwoven into what is real.  We become so enmeshed in our fear of what other people will think of us that we construct a separate world apart from the internal truth of who we are.  We entrap ourselves in a bubble of self denial and in the extreme case, self-destruction by suicide.

Decide to break the shackles of your self-entrapment.  Break free from your self-imposed prison.  Remove the roadblocks that are depriving you of your internal balance.  Look in the mirror and make a decision that the person staring back at you is worth fighting for.

Nurture your true potential by putting yourself in situations and amongst other like minded individuals that can help you realize that your self-entrapment, your self-imposed prison, is just a veneer of mistruth keeping you from being the best you that you can be as an out and proud LGBTQ individual.

 

 

12 Months For Homophobic Mugger

Mugged gay teenager scared to walk in the park.

An 18 year old who was mugged in Gloucester says he’s now scared to walk through the park and is forced to walk out of his way to get home. Andrew Macey was just 18 years old when he was viciously mugged in Gloucester Park just yards from his home in January of this year.

The attack has left the teenager anxious and desperate to move to another part of the city, “I grew up in a rough area of Kent and nothing like this has ever happened to me before”. the games design student told local media.

He added: “I was shocked that something like that happened to me here, and it has definitely changed the way I see the area. It has left me scared to walk outside the house on my own. I don’t walk through the park anymore I go the long way around.”

This week, Gloucester Crown Court heard how Joel Campbell, also 18, grabbed Andrew by the throat and pushed him against metal railings, bruising his back in the process. He screamed homophobic insults at a college student and robbed him of his wallet and mobile phone.

Campbell of Emerald Close, Tuffley, was found guilty and sentenced to 12 months’ detention in a young offenders’ institution.

Joel Campbell, 18, of also stole Andrew Macey’s mobile phone and wallet.

Andrew and his fiancé Mark Griffiths are now looking to relocate to another area and rebuild their confidence in the city.

Gay Quadfecta in Florida Primaries

Florida made History By Electing First Openly Gay State Legislator

Voters in Florida 113 House district (part of Miami Beach and Miami, Little Havana), elected David Richardson, an openly gay CPA in the Democratic primary. Richardson, a Democrat, beat Adam Kravitz, a lawyer who founded JDate, Mark Weithorn, husband of Miami Beach Commissioner Dedee Weithorn, and Waldo Faura, Jr., an insurance adjuster.

Receiving 33 percent of the vote, Richardson, had the support of the AFL-CIO and the United Teacher’s of Dade. No Republicans registered in the district. He picked up the endorsement from several of the area’s gay rights groups, too.

Richardson had never run for pubic office before now.  He was an auditor for the United States Department of Defense. His website says he will use that experience to “identify waste in the state budget, so funds can be better used to improve our schools, preserve our environment, and improve health care.”

Joe Saunders, Gay Politician, Also Headed to Tallahassee

Richardson may not be the only gay official in Tallahassee. Joe Saunders, an openly gay candidate won District 49 (Orlando, East Orange County) last night by a 30 point spread. Sixty-five percent of Democrats supported his campaign. He now faces his Republican opponent in an I-4 corridor contested region of the state.

As a Field Director for Equality Florida, Saunders was instrumental in having the Orange County Commission pass on May 22, 2012 The Domestic Partner Registry giving more benefits to same-sex couples.

Saunders started his career as Chair of University of Central Florida’s Progressive Council and President of the UCF’s LGBT Student Union. He ran younger voter registration and education campaign for the Florida League of Conservation Voters.

Another GLBT Voice Heard in Tallahassee

Ian Whitney ran unopposed for House seat in his party’s primary for District 120 (Florida Keys and a small part of Southern Miami-Dade) which was formerly held by Ron Saunders, a Democrat. He will run against Republican Saunder’s aide, Holly Raschein, in November.

Whitney has been a committeeman for the Florida Democratic party since December 2009, and serves as chairman of Florida’s 18th District Democratic Executive Committee. He also serves on the Legislative Committee of the Democratic Progressive Caucus, the state Democratic Party’s campaign committee, and is president of the Key West Innkeepers Association. His platform?  He wants to “take back Tallahassee from special interest groups,” and plans to make education, state economic development directly tied to education.

Out Gay Candidate From Brevard County Wins!: John Paul Alvarez

World History Teacher from Palm Bay won the primary House District 53 race with a 15 point margin. A Cuban immigrant, John Alvarez from Palm Bay believes in creating conditions for job growth and economic development while protecting the working class, our state’s education and health care systems, and our state -sponsored Citizen’s Insurance. Alvarez faces Republican incumbent John Tobia in November.