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Maryland Senate committee holds hearing on transgender rights bill

Heather Mizeur, Maryland, House of Delegates, Annapolis, SB 212, transgender, gay news, Washington Blade

State Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) on Tuesday testified in support of a transgender rights bill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Maryland lawmakers on Tuesday held a hearing on a bill that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in the state.

Members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony from supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 212 that state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced last month. The measure would ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression in employment, housing, public accommodation and credit.

“At its core, SB 212 is about securing basic civil rights for transgender Marylanders: the right to a job, a place to live and fair treatment in public spaces,” said Madaleno.

Gov. Martin O’Malley is among those who submitted testimony in support of SB 212.

Gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur pointed out during her testimony that the Baltimore County Council passed a trans rights bill after two teenagers attacked Chrissy Lee Polis at a Rosedale McDonald’s in 2011.

“This is a protection we want to make sure gets extended statewide,” said Mizeur. “Protection against discrimination shouldn’t depend on your zip code.”

Mizeur’s Democratic challengers and their running mates — Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and Attorney General Doug Gansler and state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County) — back SB 212.

Brown and Gansler both submitted written testimony in support of the measure.

“The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 is critical to our ability to move forward as a state because no Marylander should face discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Brown. “Whether they’re using a public accommodation or finding housing, looking for private sector employment, leasing a commercial space for their business or deciding what to wear for work, all Marylanders deserve to be treated equally.”

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties) and House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel County) also back SB 212.

“The protections in Senate Bill 212 are needed in real people’s lives,” said Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans. “These individuals are our spouses, our friends, our co-workers and our fellow Marylanders.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, executive co-director of the National Coalition of American Nuns, also testified in support of SB 212.

“We need to incorporate the vulnerable members of our society into our laws and our customs,” said Gramick.

The Maryland Catholic Conference is among the organizations that submitted testimony in opposition to SB 212.

“The church firmly opposes undue harassment or discrimination against any person,” said the group. “That principle does not, however, warrant creating a new class of protected individuals in the state’s anti-discrimination statute, especially when the extension of the law would presumably apply to only a small number of individuals.”

Elaine McDermott of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government and Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council are among those who also spoke against the measure.

“I am here to stand up for women, children and their safety,” said McDermott, who submitted to the committee newspaper articles that detail men who allegedly targeted women and girls in restrooms and locker rooms. “Women worry about their safety in bathrooms and locker rooms. Proponents of this bill deny that there will be problems with restrooms and locker rooms.”

Zane Walsh, 13, of Baltimore County countered McDermott.

“I am not a pervert lurking in the bathroom,” he said. “I’m pretty much a normal kid.”

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last year narrowly killed an identical bill that Madaleno introduced.

State Sens. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) and James Brochin (D-Baltimore County), who voted against the aforementioned measure in 2013, asked Madaleno and other SB 212 supporters about access to restrooms and locker rooms during the hearing. Michael Lore, an aide to state Sen. Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County), told the Washington Blade on Monday that LGBT rights advocates should not expect the lawmaker’s position on the issue to change unless SB 212 supporters address his concerns over employment contracts.

“He was certainly sympathetic to some of the concerns,” said Lore, discussing Stone’s vote against the 2013 bill. “He’s willing to listen to all sides.”

Baltimore City and Baltimore, Montgomery and Howard Counties have already added gender identity and expression to their non-discrimination laws. Hyattsville in December became the first jurisdiction in Prince George’s County to pass a trans-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance.

“It is time for Maryland to pass this legislation,” said Madaleno.

Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer, who announced last week she will challenge Madaleno in the June Democratic primary, noted only 47 percent of Marylanders live in jurisdictions that have adopted trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws.

“This situation is patently unfair,” said Beyer in written testimony. “I ask you to favorably report SB 212 to the floor to remedy that situation.”

Neighboring Delaware is among the 17 states along with D.C. and Puerto Rico that ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania, New York and other states have introduced similar measures.

The Maryland House of Delegates in 2011 approved a trans rights bill. There are enough votes in the state Senate to ensure passage of SB 212 if it advances out of committee.

04
Feb
2014

Anti-LGBT group: Va. marriage ban is ‘rational’

Josh Duggar, Victoria Cobb, Family Foundation of Virginia, Allison Howard, Concerned Women for America, E.W. Jackson, Norfolk, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Anti-LGBT groups on April 4 filed 21 briefs with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (Photo courtesy of the Family Foundation of Virginia)

Anti-LGBT organizations on April 4 filed 21 amicus briefs with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit challenging Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

“There is a rational and even compelling justification for the Virginia amendment and statutes,” wrote Mathew Staver in a brief he filed with the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., on behalf of the Liberty Counsel and the American College of Pediatricians. “The inherent harms of living a homosexual lifestyle and the inherent benefits of encouraging intact biological families for the rearing of children.”

The Liberty Counsel and the American College of Pediatricians told the 4th Circuit the “lack of exclusivity and permanence in same-sex relationships” and “the irresponsible sexual practices associated therewith greatly affect the health, safety and welfare of homosexuals.”

Staver in his brief included a statistic that says gay and bisexual men are roughly 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than “men who only have sex with women.” He also references Mark Regnerus’ disputed study that suggests children who are raised by their mother and father are better off than those who grow up with same-sex parents.

Frank D. Mylar, a Salt Lake City lawyer, argues in a brief he filed on behalf of the American Leadership Fund and 19 professors and scholars that marriage between a man and a woman is necessary for the procreation of children.

“This social institution is rooted in deep realities and oriented towards a purpose uniquely tied to its nature as the union of the sexes – a pairing that alone may naturally create a child and provide that child with a social context that accounts for his or her biological origins,” wrote Mylar.

