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Last chance for Illinois marriage bill?

Greg Harris, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay state Rep. Greg Harris drafted the same-sex marriage bill — now in jeopardy — in the House. (Photo by Leah Jones via Wikimedia)

After a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples failed to come up for debate in the Illinois Legislature on Thursday, advocates are pinning their hopes on Friday, the final day of the legislative session.

“A vote has been promised, and now it is time to deliver on that promise,” said Jim Bennett, chair of the Illinois Unites for Marriage coalition, at a Thursday afternoon news conference, according to LGBT web publication, Chicago Phoenix. “We need marriage equality and we need it now.”

Illinois has been expected to join another 12 states and the District of Columbia in passing a same-sex marriage bill this year. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has signaled his eagerness to sign the bill into law, as well. However, the bill is now in jeopardy if the legislative session comes to a close without a vote.

In light of the urgency, three groups pushing for marriage equality in the state have called on supporters to push lawmakers on Friday, and plan a rally in the state capital of Springfield in order to press for a vote.

“We need you to join us for an urgent rally at the State House in Springfield tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.,” read a Thursday release from Lambda Legal, ACLU of Illinois and Equality Illinois. “Together, we’ll show the Speaker — and all our representatives — that we want a vote taken on the marriage equality bill before the House adjourns at the end of the day tomorrow.”

The three groups are calling on advocates to gather at the appointed time in the state capitol rotunda, and are offering free shuttles from Chicago to the state capitol for those who are unable to get themselves there, according to the release, as published by Windy City Times.

“Everything comes down to what happens before the end of the day tomorrow,” the release continues. “If a vote isn’t scheduled, we don’t win, and thousands of loving couples will continue being denied the protection and security they need and deserve.”

Last week, President Obama threw his support behind the bill in his home state, which supporters believed would help bolster support in the legislature.

John Becker, managing editor at the LGBT blog Bilerico Project, told Chicago Phoenix he called house speaker Michael Madigan’s office and received verbal confirmation of a Friday vote from a staffer.

“I decided to try to call Madigan’s office and I spoke to a male representative,” said Becker, who is also an LGBT rights activist and writer. “He said the vote will definitely happen [on Friday].”


Indiana professor files bias complaint

Indiana University Northwest, gay news, Washington Blade

Indiana University Northwest (Photo by Lord dumbello; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

GARY, Ind.—An Indiana University Northwest professor alleges in a complaint she filed with the U.S. Department of Education on Dec. 1 that administrators denied her tenure because of her gender and her sexual orientation.

The Windy City Times reported Anne Balay, who is an assistant professor in the university’s English department, also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Council.

Balay told the newspaper she learned in April that her tenure had been denied.

She said a group of students described her as “angry and hostile because I’m a lesbian and a feminist —and also because I don’t pass people who aren’t passing.”

“When you’re in a targeted minority and people are angry, that’s where they go, so students will say ‘all she does is talk about sexuality,’” Balay told the Windy City Times. “That’s not true. I talk about sexuality as much as anybody else.”

The IUN Faculty Board of Review was scheduled to consider a complaint she filed with the university’s Office of Affirmative Action on Wednesday. An IUN spokesperson declined to comment on Balay’s allegations to the Windy City Times.


Chicago Archbishop calls gay bill ‘legal fiction’

cardinal francis george, chicago pride, gay news, gay politics dc

Cardinal Francis George (photo by Adam Bielawski via Wikimedia Commons)

CHICAGO — Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago, last week issued a letter to parishes denouncing as a “legal fiction” a proposed bill to legalize same-sex nuptials in the Prairie State.

The letter alleges that because “the human species comes in two complementary sexes,” marriage is established by nature, not the church or the state, and therefore, “the State (sic) cannot change natural marriage,” the Cardinal writes, according to the Windy City Times.

“It is unfortunate for Cardinal George that he has chosen not to join the growing number of religious leaders and faithful laypeople across Illinois – including many devout Catholics,” read a statement by Rick Garcia, senior policy adviser to Illinois LGBT advocacy group The Civil Rights Agenda. “People of all backgrounds and beliefs are standing up for equality under the law, the protection of families, and the advancement of religious and individual freedom here in the Land of Lincoln.”

Cardinal George has butted heads with LGBT leaders on several occasions in the past, including comparing LGBT Pride festivities to the Ku Klux Klan last year.

The same-sex marriage bill was expected to have been taken up in the Senate as early as Thursday.


Durbin calls on Ill. lawmakers to approve marriage equality

Dick Durbin, Richard Durbin, United States Senate, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade, Illinois

Sen. Dick Durbin is calling on Ill. lawmakers to pass marriage equality (D-Ill.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate is calling on legislators in his state to pass legislation that would make Illinois the 10th state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage.

