Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tonight's news

Marriage Roundup

On April 9, the Fourth District Wisconsin Court of Appeals in Madison asked the state Supreme Court to review the case of University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh professor William McConkey as to the legality of the 2006 so-called “Marriage Protection” amendment to the state's constitution. McConkey, a Wisconsin voter and taxpayer, argued that the two questions in the referendum should have been voted on separately under the single subject rule. An earlier ruling by a Dane County Circuit Court Judge said the two clauses in the referendum question were “two sides of the same coin” and properly decided with one vote.

And in Iowa, opponents of the Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex marriages said last week they would step up pressure on state lawmakers to block the marriages through a constitutional amendment and predicted political fallout for Democratic state leaders if they did not join the opposition.

Because the amendment process under Iowa law would take two legislative sessions, even opponents acknowledge that nothing now seems likely to prevent Iowa from beginning to allow same-sex marriages on April 27 after the ruling becomes final.

In a related story, police in Des Moines are investigating death threats against openly gay state lawmaker Sen. Matt McCoy, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Speaker Pat Murphy. All are Democrats.

In Colorado, Gov. Bill Ritter has signed a domestic partner bill making it easier for unmarried couples to make medical decisions for incapacitated partners and leave property to their partners. The measure, which takes effect July 1, applies to same- and opposite-sex unmarried couples. In 2006, voters passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The same year, they rejected another ballot issue that would have given same-sex couples many of the rights of marriage, including property inheritance rights and the power to make medical and funeral arrangements.

And in the nation’s capital, Congressional Republicans are vowing to block the District of Columbia from recognizing same-sex marriages that have been performed in areas where they are legal.

In a preliminary vote, the D.C. Council unanimously approved the bill. It needs to pass a final time next month and then, like all D.C. laws, it must be reviewed by Congress.

“It’s high time we send a clear, unequivocal message to those persons of the same sex and married in another jurisdiction that their marriage is valid in D.C.,” said gay city council member Jim Graham. D.C. already has a domestic partner registry that was enacted in 2007 to the ire of Republicans.

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West Bend, Wis. - A petition with 443 signatures gathered by residents Ginny and Jim Maziarka and their newly formed West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries (WBCSL) has been presented to the West Bend library.

The petition asks that books with sexually explicit passages be removed from a teen-oriented list of materials and reassigned to the adult book section.

In a written statement, the Maziarkas describe the petition as "a formal request for policy changes at the West Bend Community Memorial Library, signed by 443 concerned citizens. The petitions request that the library board take a roll call vote to adopt 5 policies to make the library child-safe and family-friendly."

Sue Cantrell, assistant director at the West Bend library said they are still deliberating what to do with the Maziarkas’ petition. "We don’t know, to tell you the truth. As long as I’ve been here there’s never been a petition presented (to the library). I’ve been here nine years."

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Amazon.com claims that “an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloguing error” led to the removal of tens of thousands of gay and lesbian titles from its book charts by classifying the material as “adult.” Authors and readers bombarded Amazon.com with complaints over the weekend after many books dealing with gay and lesbian themes disappeared from its ranking system in what appeared to be a botched attempt to make its bestseller lists more family friendly.

The company had previously said the de-rankings were the result of a glitch in its systems.

Amazon said that the de-ranking was not limited to gay and lesbian titles. Patty Smith, director of corporate communications for Amazon, today issued a statement, writing: “This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloguing error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.”

"Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future."

Not all authors have accepted Amazon's explanation.

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Bills that would protect the rights of transgendered people have advanced in New Hampshire and Washington.

In New Hampshire, the House approved by one vote a bill that would amend the state’s anti-discrimination law to include trans people. Last week’s vote came a month after the House turned down the same bill.

Republicans assailed the legislation, calling it the “bathroom bill.” House Speaker, democrat Terie Norelli, countered, “We’re not asking you to open bathrooms to sexual predators. We’re asking you to stand tall against discrimination.”

The bill now moves to the Senate.

In the state of Washington, the House has approved a Senate bill adding “gender expression or identity” to the state’s hate-crime law. Washington’s hate-crimes law already makes it illegal to threaten, damage the property of, or physically injure someone because of ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

The Senate has already approved the bill, which now heads to the governor’s desk for signing.

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The White House allocated tickets for the last Sunday’s Easter Egg Roll to gay and lesbian families as part of the Obama administration's outreach to diverse communities.

Families say the gesture shows that the new Democratic administration values them as equal to other families. And for many, being included in the annual tradition—dating back to 1878—renews hope that they will have more support in their quest for equal rights in matters such as marriage and adoption than under the previous administration.

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Jamaica’s largest LGBT civil rights group is asking American gays to reject a boycott of Jamaica and Jamaican products.

U.S. rights group Truth Wins Out has called for a boycott of the island and its products to protest several violent homophobic incidents and Jamaica’s refusal to repeal laws against sodomy.

But in Kingston, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays said the boycott could backfire and result in more violence. The group stressed that it did not want the LGBT community to be perceived as being responsible for worsening economic conditions in an already impoverished country, adding that they themselves could be disproportionately affected by the proposed boycott.

Jamaica has been described by human rights groups as having the worst record of any country in the New World in its treatment of gays and lesbians.

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