Mylar also dismissed comparisons that U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen – who struck down the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban in February – and others have made between this case and the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Loving v. Virginia ruling in 1967 that found interracial marriage prohibitions unconstitutional.

“[Mildred] Loving, who, as per her name, seemed a goodhearted soul, equated the struggle for gay marriage with her own struggle for interracial marriage,” writes David Boyle, a lawyer from Long Beach, Calif., in a brief he filed with the 4th Circuit. “The judge in Bostic uses this idea… to justify mandating gay marriage in the Old Dominion. However, this well-intentioned idea lacks logical foundation.”

Anthony R. Picarello, Jr., writes in a brief he filed with the federal appeals court on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod that marriage as between a man and a woman is a “time-honored tradition.”

“We support the husband-wife definition of marriage because we believe it is right and good for children, families and societies,” said Picarello.

Steven W. Fitschen of the National Legal Foundation of Virginia Beach, Va., which filed a brief on behalf of Concerned Women for America, argues “homosexuals and lesbians are not politically powerless.” He notes recent polls indicate a majority of Virginians now support marriage rights for same-sex couples and the first executive order that Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed as governor bans discrimination against LGBT state employees.

The brief also references a Washington Blade article on the 2011 election of gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) to the Virginia Senate.

“The rapid shift in voter opinion evinces that homosexuals and lesbians do not need to shortcut the political process through judicial intervention,” writes Fitschen.

Attorneys general from Alabama; Alaska; Colorado; Idaho; Louisiana; Montana; South Carolina; South Dakota; Utah and Wyoming, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrison; the Virginia Catholic Conference, the Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Family Research Council, former National Organization for Marriage Chair Robert George and Ryan Anderson of the Witherspoon Institute are among those who also filed briefs with the 4th Circuit.

Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield last year challenged the commonwealth’s marriage amendment after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal – which filed a separate lawsuit last summer on behalf of Victoria Kidd and Christy Berghoff of Winchester and Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton – have been allowed to join the Bostic case.

U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski in January certified the ACLU and Lambda Legal lawsuit as a class action.

Attorney General Mark Herring earlier this year announced he would not defend the marriage amendment. He said on April 5 during the annual Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner in Richmond that same-sex couples are not seeking “special treatment” in the state.

The 4th Circuit on May 13 is scheduled to begin hearing oral arguments in the Bostic case.

The Alliance Defending Freedom argued in a brief it filed late last month on behalf of Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is necessary for the “procreation” of children. Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer, III, has also challenged Allen’s ruling.

Staver and Eric Rassbach of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty both refer to a New Mexico photographer who challenged a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that said she violated the state’s anti-discrimination law when she refused to photograph a same-sex couple’s wedding ceremony because of her religious beliefs.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday announced it will not hear the case.

07
Apr
2014

Boy Scouts of America vote to partially end gay ban

Boy Scouts of America, gay news, Washington Blade

Approximately 61 percent of delegates to the Boy Scouts of America National Annual Meeting voted Thursday to partially end a policy barring openly gay boy scouts. (Photo by Steven Depolo; courtesy Creative Commons)

According to ThinkProgress, approximately 61 percent of delegates to the Boy Scouts of America’s National Annual Meeting voted Thursday to partially end a policy barring openly gay boy scouts.

The 1,400 delegates were not given the option, however, to lift the prohibition of openly gay adult volunteers and leaders.

“Today’s vote is a significant victory for gay youth across the nation and a clear indication that the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adult leaders will also inevitably end,” Rich Ferraro, a spokesperson for LGBT media watchdog group GLAAD said in a statement after the vote. “The Boy Scouts of America heard from religious leaders, corporate sponsors and so many Scouting families who want an end to discrimination against gay people, and GLAAD will continue this work with those committed to equality in Scouting until gay parents and adults are able to participate.”

The vote comes after months of lobbying on both sides of the issue, with gay advocates pressuring the organization to remove all barriers to involvement for LGBT people — including Eagle Scouts, den mothers and scout masters — while conservative forces have pushed the organization to remain with the current policy.

On Thursday, Washington D.C.-based Family Research Council took out a half-page ad in the Dallas Morning News urging delegates to the 2013 National Annual Meeting to vote against the plan.

“Boy Scouts of America delegates will vote TODAY on a resolution that will introduce open homosexuality into Scouting’s ranks and eventually, in all likelihood, into Scouting leadership,” the ad reads. “This open letter calls on ALL DELEGATES to VOTE NO on the resolution and thereby preserve Scouting’s timeless values and honor 103 years of faithful service to our nation and her boys.”

The FRC ad goes on to list five reasons the organization believes that the ban on gays in scouting should be kept, including speculation that 400,000 members will abandon the scouts, citing “massive membership losses” after the organization’s Canadian counterpart lifted their own prohibition to gay scouts.

Despite the opposition’s virulent protests, prior to the vote, many LGBT advocates were optimistic about the vote’s outcome.

“I’m confident, especially now that the BSA leadership is behind the resolution,” Ferraro told the Blade earlier on Thursday. “I think it’s because of the stories that BSA voting members and Americans have heard over the past years from moms from Ohio and teenagers from California who shouldn’t be discriminated against.”

The Dallas Voice, earlier Thursday, released a video of a press conference held by LGBT advocates prior to the vote.

Earlier this month, Texas Governor Rick Perry also weighed in on the Boy Scouts controversy, as the Blade reported.

“The fact is, this is a private organization,” Perry said. “Their values and principles have worked for a century now, and for pop culture to come in and try to tear that up because it just happens to be the flavor of the month, so to speak, and to tear apart one of the great organizations that have served millions of young men — to help them become men and become great fathers — that is just not appropriate.”

Following the affirmative vote, many advocates expressed measured relief that efforts had been partially victorious.