In a letter dated Jan. 3 to state lawmakers, Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) talks about his own evolution on the issue of marriage rights for gay couples, saying he’s concluded that “ending this discrimination” against them is “consistent with the evolution of civil rights in our democracy.”

“Every generation is given a chance to put an end to some form of discrimination in America,” Durbin writes. “As you consider this historic vote, I hope you will reflect on those you will meet after it is cast. An affirmative vote will give you a chance to look into the eyes of those who have faced discrimination throughout their lives and tell them that you voted to affirm their rights under the law.”

Durbin has previously expressed support for marriage equality and among the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted to report out to the Senate legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act last year. As a U.S. House member in 1996, Durbin voted in favor of DOMA.

Supporters of same-sex marriage in Illinois were pushing to pass same-sex marriage legislation by the time the General Assembly adjourns on Jan. 8. According to the Windy City Times, the legislation won’t come to a vote this week and “repeated foibles” bring into question whether the bill will pass before the next session begins.

Durbin’s letter follows a statement issued by a White House spokesperson last week indicating President Obama also supports the Illinois marriage equality legislation and would vote in favor of it if he were a legislator in the state, which he was from 1997 to 2004.

The office of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the junior senator from Illinois, didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on the marriage equality legislation. Kirk had only Thursday returned to the Senate after recovering from a stroke.

Had Kirk come out in support of the legislation, he would be the first Republican member of the U.S. Senate to endorse marriage equality. Illinois State GOP Chair Pat Brady has called on Republicans in the state to support the bill, but said he was doing so in a personal capacity.


Testing poz could lead to legal issues in Mich.

blood, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Daniel Gay via Wikimedia Commons)

ANN ARBOR — Michigan health officials are using HIV surveillance technologies to assist in enforcing a “health threat” law that makes it illegal for HIV-positive people to have sex without disclosing their status, the Windy City Times has reported.

A new University of Michigan study reveals that health officials employ the state’s names-reporting database, alongside partner services referrals, for law enforcement purposes, the Times wrote. But the study’s author Trevor Hoppe, a doctoral candidate in sociology and women’s studies, says this is bad social policy.

When clients visit publicly funded health clinics in Michigan to be tested for HIV, health officials ask clients extensive questions about their sexual practices and partners. If the client tests positive for HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, the counselor will provide treatment referrals but are also legally mandated to ask clients to report the names of sexual partners, which health officials attempt to contact to recommend that they be tested, the Times report said.

Hoppe found that some health officials also ask their clients if any of their partners reported to them that they were HIV-positive. Officials then attempt to cross-reference the reported name against the state’s database of everyone in the state who has been diagnosed as HIV-positive. If an individual reported as a partner is identified by the state as HIV-positive and the client did not report that they disclosed, an investigation would be launched that could have legal ramifications.

“The evidence is mounting that these laws are bad public policy and certainly bad public health policy, yet Michigan health officials are helping to enforce them,” the Times reported Hoppe as saying.

The findings appear in the February issue of the journal Social Problems.


Gay, bi men rank health concerns

medical, shot, gay news, Washington Blade, gay news

(Photo by iStock)

CHICAGO — In a survey conducted among gay and bi men in New York at various bathhouses and gay bars, it has been found that HIV and STDs are the top health concern. Tied for second were mental health and drug/alcohol use.

Hunger College’s Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training (CHEST) conducted the study of 660 men in 2011 to see if anecdotal concerns about “HIV prevention fatigue,” in which it’s assumed that safer sex admonitions have become diluted over time, was “a real problem,” researchers said. The Windy City Times and others reported on the findings from a CHEST-issued press release.

Those surveyed were asked to rank HIV/STDs, mental health, smoking, body image and drug/alcohol use. The study is titled “Perceived importance of five different health issues for gay and bisexual men: Implications for new directions in health education and prevention” and will be published in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Men’s Health.


LGBT research pioneer to be honored

Caitlin Ryan, Family Acceptance Project, gay news, Washington Blade

Caitlin Ryan (Photo courtesy of Renna Communications)

SAN FRANCISCO — A pioneer in LGBT physical and mental health will be honored by the American Psychiatric Association at its annual meeting next month, the Windy City Times reported citing a press release.

Caitlin Ryan, a social worker, researcher and policy expert who worked to establish a national network of LGBT health and mental health providers, will receive the John E. Fryer Award in May. The APA will present it with the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists after its namesake who played a crucial role in persuading the APA to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973.

Ryan co-authored the first guidelines on AIDS policy for elected officials, co-authored the first clinical care guidelines for LGBT youth and conducted seminal research that established the role families play in the health and well being of LGBT children among many other accomplishments, the press release said.