Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This week's news roundup

On Tuesday, the American Medical Association passed a resolution calling for repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. The resolution received overwhelming support from AMA membership and virtually no opposition, even from the uniformed services representatives in attendance.

At issue before the AMA was the chilling effect that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has on the provider-patient relationship and the resulting impact on access to quality healthcare for active duty troops. Military medical providers have been compelled to divulge personal information about patients to military commanders, resulting in the widespread concern among troops regarding medical confidentiality. Sometimes troops opt to suffer in silence or hesitate to seek treatment for potentially life-threatening conditions out of fear for their careers, some have left the military to get proper treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other combat-related ailments.

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On Tuesday, the New York State Senate delayed a vote on a bill that would make it legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry there.

According to The New York Times, Governor David Paterson had placed the bill on the agenda for an emergency session Tuesday, and gay rights lobbied for an immediate vote. But supporters were having difficulty securing the 32 votes needed for approval in the Senate, and a dispute between the governor and legislative leaders over a budget deficit held up votes on major legislation.
Both supporters and opponents are taking advantage of the delay to lobby for votes.

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In Cleveland, Ohio, an LGBT rights group delivered more than 2,500 postcards to City Council members Monday to support legislation prohibiting discrimination against transgender citizens, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Last year the council began tried to add transgender identity to the city's anti-discrimination laws. However, the move was shot down by a 13-7 vote.

Additional hearings on the measure are scheduled for later this month. Proponents are hopeful, citing that several Council members who oppose the legislation serve constituencies where a majority support it.

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A French court on Tuesday allowed a lesbian woman to adopt a child with her partner after 11 years of legal battle, according to the Reuters news agency.

French law allows single people to adopt but not same-sex couples. Some couples get around the ban by filing an application in the name of only one partner and checking the "single" box, but the woman was determined to have her right to adopt as a couple recognized by the courts.

She prevailed on Tuesday when an administrative tribunal in her town overruled the regional authorities, who had rejected the woman's application.
Supporters are optimistic that the ruling may eventually influence legislature on a national level.

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The findings of a new study from the RAND Corporation and the University of Florida regarding the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy challenges the assumption that allowing openly gay and lesbian military personnel to serve in the U.S. armed forces could harm military readiness.

The study surveyed military personnel who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and found that having a gay or lesbian colleague in their unit had no significant impact on their unit’s cohesion or readiness.

About 20 percent of those polled said they were aware of a gay or lesbian member in their unit, and about half of those said their presence was well known. In addition, three-quarters of those surveyed said they felt comfortable or very comfortable in the presence of gays or lesbians.

The study found that just 40 percent of the military members surveyed expressed support for the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a reduction from previous surveys. 28 percent opposed it and 33 percent were neutral.

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The Jakarta Post reported today that a recent conference among moderate Muslim scholars in Indonesia has reached a consensus that there is no reason to reject homosexuals under Islam.

Some of the scholars said that condemnation of homosexuality by Muslims is based on narrow-minded interpretations of Islamic teaching. One speaker said that heterosexuality is a social construction that has ultimately led the majority to ban homosexuality. Others stated that homosexuality is from God and should be considered natural.

While several scholars in attendance maintained the view that Islam condemns homosexual behavior, many moderate Muslims see the conference as a major step toward LGBT tolerance for the religion.

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On Saturday night, the U.S. House passed HB 3962, a health care reform bill that includes a number of provisions of benefit the LGBT community and other minorities, reports 365gay.com.

Among these is a direction to the Department of Health and Human Services to address health disparities of a number of specific population groups, including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It makes low-income HIV patients eligible for Medicare coverage earlier in their illness. And it prohibits discrimination in health care based on “personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services.”

Some have expressed concern that the language of the provisions, championed by Representative Tammy Baldwin, does not specifically refer to LGBT individuals. Others see the legislation as a tremendous advance for the health needs of the LGBT community.

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court has declined to hear an anti-gay group’s constitutional challenge to the recent law that created a domestic partner registry for gay couples. The suit, brought by the right-wing Wisconsin Family Action, claimed the registry violates a state Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage or any similar status. The court rejected the case without comment.

Lambda Legal and Fair Wisconsin, the two groups leading the defense of the registry, applauded the court’s decision. However, some legal experts point out that the suit is not necessarily dead; it can simply be initiated at the Circuit Court level instead, as is the usual course for such suits.

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