“Today’s vote ending discrimination of gay Scouts is truly a historic moment and demonstrates the Boy Scouts of America’s commitment to creating a more inclusive organization,” Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout and Founder of Scouts for Equality, said in a statement released by GLAAD. “Scouts for Equality is honored to be a part of the movement that has achieved a tremendous victory towards the fight for equality in America and we are proud to call ourselves Scouts. We look forward to the day where we can celebrate inclusion of all members and are committed to continuing our work until that occurs.”

Others who had experienced discrimination in the scouts under this policy spoke out after the  vote as well.

“When I was kicked out of the Boy Scouts last April, I was devastated.” said Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, who was ousted as leader of her son’s Cub Scout pack because she’s gay. “Having to look my son, Cruz, in the eye and tell him that our family isn’t good enough was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Today is truly a watershed moment for me, but even more so for the millions of kids across this country, who will now be allowed to serve in the Scouts without fear of rejection. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, but until there’s a place for everyone in Scouting, my work will continue.”

23
May
2013

Same-sex marriage opponents blast DOMA, Prop 8 decisions

Harry Jackson, Hope Christian Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Bishop Harry Jackson is among those same-sex marriage opponents who criticized the Supreme Court for ruling against DOMA and Proposition 8 (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Same-sex marriage opponents on Wednesday blasted the U.S. Supreme Court after it struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance described the two rulings as “the Roe v. Wade of marriage,” referring to the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the country.

“While the justices sit in their high chairs, these decisions will have very real-life consequences for American families, especially as it relates to our religious liberties,” she said. “Those who hold a Biblical view of marriage can expect much persecution from the government in the years to come.”

Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes tweeted “Supreme Court overrules God” after the justices announced their decisions. He added it “won’t be long before they (the justices) outlaw the Bible as hate speech.

Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church of Beltsville, Md., also took to social media to criticize the DOMA decision.

“Laws cannot be enforced; justice is always the loser,” he tweeted. “Criminals crowd out honest people and twist the laws around.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops categorized the rulings as “a tragic day for marriage and our nation.

“The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act,” the group, of which New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan is the president, said.

The group is among those who joined National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown; Ruth Institute President Jennifer Roback Morse; American Values President Gary Bauer; New York State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr.; and Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition and others at an anti-gay marriage rally on the National Mall in March after the justices heard oral arguments in the Prop 8 case.

“By striking down the federal definition of marriage in DOMA, the court is asserting that Congress does not have the power to define the meaning of words in statutes Congress itself has enacted,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said. “This is absurd.”

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who unsuccessfully sought to place a proposed constitutional amendment on her state’s 2004 ballot that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman, is among the members of Congress who criticized the Supreme Court’s rulings.

“Marriage was created by the hand of God,” she said. “No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted.”

“It’s pretty hard to believe that the Supreme Court would say that the 85 Senators, 342 members of the House of Representatives, and Democrat President Bill Clinton – all who supported DOMA when it was signed into law nearly 20 years ago – voted for DOMA literally seeking to injure and impose stigma on gay individuals,” U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) added. “That may be the perception of five Justices, but it is simply not true. I’ve always felt that marriage was an issue best left up to each state, and that’s essentially what the Court ruled today. But this ruling is a disappointment because instead of allowing the American people and their elected representatives to continue the debate about same-sex marriage, the Court instead used its own personal opinion to tip the balance.”

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who on Tuesday petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s ruling earlier this year that struck down the commonwealth’s anti-sodomy law, said in a statement the state “has followed the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman for more than 400 years.” He also noted Virginians in 2006 approved a constitutional amendment that banned nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Cuccinelli, who is also running for governor against former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe, who supports same-sex marriage, added he feels the Prop 8 and DOMA decisions will have no impact in Virginia.

“The court’s two decisions on marriage make clear that the rulings have no effect on the Virginia Marriage Amendment or to any other Virginia law related to marriage,” Cuccinelli said.

26
Jun
2013

Family Research Council shooter sentenced to 25 years

FBI unit at Family Research Council headquarters, gay news, Washington Blade

A lone gunman opened fire inside the Family Research Council headquarters last year. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia man who pleaded guilty to shooting a security guard in the arm at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington last year in a foiled attempt to commit a mass killing of FRC employees was sentenced on Thursday to 25 years in prison.

Floyd Lee Corkins II, 29, told the FBI shortly after his arrest that he targeted the FRC because of its positions opposing gay rights and same-sex marriage. He pleaded guilty in February to committing an act of terrorism while armed, assault with intent to kill while armed and interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition.

Corkins worked for several months in 2012 as a volunteer at the D.C. LGBT Community Center, but neither law enforcement authorities nor D.C. Center officials have disclosed whether Corkins is gay.

D.C. police and the FBI, which investigated the case, have credited security guard and FRC building manager Leonardo Johnson with preventing Corkins from carrying out his stated plan to kill as many people as possible at the FRC building.

In what authorities have called an act of heroism, Johnson, 47, wrestled Corkins to the floor in the lobby of the FRC building at 801 G St., N.W., and disarmed him after Corkins fired three shots, one of which struck Johnson in the arm. Authorities said Johnson’s action prevented Corkins from gaining access to the upper floors of the building where about 80 employees were working.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office called for a sentence of 45 years while Corkins’ attorney, citing Corkins’ history of mental illness, asked for a sentence of 11 and a half years.

Floyd Lee Corkins II, Family Research Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Floyd Lee Corkins II (Photo courtesy the U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said his sentence of 25 years took into consideration Corkins’ “horrific” action as well as mitigating factors such as his mental illness and his decision to take responsibility for his behavior.

Roberts told Corkins his stated intent to kill people to advance his political beliefs in support of gay rights would have the opposite effect. He praised others seeking to advance a political cause, including gay rights, who use peaceful means to promote such a cause.

