Thursday, February 24, 2011

Regarding sexual orientation language in the budget repair bill - it's not new

Over the past 11 days, readers have been finding all sorts of non-budget items packed into Governor Walker's budget repair bill, including language that excludes lesbians, gays and bisexuals from affirmative action requirements that apply to government contractors.

However, this is not language that is new with Walker. It has appeared in bill after bill since sexual orientation became a protected class in Wisconsin in 1982. That's because the law made sexual orientation a protected class from discrimination only, not for affirmative action.

Fair Wisconsin released this statement to clear up confusion regarding this part of the budget bill:
Since the release of Governor Walker's anti-labor union-busting "Budget Repair Bill", we have heard from many supporters asking us about the anti-gay language that appears on page 8, line 18 (contained in Section 32):
"Except with respect to sexual orientation, the contractor further agrees to take affirmative action to ensure equal employment opportunities."
Although those words do appear in the bill, it is not a change in Wisconsin state law. Just to be clear: This is not a new challenge. Currently, sexual orientation is only a protected class only in our non-discrimination laws. Wisconsin has never considered it a part of its affirmative action laws.

Thank you to everyone who has brought it to our attention. It's inspiring to see so many people taking the time to review the bill critically in its entirety!

In fairness AND solidarity,
Katie Belanger
Executive Director

For more information on Wisconsin's law protecting lesbians, gays and bisexuals from certain forms of discrimination, see this page on the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development website.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This week's headlines

President Obama announced today that his administration will no longer defend the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Today’s announcement came after months of internal administration debate. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner that Obama has instructed the Justice Department not to defend DOMA because parts of it are unconstitutional.

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Last week, the LGBT rights group Fair Wisconsin came out against Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill, which - among other things - would strip state and local public employees of almost all collective bargaining rights. Fair Wisconsin explained its stance in a public statement:

“Every time we've had a challenge, ... Labor has never failed to stand with us in our time of need.

“… This is our opportunity to thank these people – the same individuals who teach our children, care for our sick and even plow our streets – for their support by standing with them as they fight for their right to exist.

“Our government should never be in the business of taking away people's rights.”

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More and more large corporations, including Coca-Cola, Campbell Soup and Walt Disney, have expanded their insurance coverage to meet the needs of transgender workers. The trend follows a concerted push by transgender rights advocates to get employers and insurers to see sex reassignment the way the American Medical Association does – as a medically indicated, rather than optional, procedure. 85 large businesses cover the cost of at least one surgery related to Gender Identity Disorder, according to a 2010 survey by the Human Rights Campaign.

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A baby born to a surrogate mother in Ukraine – then stranded there for two years by bureaucracy – will soon come to Belgium to join his parents, a gay married couple. Peter Meurrens, one member of the couple, said his son, Samuel Ghilain, had received a Belgian passport Monday. Meurrens said the child, who has been living in an orphanage in Lviv, Ukraine, will fly into Belgium in the coming days to be reunited with his parents, who last saw him nearly a year ago. The Belgian Foreign Ministry’s decision to issue the passport followed a court decision saying bureaucrats had erred, and the boy, the biological child of Meurrens’ husband, Laurent Ghilain, was entitled to the document.

“Finally, I am starting to believe I will see him in a few days,” Meurrens said.

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Perry Moore, a co-producer of “The Chronicles of Narnia” film series and the author of an award-winning novel about a gay teenager with superpowers, was found unconscious in his bathroom and died later at a hospital, police said. He was 39. The cause of death will be determined by the city’s medical examiner, but no foul play was suspected. His father, Bill Moore, told The New York Daily News in Saturday editions that an initial autopsy was inconclusive. Moore had a varied career in television and in film, as producer, screenwriter and director. His 2007 novel, “Hero,” won the Lambda Literary Award for best novel for young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children or adults.

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Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who previously argued that marriage equality will lead to the downfall of civilization, is bringing together right-wing groups and leading Republicans for his Conservative Principles Conference on March 26th in the premier caucus state. Potential presidential candidates, including Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, and John Bolton, will be joining the virulently anti-gay National Organization for Marriage for the conference. King says that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who believes schools should ban gay teachers, will keynote the event.

Gays for unions - both kinds

Saw this sign at today's rally outside the Monona Terrace.

Last week, the LGBT rights group Fair Wisconsin came out against Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill, which - among other things - would strip state and local public employees of almost all collective bargaining rights. Here's why, according to Fair Wisconsin:
Every time we've had a challenge, whether it's been the campaign against the 2006 constitutional amendment or vocal support of the domestic partner registry in 2009, Labor has never failed to stand with us in our time of need.

Yesterday, we heard about Governor Walker's plan to strip public employees' rights to organize and bargain collectively. This is our opportunity to thank these people – the same individuals who teach our children, care for our sick and even plow our streets – for their support by standing with them as they fight for their right to exist.

Our government should never be in the business of taking away people's rights.

Please join with Fair Wisconsin in contacting your legislators and asking them to protect our union brothers and sisters today.

Monday, February 7, 2011

UW-Madison seeks young adults to participate in survey on same-gender attraction

Sabra Katz-Wise and is working on her dissertation with Dr. Janet Hyde at the University of Wisconsin – Madison to study past and current same-gender and other-gender attractions, behavior, and sexuality in young adults. They are interested in the experiences of young adults who identify with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, etc.), choose not to label their sexual orientation, or have experienced sexual or romantic attraction to someone of the same gender or to members of both genders at some point in the past.

Participation in this study consists of completing an online survey that will last approximately 30-45 minutes. To qualify for the study, you must be age 18-26, reside in Wisconsin, and meet ANY of the following criteria: (1) identify with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, (2) prefer not to label your sexual orientation, or (3) have experienced attraction to someone of the same gender or to members of both genders in the past. This study has been approved by the University of Wisconsin – Madison IRB # SE-2010-0719.

If you are willing to be a part of this study, please click this link to complete the online survey:

https://uwmadison.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_8ekm8aGHAo3bcOw

To thank you for your participation, you will be entered into a drawing for one of five $20 gift certificates to Amazon.com. If you have any questions, please contact Sabra Katz-Wise at katzwise@wisc.edu, or by phone at (608) 265-5414.