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03/14/2012

Denmark to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said the country plans to legalize same-sex marriage on June 15, BNO News reports:

DenmarkDenmark was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex unions in 1989 but, despite a generally tolerant society towards homosexuality, politicians repeatedly rejected bills to legalize same-sex marriage. The previous Danish government also rejected a same-sex marriage bill last year.

But Thorning said the Danish government will submit a draft legislation on Wednesday which will allow same-sex couples to get married at both City Hall and the Church of Denmark if they find a priest who is willing to perform the wedding. Although some church leaders have spoken out against same-sex marriage, previous surveys have suggested that as many as 70 percent of priests are willing to marry same-sex couples.

Said Thorning: "It will be up to each priest whether he or she will perform gay marriages, but the government gives all members of the church the right to get married in church, whether they want to marry a person of the opposite or same sex."

Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden as well as parts of the U.S., Mexico and Brazil have marriage equality.

Posted Mar. 14,2012 at 3:05 PM EST by in Denmark, Gay Marriage, News | Permalink | Comments (9)


Madonna Leaks William Orbit Ballad 'Falling Free' Snippet: LISTEN

Ffree

Co-written with Laurie Mayer, Orbit and brother-in-law Joe Henry, who wrote "Don't Tell Me".

Listen, AFTER THE JUMP...

Posted Mar. 14,2012 at 2:35 PM EST by in Madonna, Music, News, William Orbit | Permalink | Comments (22)


Former VP Walter Mondale Campaigns Against Anti-Gay Minnesota Marriage Amendment

MNRetired Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz and former VP Walter Mondale have put their signatures to a letter for Lawyers United for All Families, a group working to fight the anti-gay marriage amendment that will appear before voters in November.

Says the letter: Mondale

Minnesota stands at a crossroads in its history and our state’s constitution has become the battlefield. Our constitution is a hard-earned gift from those who preceded us and an enduring promise to those who will follow us. It should be used to protect individual liberty, not to take it away. Constitutions should be amended only to address problems that find no other solution. Therefore, as concerned citizens and members of the legal community, we need to stand up against the efforts to legislate by constitutional amendment.

The Minnesota Post hears from them:

"Our constitution is a hard-earned gift from those who preceded us, and an enduring promise to those who will follow us," Mondale said in a statement. "It should be used to protect individual liberty, not to take it away."

Said Blatz:  "At this crossroads in Minnesota’s history we must not allow our state’s constitution to get caught up in the prevailing winds of the day. We may disagree on how best to recognize committed same-sex couples, but I believe quite firmly that legislating this issue by constitutional amendment is both inappropriate and a threat to the legacy of our state."

Posted Mar. 14,2012 at 2:13 PM EST by in Gay Marriage, Minnesota, News, Walter Mondale | Permalink | Comments (6)


Donald Trump Jr.: Pro-Equality, Pro-Choice, Pro-Hunting, Calls His Father a 'Sell Out'

Donald Trump Jr., who recently made headlines because of some sick photos that turned up of him posing with dead African wildlife that he had shot, talks to The Six Pack podcast about same-sex marriage, abortion, his father, and hunting.

TrumpjrTrump Jr. tries to explain why he unnecessarily kills African game and other animals:

"I'm kind of a closet redneck. I shoot competitively, I'm an avid fly fisherman, big time hunter, bow hunter, rifle hunter, so I do all of that. That surprises a lot of people. I sort of end up in some redneck circles every once in a while. And I mean that in the positive sense of the word."

Trump Jr. calls Rick Santorum "a freakin joke" but thinks his father is just a "sell out":

"In terms of my fathers political views.. in the grand scheme of things there's other things he'd be concerned about first, given the state of the world and our economy... I think part of it, and perhaps the shame of being a conservative, is you almost have to have those kind of stances to win any kind of primary. And then you have to sell out and become a moderate in the middle just like you have to do if you're on the liberal side of the political spectrum.."

He's for marriage equality:

"I'm totally for it. One of my best friends growing up was gay. it's never been an issue for me. I think there was a time in my life, probably in college, that I wished every guy was gay because it meant more woman for me! I don't know what everyones problem with it is, I wish everyone was gay! That's always the way I thought about it. I have no issue with it. If I have to suffer through marriage why shouldn't they?"