“When the president spoke up it changed minds,” he said in referring to President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage.

“Killing human beings is not political activism. It’s criminal behavior,” Roberts said.

Just before Roberts handed down his sentence Johnson and FRC president Tony Perkins addressed the court to give their recommendations on the sentencing.

Johnson turned toward Corkins and said he forgave him for what he did but said he would never forget the harm Corkins inflicted on him and the negative impact it has had on his family.

After the sentencing hearing Johnson told reporters outside the courthouse that once he wrestled the gun from Corkins and feared that Corkins might still attempt to attack him he chose not to shoot Corkins “because God told me not to do it.”

Within minutes, D.C. police arrived on the scene and took Corkins into custody. He has remained in jail since the time of his arrest at the scene of the incident on Aug. 15, 2012.

At the time of his arrest, police and FBI agents found a stash of ammunition in Corkins’ backpack along with about 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches. Corkins later told FBI agents he planned to smear the sandwiches in the faces of the FRC employees he planned to kill as a form of retaliation against the statements by the Chick-fil-A company’s owner opposing same-sex marriage.

Perkins told the court that Corkins and his plan to kill as many FRC staff members as possible put the staff “in the crosshairs of a political assassin” and has kept the organization and its employees in a state of fear.

“Life for all of us has changed,” he said.

Leo Johnson, Tony Perkins, Family Research Council, Values Voter Summit

Leonardo Johnson with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Perkins reiterated statements he has made in the past that Corkins was instigated, at least in part, to target FRC by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He cited the Center’s decision to identify FRC as a hate group because of its anti-gay advocacy work.

Officials with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, have said their classification of FRC as a hate group is based on its attempt to disparage and demean gay people by linking them and homosexuality to pedophilia. The officials have said the ‘hate’ label is not based on FRC’s opposition to gay rights legislation or its political beliefs.

In his own statement at the sentencing hearing, Corkins apologized to Johnson and FRC, saying he still disagrees with the organization’s positions.

“I realize violence for political reasons is wrong,” he said.

In a 20-minute multi-media presentation in the courtroom, which included the showing of slides and video footage of Corkins, prosecutors argued that Corkins carried out a clearly orchestrated plan to commit mass murder in the days before the FRC shooting.

Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Patrick Martin, one of the two prosecutors working on the case, disputed defense attorney David Bos’s assertion that Corkins was not in full control of his behavior based on his diagnoses of having “major depressive disorder with psychotic features.”

Bos argued that Corkins was being treated with prescription drugs that effectively eliminated symptoms of his mental illness but Corkins failed to take his medication on the day before the FRC shooting incident.

Martin argued that in the week or so before the shooting, Corkins purchased a pistol and ammunition at a Virginia gun store, returned to the store to practice his shooting technique, purchased the sandwiches at a Chick-fil-A restaurant, and even traveled to the FRC building a few days before the incident to see if he could gain entrance as part of a “rehearsal” of his plans.

Martin pointed to one of the slides projected on a large screen in the courtroom that stated, “He knows what he was doing…The treatment he received was working. And it helped him execute his plan.”

National and local LGBT rights organizations, including the D.C. LGBT Center, issued statements at the time of the shooting condemning Corkins’ actions and wishing Johnson a speedy recovery from his injury.

19
Sep
2013

Anti-gay groups donate thousands to Va. GOP candidates

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The latest campaign finance reports that Virginia’s Republican candidates for statewide office filed last week indicate they continue to receive significant financial support from social conservatives and anti-LGBT groups.

The campaign finance report that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed with the Virginia Board of Elections on Oct. 15 notes Leadership Institute President Morton Blackwell gave the gubernatorial hopeful $19,665 on Sept. 12.

Morton, who opposed the gay group GOProud’s participation in the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference and received an award during last year’s Values Voter Summit, has given the Cuccinelli campaign a total of $25,878. Morton also gave $1,000 to state Sen. Mark Obenshain(R-Harrisonburg)’s attorney general bid on Sept. 30, according to campaign finance records.

Campaign finance reports indicate the Family Research Council Action PAC on Sept. 30 made a $5,000 contribution to E.W. Jackson’s campaign; he’s running for lieutenant governor. The group also donated $20,000 to Cuccinelli’s campaign on Aug. 31.

Obenshain’s campaign on Sept. 10 received a $10,000 contribution from Pat Robertson, according to a campaign finance report it filed with the Virginia Board of Elections on Oct. 15. The anti-gay televangelist also gave $2,500 to Jackson’s campaign on Aug. 31.

Foster Friess, who backed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential bid, on Sept. 19 gave Cuccinelli’s campaign $20,000. Campaign finance reports further indicate the billionaire businessman has thus far contributed $50,000 to the attorney general’s gubernatorial campaign.

John Rocovich, Jr., a member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors who led efforts to remove sexual orientation from the university’s anti-discrimination policy in 2003 when he was rector, has given $38,986 in cash and in-kind contributions to Cuccinelli’s campaign. He has also contributed $7,500 to Jackson’s bid and another $18,750 in cash and in-kind contributions to Obenshain’s campaign.

The Family Foundation, a Richmond-based group that supports the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage and opposes LGBT-specific measures in the General Assembly, has also contributed to the three men’s campaigns.

Roger Pogge of the Family Foundation has given $400 to Cuccinelli, according to campaign finance records. Pogge has given $250 to Jackson and another $200 to Obenshain.

The re-election campaign for state Del. Brenda Pogge (R-James City), whose husband is Roger Pogge, has given $1,150 to Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial bid. Campaign finance reports indicate the Republican lawmaker has also given $500 to Obenshain.

Jackson in his latest campaign finance report noted a $1,500 donation to the Family Foundation on Sept. 24. This contribution came less than two weeks before the organization held its annual dinner in Richmond at which Cuccinelli and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spoke.

