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.

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