Ronald Ayers

Archive for the ‘Homosexual rights’ Category

Ill. set to be 15th state to allow gay marriage

In Homosexual marriage, Homosexual rights on November 6, 2013 at 3:21 pm

KERRY LESTER, AP

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — With Illinois set to become the 15th state nationwide to legalize same-sex marriage, Chicago couple Theresa Volpe and Mercedes Santos finally began planning the wedding they’d started thinking about more than two decades ago.

“From the moment we met and fell in love, the language was, ‘If I could marry you I would,'” said Volpe, who is expecting the couple’s third child. “We waited a long time for that to happen, to hear … that we can have that. I think it’s really the final stamp on our relationship.”

After months of arduous lobbying in President Barack Obama’s home state, Illinois lawmakers passed a measure Tuesday that would legalize same-sex marriage. Under the legislation, which Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has vowed to sign, couples could start tying the knot in June.

Fourteen other states and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage.

The road to the Illinois vote was long and included a stalled attempt earlier this year, frustrating activists in a state where Democrats lead the House, Senate and governor’s office. Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, who is the main sponsor, decided not to bring the bill for a vote in May, saying he didn’t have the support.

Then the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to strike down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which Harris said resonated with lawmakers. Backers also launched a furious campaign, hiring a union lobbyist, the former head of the Illinois Republican Party and field organizers statewide.

“To treat all our citizens equally in the eyes of the law we must change this,” Harris said on the floor. “Families have been kept apart.”

Debate lasted more than two hours, and the final roll call was met with cheers. Supporters’ speeches echoed themes of equality and civil rights, with mentions of Obama and Martin Luther King Jr.

The measure had backing from both of Illinois’ U.S. senators and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It also got a last-minute boost from longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, who serves as chair of the state’s Democratic Party. The Chicago Democrat said he used the “art of persuasion” to bring on more than five votes in the last week.

Opponents, including some of the most powerful religious leaders in Illinois, have said marriage should remain between a man and a woman. A group of Chicago-area pastors vowed to line up primary challengers against some lawmakers who voted yes.

The bill first cleared the Senate on Valentine’s Day. Backers expressed confidence that the bill would be approved by the House in mid-March. But it took the supporters months to secure votes.

Although Illinois once appeared poised to become the first Midwestern state to approve gay marriage in the Legislature, Minnesota did it sooner and started holding its first same-sex weddings over the summer. Iowa allows gay marriages too, because of a court ruling, not a legislative vote.

For months, the leaders of several black mega-churches lobbied the districts of black House members with an aggressive robocall campaign against gay marriage, placing the Democratic members of the caucus in an uncomfortable spotlight. Many remained undecided until the vote neared.

But for couples such as Volpe and Santos, Tuesday marked the start of a new chapter.

The couple had a civil union ceremony in 2011, when Illinois approved them. But now they hope their wedding will include their new baby.

“Some people didn’t even know what that meant. Some of them didn’t come because they didn’t know — what does that mean?” Volpe said. “When you say ‘We’re going to have a wedding,’ for sure people will come now.”

Source: Associated Press

 

 

Gay rights bill heads for first hurdle in Senate

In Homosexual rights on November 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm
English: US Senator Dean Heller

English: US Senator Dean Heller (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DONNA CASSATA, AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate prepared to push major gay rights legislation past a first, big hurdle Monday as Democrats and a handful of Republicans united behind a bill to prohibit workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

The legislation could win Senate passage by week’s end, but its prospects in the Republican-majority House are dimmer.

Hours before Monday’s vote, President Barack Obama issued a fresh plea for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the first significant gay rights bill since Congress lifted the ban on gays serving openly in the military nearly three years ago.

“Americans ought to be judged by one thing only in their workplaces: their ability to get their jobs done,” the president said in a message written for Huffingtonpost.com. “Does it make a difference if the firefighter who rescues you is gay — or the accountant who does your taxes or the mechanic who fixes your car?”

All 55 members of the Democratic majority and at least five Republicans were expected to vote to proceed with the bill, giving Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the 60 votes necessary. Reid’s Republican colleague in Nevada, Dean Heller, announced his support on Monday, saying that the measure “raises the federal standards to match what we have come to expect in Nevada, which is that discrimination must not be tolerated under any circumstance.”

Current federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race and national origin. But it doesn’t stop an employer from firing or refusing to hire workers because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The bill would bar employers with 15 or more workers from using a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for making employment decisions, including hiring, firing, compensation or promotion.

Possible passage of the bill by week’s end would cap a 17-year quest to secure Senate support for the anti-bias measure that failed by one vote in 1996, the same year Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. That law required the federal government to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages.

Today Americans have shown increasing support for same-sex marriage, now legal in 14 states and the District of Columbia. The Supreme Court in June affirmed gay marriage and granted federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, in Maine on Monday, six-term Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud, who is running for governor, said that he is gay.

“That may seem like a big announcement to some people. For me, it’s just a part of who I am, as much as being a third-generation mill worker or a lifelong Mainer. One thing I do know is that it has nothing to do with my ability to lead the state of Maine,” Michaud wrote in an op-ed article.

The anti-discrimination bill faces strong opposition from conservative groups — Heritage Action and the Faith and Freedom Coalition said the vote will be part of their legislative scorecard on lawmakers. More to its immediate prospects, the legislation is opposed by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and it’s unclear whether the House will even vote on the measure.

Reiterating Boehner’s longstanding opposition, spokesman Michael Steel said Monday that Boehner “believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”

Besides Heller, four other Republican senators are backing the legislation — Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — and proponents expect a few others to support it.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay and lesbian advocacy group, contrasted Heller’s backing with Boehner’s opposition.

“The speaker, of all people, should certainly know what it’s like to go to work every day afraid of being fired,” Griffin said, a reference to the unsuccessful, tea party-backed challenge to Boehner earlier this year.

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have approved laws banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 17 of those also prohibit employers from discriminating based on gender identity.

About 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies have adopted nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation, according to the Human Rights Campaign. About 57 percent of those companies include gender identity.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce remains neutral on the bill, a spokeswoman said Monday.

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, said it was disappointing that Boehner may not bring the measure to a vote. “When the Senate passes this legislation, all options will be on the table in order to advance this critical legislation in the House,” Hammill said.

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney sidestepped questions about whether Obama would consider issuing an executive order on workplace discrimination if Congress refused to act. Gay rights groups have criticized Obama for refusing to take that step, which would affect employees who work for federal contractors.

“We’re focused on getting ENDA through Congress,” Carney said, using the acronym for the workplace discrimination bill.

Source: Associated Press

 

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