LGBT advocates criticize Va. Republican ticket

Cuccinelli’s, Jackson’s and Obenshain’s Democratic opponents and LGBT rights advocates note these contributions come as no surprise considering the three men’s opposition to marriage for same-sex couples and other gay-specific measures in the commonwealth.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month denied Cuccinelli’s request to appeal a lower court ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

Cuccinelli, who has previously described same-sex sexual acts as “intrinsically wrong”, in July reaffirmed his opposition to homosexuality during a gubernatorial debate against former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe.

The current attorney general in 2010 recommended Virginia colleges and universities remove LGBT-specific provisions from their non-discrimination policies. Cuccinelli was also among those who spoke at an anti-gay marriage gathering at a Manassas church last October to which the Washington Blade was denied access — a California pastor who attended the event described gay men as “predators” during a separate event at a Baltimore church the week before that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and others attended.

LGBT rights advocates have repeatedly blasted Jackson over his comparison of gay men to pedophiles and describing them as “very sick people.”

Obenshain sponsored a bill that Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law in March that bans public universities from denying recognition and funding to student organizations that discriminate in their membership based on sexual orientation and other categories that federal law does not protect. He also opposed a measure a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee in February tabled that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting” whose eldest son now works as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council in D.C., joined Cuccinelli on the campaign trail last week.

Cuccinelli reiterated his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples in response to the Blade’s question after he and McAuliffe squared off in a debate sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and NBC 4 in McLean last month. He declined to say whether he feels his position on the issue and his previous anti-LGBT statements have received too much attention on the campaign trail.

“That’s a very sensitive issue, and I respect that,” Cuccinelli told the Blade as he discussed his position on same-sex marriage. “There are people who feel very strongly about it, and I respect that. For those folks they want to hear about it, it is one of a range of issues.”

Poll: Nearly half find Cuccinelli too conservative

A poll that Rasmussen Reports conducted on Oct. 20 shows McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli by a 50-33 percent margin. Eight percent of respondents said they support Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis.

Forty-six percent of likely Virginia voters who responded to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted between Oct. 2-8 said they feel Cuccinelli is too conservative.

“Ken Cuccinelli has spent his career demonizing and insulting gay Virginians,” McAuliffe campaign spokesperson Josh Schwerin told the Blade. “It’s no surprise that some of his biggest donors would have equally offensive records.”

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish noted Cuccinelli, Jackson and Obenshain all have a record of “being openly hostile” to LGBT Virginians through their own statements or their legislative actions.

“It’s not surprising that Pat Robertson, Family Research Council and other opponents of fairness and equality are funding the most right-wing, anti-gay, anti-choice ticket to ever run for statewide office in Virginia,” gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) added. “They’re not just conservatives; they are zealots on a mission and it’s a common mission that some of their most prominent donors share.”

Democratic statewide candidates tap gay money

McAuliffe and Jackson and Obenshain’s Democratic opponents – state Sens. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) and Mark Herring (D-Loudoun) respectively – have all publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples. The former DNC chair has repeatedly said as governor he would issue an executive order that would ban discrimination against LGBT state employees.

Campaign finance records indicate that McAuliffe, Northam and Herring continue to receive significant financial backing from LGBT contributors.

McAuliffe’s latest campaign finance report he filed with the Virginia Board of Elections on Oct. 15 indicates Tim Gill donated $10,000 to his gubernatorial bid on Sept. 25. The gay philanthropist on the same day made $2,500 contributions to Northam and Herring’s campaigns.

DNC Treasurer Andrew Tobias has donated $11,000 to McAuliffe’s campaign. Gay Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf on March 20 made a $5,000 contribution to the former DNC chair’s gubernatorial bid – and campaign finance reports indicate he made an in-kind donation of $4,060 on May 16 for event expenses.

California Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 21 gave $1,000 to McAuliffe’s campaign, while lesbian Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen on Sept. 27 donated $1,000.

Campaign finance reports indicate the Human Rights Campaign made a $23,308 in-kind donation to the Democratic Party of Virginia for staff time and telephone calls on Sept. 11, and another $31,013 in-kind donation for the same items and e-mail advocacy on Oct. 26. The organization’s PAC on Sept. 11 made $117 in-kind contributions for online advocacy to McAuliffe, Northam and Herring’s campaigns.

23
Oct
2013

Groups link Utah polygamy ruling to gay marriage

Tony Perkins, FRC, gay news, Washington Blade, polygamy

FRC President Tony Perkins says the legalization of same-sex marriage will lead to legalized polygamy. (Washington Blade file photo by Lee Whitman)

Two of the nation’s leading anti-LGBT groups — the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council — said a decision by a federal judge in Utah last week overturning part of the state’s law banning polygamy was made possible by earlier court rulings supportive of same-sex marriage.

An official with the marriage equality group Freedom to Marry disputed that assertion, saying the Utah ruling was limited to the right of people to choose personal living arrangements unrelated to marriage.

But statements by NOM and FRC linking the Utah ruling to same-sex marriage were reported widely in the media, with cable news outlets inviting FRC President Tony Perkins to appear on news programs to express his views on the issue.

Judge Clark Waddoups of the U.S. District Court of Utah ruled on Dec. 13 that a section of Utah’s anti-polygamy law that prohibits “cohabitation” violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion as well as the Constitution’s due process clause.

Waddoups’ ruling left in place the anti-polygamy law’s provisions prohibiting someone from obtaining two or more valid marriage licenses to marry more than one person.

In a statement released by the National Organization for Marriage, the group’s president, Brian Brown, called Waddoups’ ruling the first step in an effort by polygamists to bring a test case to the Supreme Court to obtain legal recognition of “plural” marriages.