And pro-choice:

"Honestly for me, abortion, I don't get it. I don't even understand how it's a political issue. I don't understand how there is one issue for voters for that. I don't understand how you can tell someone what they can or can't do. And I'm sort of the same way with [gay marriage]. I just can't buy into the abortion argument. I wish the Republicans would drop it as part of their platform.."

Trump Jr. also says his father and George Takei had their same-sex marriage summit ("I know they did it, I saw them filming it. It happened this week in our board room.") but doesn't say what came of it.

Listen to the Six Pack podcast HERE.

Posted Mar. 14,2012 at 1:45 PM EST by in Donald Trump, Gay Marriage, News | Permalink | Comments (54)


Anti-Gay Workplace Discrimination: Law, Politics, and Context

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

President Obama likely will soon sign an executive order that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity among federal contractors. Long ago, he said he wanted to root out such discrimination. So, he and his Democratic allies in Congress tried to get an act of Congress passed; but, Republicans stood in the way of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) despite intense lobbying from the White House. Even before the President started his "We Can't Wait" campaign that sought to put progress ahead of Republican intransigence, he tasked the Labor Department to research a nondiscrimination executive order. His administration asked for input from politicians, lawyers, and advocates; various executive departments chimed in, as per the process for every executive order. Sources say everyone approved. And now, he likely is waiting for the right moment to sign it. 

WhataboutENDAThe Williams Institute at UCLA tells us that a growing list of approximately 16 million workers would benefit from an anti-discrimination executive order. It would allow a workplace victim of discrimination on the basis of his sexual orientation or gender identity to file a complaint with the civil rights office of the Labor Department. That office would then investigate the claim and, if necessary, file a complaint against the offending employer for reinstatement and back pay for the unjustly fired employee. And, while most of the biggest federal contractors already have protections for gays and lesbians in their own nondiscrimination policies, an executive order sends a powerful message about social values and the equality of gay persons.

A change.org petition urging President Obama to sign the executive order has more than 100,000 signatures. This is going to happen, and happen soon. But, like Title VII's ban on workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, the unique contours of a workplace anti-discrimination order about sexual orientation and gender identity will have much more to do with the interpretation of the order than the order itself. Title VII grew into what it is day through executive and judicial interpretation.

I argue that the same legal framework should be imported to the ENDA executive order.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

Title VII bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, but it was the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) official interpretation of the law that ensured that both quid pro quo ("If you don't have sex with me, you're fired) and hostile environment (creating an intolerable sex-based atmosphere at work that is discriminatory against the opposite sex) harassment were unlawful.

Then, it was the Supreme Court that affirmed the EEOC's position (Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson) and said that Title VII also bans discrimination based on gender nonconformity (Hopkins v. PriceWaterhouse) and harassment between members of the same sex (Oncale v. Sundowner). It was also the Court that nailed down the precise standard for hostile environment harassment claims: the harassment must be severe or pervasive enough to create an environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive and also is subjectively perceived by the alleged victim to be abusive (Harris v. Forklift Systems). Both the EEOC and the Court, then, played an essential role in developing Title VII into the success that it is today.

PatriciaShiuThe same will be true with a sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination executive order (and a future ENDA, as well). As Freedom to Work's Tico Almeida told me, "The person that Obama appointed a few years ago to enforce the existing executive order for racial and gender non-discrimination at federal contractors is a very smart and talented civil rights attorney named Patricia Shiu.  She knows these LGBT legal issues backwards and forwards, in part because she has real world experience at her prior job representing LGBT Americans who have faced workplace discrimination just because of who they are or whom they love."

Ms. Shiu and her team will be tasked with interpreting, writing regulations, and enforcing a sexual orientation/gender identity nondiscrimination order. And, given her preeminent credentials, there is no reason why the contours of Title VII -- including hostile environment harassment, gender nonconformity, reasonableness and subjective harm -- will not be imported to this new context. Mr. Almedia believes that "the implementing regulations should explicitly ban anti-gay hostile work environments where words like 'faggot' and 'queer' get used on a regular basis to bully and harass gay employees.  Freedom to Work will submit comments to the Labor Department making that case."