“There’s no doubt that the arguments for same-sex marriage were a template for this case,” Brown said. “People in polygamist, plural marriages are just a short step away from winning official marriage rights. Adult incest practitioners will have similar claims, as will adult siblings and other close relations,” he said.

“This decision is the next step along the path blazed by same-sex marriage advocates who have convinced federal judges to transform the societal norm of marriage as the union of one man and one woman designed primarily for the benefit of any children produced of their union into an institution that recognizes intimate, romantic relationships between consenting adults,” Brown said.

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of the same-sex marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry, said Brown’s interpretation of Waddoups’ ruling was incorrect.

“Contrary to yet another predictable breathless rush to misrepresent from NOM and its anti-gay ilk, this decision is no more about marriage than NOM is,” Wolfson told the Blade in an email.

“It’s about cohabitation, that is, whom you may choose to live with,” he said. “As anyone reading the judge’s ruling can see, the decision leaves intact other prohibitions on bigamy, polygamy, and fraud. Instead it’s about choices people make about living together, not marrying.”

Wolfson added, “Do the NOM/FRC crowd really believe that in a free country the government should be dictating to Americans – married or otherwise, religious or otherwise – whom they may even live with?”

The challenge to the Utah polygamy law stems from a lawsuit filed by Kody Brown, the lead figure in the reality television show “Sister Wives,” in which Brown stars with people he identifies as his four wives and 17 children.

Brown and his family are members of the Apostolic Brethren Church, a breakaway sect from the Mormon Church whose members embrace polygamy as part of their religious beliefs. The Mormon Church ended its support for polygamy in the 1890s when Congress required the then territory of Utah to prohibit polygamy as a condition for becoming a state.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley represents the Brown family in connection with their lawsuit. He argued before the court that the provision of the Utah polygamy law prohibiting cohabitation violated the family’s right to privacy and religious freedom.

17
Dec
2013

Mixed reaction to Boy Scouts plan on gay members

Zach Walls, gay news, Washington Blade, Boy Scouts of America

‘This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction,’ said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the group Scouts for Equality. (Photo courtesy of Change.org)

A statement issued by the Boy Scouts of America on Monday saying the organization is considering dropping its national policy banning gay scouts and scout leaders was hailed by LGBT advocates as an important breakthrough in the fight for equality.

But two of the nation’s leading anti-gay groups warned that if the BSA’s board votes next week to drop its ban on gays, as predicted by sources familiar with the Boy Scouts, it would lead to a “mass exodus” of scouts and scout leaders from traditional, religious-oriented families and communities.

In its statement released on Monday, the BSA said the change it was considering would allow the religious, civic and educational organizations that are chartered to operate scouting units throughout the country to make the final decision on whether or not to accept gays.

“Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation,” the statement says.

“This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” says the statement.

“BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families,” it says.

NBC News, which first reported that BSA was considering lifting its gay ban prior to the release of the statement, also reported that the organization was expected to approve the changes at a board of directors meeting within the next week.

Janelle Moritz, a public relations representative for the Boy Scouts of America, told the Blade she could not confirm the NBC report about the timing of a board meeting or what the board would decide. She said BSA would not comment on the matter beyond what it said in its statement, which doesn’t say when the group will decide on the issue.

Other news media outlets, however, reported that BSA sources confirmed that the board meeting would take place next week, mostly likely at the BSA national headquarters in Irving, Texas.

“The Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations, and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong,” said Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “Scouting is a valuable institution and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect,” he said.

“This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction,” said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the group Scouts for Equality. “We look forward to working with BSA Councils and chartering organizations across the country to end the exclusion of our gay brothers in scouting, as well as the gay and lesbian leaders who serve the organizations so well.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Boy Scouts’ expected policy change follows the growing support for LGBT equality from the American people.

“The pulse of equality is strong in America, and today it beats a bit faster with news that the Boy Scouts may finally put an end to its long history of discrimination,” Griffin said in a statement. “Our nation and its leaders respect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, and it’s time the Boy Scouts echo those values.”

A far different response emerged from leaders of the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, two national conservative groups that oppose LGBT rights.

“The Boy Scouts of America board would be making a serious mistake to bow to the strong-arm tactics of LGBT activists and open the organization to homosexuality,” said FRC President Tony Perkins in a statement.

“The mission of the Boy Scouts is to ‘instill values in young people’ and ‘prepare them to make ethical choices,’ and the Scouts’ oath includes a pledge ‘to do my duty to God’ and keep himself ‘morally straight,” he said. “It is entirely reasonable and not at all unusual for those passages to be interpreted as requiring abstinence from homosexual conduct.”

The American Family Associated posted on its website a column by anti-gay advocate Bryan Fischer, who quipped that Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach convicted on child molestation charges, would become “the new poster boy” for the Boy Scouts.

“This move, unless the BSA dramatically reverses itself in the immediate future, represents the capitulation to the forces of sexual deviancy,” he said. “The Scouts will have made a deliberate decision to put the sexual integrity of every young man in their care at risk.”

Within a day of the BSA’s announcement that it was considering changing its policy on gay scouts and scout leaders, the FRC and the American Family Association posted appeals on their websites urging members and supporters to call the BSA to urge the group to leave its ban on gays in place.

“As the BSA board meets next week, it is crucial that they hear from those who stand with them and their current policy regarding homosexuality,” FRC said.

Possibly in anticipation of strong opposition by conservative and religious groups, the BSA emphasized in its own statement that the change would allow local units to decide whether or not to admit gays.

“The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a policy to units, members, or parents,” the statement says. “Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs.”

The BSA website says more than 100,000 scouting units are owned and operated by independent chartered organizations.

“Of these, 64.9 percent of all units are chartered to faith-based organizations, 22.7 percent of all units are chartered to civic organizations, and 7.9 percent of all units are chartered to educational organizations,” it says.

It says the chartered organizations are responsible for providing meeting facilities, providing “quality leadership for the scouting unit,” and appointing a representative to coordinate unit operations

A list of BSA chartered organizations posted on its website shows a wide range of religious and civic groups that are likely to differ on whether or not to admit gay scouts and scout leaders.

Among them are the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and “Baptist Churches,” which traditionally have condemned homosexuality. Others, however, include the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church and Lutheran churches, which have had more accepting policies toward LGBT people.

Civic groups listed on the BSA website as chartered organizations include local Chambers of Commerce, Lions and Rotary clubs, American Legion organizations, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, YMCA groups, “non-profit agencies,” and “home owners” groups.

The BSA’s statement saying it is considering removing its national policy banning gay scouts and scout leaders comes seven months after the BSA announced it had conducted a two-year review of the ban and decided to leave it in place.

Monday’s announcement also comes after several prominent corporations, including United Parcel Service and Intel Corporation, withdrew as BSA financial sponsors, saying the gay ban violated their corporate polices of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Others opposing the Boy Scouts ban on gays have organized online petition drives that have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures calling on the BSA to drop its gay ban.

Among those drawing attention to efforts to end the ban is Eagle Scout Wahls of Iowa, who is straight but has spoken publically about his two lesbian moms.

Sharon Brackett, co-founder and board chair of the statewide transgender advocacy organization Gender Rights Maryland, said she experienced firsthand how at least some Boy Scout troops and the chartered organizations that operate them are LGBT supportive.

Brackett said she served as a scout master for the local Boy Scout troop in Savage, Md., where her sons were members, before she transitioned from male to female. She said after taking a break during her transition period, the troop and a local Methodist church that served as the chartered organization, welcomed her back once she completed her gender transition.

“My experience has been positive,” she said, noting that women have long served as Boy Scout troop leaders and officials in the chartered organization covering her area had no problem with her coming back.

Brackett said she supports the proposed change by the BSA to leave it up to the chartered organizations to decide whether gay scouts or troops can be admitted. At least in Maryland, she said, there are enough local troops and chartered organizations to choose from that would result in gay youth finding one that will be welcoming.

“Having that choice is the best next step for us at this time,” she said.

30
Jan
2013

Anti-gay groups speak out in Prop 8, DOMA briefs

The Family Research Council, headed by Tony Perkins filed briefs in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Family Research Council, headed by Tony Perkins, filed briefs in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Anti-gay groups — ranging from the Family Research Council to the Westboro Baptish Church — filed friend-of-the-court briefs before the Supreme Court this week asking justices to uphold California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

The briefs filed on Tuesday assert the same arguments seen repeatedly in opposition to a fundamental right to same-sex marriage, such as the inability of gay couples to procreate and the argument that being gay isn’t an immutable characteristic.

The Family Research Council, one the more prominent anti-gay groups opposed to same-sex marriage, filed briefs in both the Prop 8 and DOMA cases. In the Prop 8 brief, the group argues that the California ban on same-sex marriage isn’t discriminatory, among other reasons, because it enables any person to marry — so long as the other person is of the opposite sex.

“Proposition 8 treats men and women the same,” the brief states. “Both may marry someone of the opposite sex; neither may marry someone of the same sex.”

As Right Wing Watch points out, Family Research Council makes arguments on the political power of gays and lesbians that are contradictory. In the Prop 8 brief, the group notes that 30 states have amendments defining marriage as one man, one woman while arguing that “there is no ‘emerging awareness’ that the right to marry extends to same-sex couples.”

But in the DOMA brief, the group notes that three states voted in favor of marriage equality and Minnesota rejected an anti-gay marriage amendment to argue gay people aren’t a “politically powerless” group that need protection from discrimination.

“So when voters reject gay rights at the ballot box, they are reflecting public opinion,” concludes Right Wing Watch blogger Miranda Blue. “But when they vote in favor of gay rights, they have been ‘enlisted’ to the cause by powerful gay rights lobbyists.”

William Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation, filed a brief on behalf of the National Organization for Marriage in the DOMA case, but identifies himself as a “scholar of history and related disciplines” in the Prop 8 case.

“When the People of California adopted Proposition 8, they acted to retain in their law an understanding of marriage that, until very recently, was recognized universally and without exception throughout time and across cultures,” Duncan said. “That conception of the institution of marriage has consistently been understood to advance crucial social interests in procreation, understood as the bearing and rearing of children.”

Duncan cites in his arguments a series of philosophers who’ve had an impact on American thinking, including Noah Webster and David Hume. The brief also cites a 1690 piece of writing from British philosopher John Locke, who said marriage “has no necessary form or function beyond this ‘chief end’ of procreation.”

Another brief in the Prop 8 case was filed by a coalition of black pastors, including the Coalition of African-American Pastors USA and the Frederick Douglass Foundation. That brief argues at length that the 1967 Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia striking down bans on interracial marriage shouldn’t be applied to gay couples.

“Loving can be distinguished from the current dispute over same-sex marriage,” the brief states. “Laws against miscegenation were designed to segregate the races, reinforcing the socially disadvantaged position of African-Americans. … By contrast, the traditional definition of marriage calls for mixing of the genders — integration not segregation — and therefore cannot be understood as an attempt to disadvantage either gender.”

During a news conference in September, Rev. William Owens, founder and president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, admitted that he has limited financial ties to NOM. Owens said the group provides him and his wife a salary of $20,000 a year.

Notably, the brief isn’t signed by black pastors. The attorneys who signed the brief are Lynn Wardle, a law professor at Brigham Young University, and Stephen Kent Ehat, an attorney who does business as the Utah-based California Research Inc., and is a graduate of BYU law school.

Yet another brief was filed by three gay individuals who believe same-sex couples shouldn’t have the right to marry. They are David Benkof, ex-owner of the gay press syndicate Q Syndicate and now a resident of Israel; Robert Oscar Lopez, a bisexual award-winning writer who’s written comedies about same-sex couples raising children; and Doug Mainwaring, a gay writer who rethought the capability of same-sex unions to raise children after realizing the importance to his teenage sons of their mother’s presence in their lives. The brief is signed by Herbert Grey, a private attorney based in Beaverton, Ore.

“We, and they, believe gay people should be free to love and live as they choose but we also recognize that society has a right to express a rational preference for the kind of unions necessary to the survival of the whole society, and to the well-being of children,” the brief states. “Some gay, lesbian and bisexual people will benefit from this preference as they may marry a person of the opposite-sex.”

The brief by the Westboro Baptist Church, a virulently anti-gay Kansas-based organization known for picketing the funerals of service members with signs reading, “God Hates Fags,” makes arguments characteristic of its organization in briefs both for the Prop 8 case and DOMA case.

Westboro Baptist Church, gay news, gay politics dc

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“This nation has gone astray, letting fornication, adultery, abortion-for-convenience-on-demand, divorce, remarriage and sodomy become the norm,” the church says in its DOMA brief. “Homosexuality is destructive in every way, to the individual and to the nation. Government should not put its seal of approval on that unholy union by issuing a marriage license. Government’s interest is in doing the opposite, for the good of the people and the nation.”

The brief is signed by Margie Phelps, daughter of church founder Fred Phelps, who has represented the church in a lawsuit against it before the Supreme Court.

Mary Bonauto, civil rights director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said the “anti-gay machine is alive and well,” but noted that each of the briefs takes a different approach to supporting Prop 8 and DOMA.

“As you would expect, some of the briefs were based a particular religious view,” Bonauto said. “Others claimed they were secular but simply reasoned based on certain religious principles. Others raised the religious freedom argument that it is a burden for objecting members of the public to have to deal with the existence of married gay people.”

Bonauto added, “Overall, none of these briefs raise a new issue and several are helpful to us.”

31
Jan
2013

Boy Scouts board meets to consider lifting gay ban

Zach Wahls, gay news, Washington Blade, Boy Scouts of America

Zach Wahls, who is straight, but has two lesbian mothers, delivers petitions to lift a ban on gay scouts to the national Boy Scouts of America conference in Orlando last year. (Photo courtesy of Change.org)

The Boy Scouts of America’s national board began a three-day meeting in Irving, Tex., on Monday in which it was expected to vote Wednesday on a proposal to end its national policy of banning gay scouts and scout leaders.

As the board met behind closed doors in a hotel near the BSA’s national headquarters just outside Dallas, a contingent of current and former gay scouts, scout leaders, and their straight supporters delivered stacks of petitions with 1.4 million signatures calling for the Boy Scouts to end the gay ban.

“Today’s delivery marks one final push by the more than 1.4 million signers who’ve taken action on Change.org demanding an end to the Boy Scout’s national ban on gay youth and parents,” said Mark Anthony Dingbaum, senior campaign manager for Change.org.

The national LGBT groups Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Human Rights Campaign joined the gay-supportive scouts and scout leaders, including Scouts for Equality, in drawing national attention to the BSA’s board meeting.

Groups opposed to lifting the Boy Scouts’ ban on gays, including the Family Research Council, announced they had organized their own efforts to lobby the board against changing its policy. Among those calling on the BSA to leave the gay ban in place is Texas Governor Rick Perry.

But the gay supportive side appeared to be capturing more media attention on the opening day of the board’s meeting.

In a full-page ad in Monday’s edition of the Dallas Morning News, HRC urged the Boy Scouts to go beyond their proposal to allow local Boy Scout councils to decide whether to admit gay scouts or scout leaders.

The BSA announced last week that its proposal would end the organization’s national ban on gay scouts and scout leaders. The announcement said the change, if adopted by the board, would leave it to the local Councils and chartered organizations that sponsor Boy Scout troops across the country to decide whether to admit gay scouts and scout leaders.

“While the proposed change is a step in the right direction, we can’t pretend that passing the buck to the local level will eliminate anti-gay discrimination because it won’t,” said HRC’s vice president for communications Fred Sainz.

“Generations of gay Americans have been told they’re not good enough to join the Scouts, simply because of who they are,” Sainz said. “BSA has an opportunity to change that this week by adopting a non-discrimination policy.”

HRC also announced that its foundation has adopted a more stringent criterion for its widely watched Corporate Equality Index, which rates corporations on their policies on LGBT related issues, including personnel policies.

“To receive a perfect score in the future, companies would have to prohibit philanthropic giving to non-religious organizations that have a written policy of anti-gay discrimination, or permit its chapters, affiliates, or troops to do so,” HRC announced in a Feb. 4 press release.

The newly announced criterion would lead to a lower the rating for companies that donate money to the Boy Scouts if the BSA or local Boy Scout councils don’t eliminate their ban on gays.

D.C. area Boy Scouts Council calls for ‘courteous’ discussion

Daniel Mullin, director of the D.C. district for the BSA’s National Capital Area Council, told the Blade on Monday that Boy Scouts and scout leaders in the D.C. region were watching with interest over how the national board will decide on the issue of the gay ban.

He pointed to a statement in the National Capital Area Council’s February newsletter, which invites the scouting community to share their opinions and concerns on the issue with the Council’s leadership.

“This is a topic that many leaders, parents and community members have strongly held opinions about,” the Council’s newsletter statement says. “It is a complex issue and can engender significant debate. As you discuss the issue with your friends and fellow Scouts, please remember that a Scout is courteous and kind.”

05
Feb
2013