Any rule that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity should also prohibit the creation of hostile environments on those bases that are so severe and pervasive that it constitutes discrimination. In the Title VII context, hostile environments can be created by putting up pornography around the office, sending around misogynistic emails, talking sex and sexual abuse at work, treating an employee of one sex differently than an employee of the other sex, using sexualized nicknames for women but not men, and a host of other behaviors that are based on the sex of the victim. The behavior creates an atmosphere of intimidation in the workplace, making it impossible for the victim to function. Once President Obama signs the executive order banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, creating a hostile environment on those bases should also be actionable: using inappropriate nicknames for gays and not for heterosexuals, talking about same-sex relations in derogatory ways, denigrating gay people through words or actions or pictures or emails, unwelcome touching against gay employees, and so on.

This type of behavior has come under the Title VII umbrella before. In Medina v. MGM Grand, a gay employee was subjected to anti-gay abuse, taunting, derogatory nicknames, and offensive touching. After an en banc rehearing, the Ninth Circuit voted 7-4 to permit Mr. Medina's Title VII claim even though the evidence suggested that he was abused because of his sexual orientation, not because he was male.

But, the 7 member majority split 4-3 on the particular theory: the 4 member "meta" majority held that Mr. Medina stated a clear claim of harassment on the basis of sex: "we ... hold that an employee's sexual orientation is irrelevant for purposes of Title VII. It neither provides nor precludes a cause of action for sexual harassment. That the harasser is, or may be, motivated by hostility based on sexual orientation is similarly irrelevant, and neither provides nor precludes a cause of action. It is enough that the harasser have engaged in severe or pervasive unwelcome physical conduct of a sexual nature." The 3 remaining members of the majority said that Mr. Medina stated a claim of discrimination based on gender stereotyping because his harassers treated him "like [he was] a woman" and failed to act like a man should act.

Medina-like claims have not been permitted in all jurisdictions. Nor is it clear that the Medina "meta" majority's analysis is on the firmest legal ground. Nevertheless, the uncertainty surrounding the Medina decision and the veritable pretzel the Ninth Circuit contorted itself into in order to permit Mr. Medina's Title VII claim to continue highlight the need for protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. To be sure, an executive order that protects the LGBT community will be a necessary boon: in many cases, Title VII's ban on discrimination "because of sex" has been unavailable to would-be gay plaintiffs because discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation" is not always the same as treating the sexes differently.

***

Ari Ezra Waldman is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. After practicing in New York for five years and clerking at a federal appellate court in Washington, D.C., Ari is now on the faculty at California Western School of Law in San Diego, California. His research focuses on gay rights and the First Amendment. Ari will be writing weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues.

Follow Ari on Twitter at @ariezrawaldman.

Posted Mar. 14,2012 at 12:55 PM EST by in Ari Ezra Waldman, ENDA, Law - Gay, LGBT, News | Permalink | Comments (11)


Dr. Grant Colfax Appointed Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy

Dr. Grant Colfax has been appointed Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, according to a statement from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation:

Colfax"Dr. Colfax has been instrumental in the decline of new HIV infections in San Francisco in recent years," said San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO Neil Giuliano. "His unique blend of experience serving on the front lines of the epidemic, implementing the national strategy at the local level, working as a direct service provider within the Ryan White CARE system, and conducting cutting-edge research makes him the right person at the right time to lead the Obama administration's efforts to end HIV/AIDS in the United States."

The Office of National AIDS Policy provides essential leadership in addressing the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic. As director, Dr. Colfax will be required to take a fresh look at how resources can be targeted to reduce HIV infection rates, increase access to treatment, and decrease HIV-associated health disparities related to sexual orientation, race, gender, and socio-economic status in hard-hit communities across the country. His track record in San Francisco demonstrates he is well suited for this challenge.

Colfax served as director of the HIV Prevention and Research Section at San Francisco Department of Public Health and serves as a physician at Ward 86 at San Francisco General Hospital, the nation's first HIV/AIDS-specialized clinic.

UPDATE: Towleroad has obtained a statement from The White House:

“Grant Colfax will lead the my Administration’s continued progress in providing care and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS,” said President Obama. “Grant’s expertise will be key as we continue to face serious challenges and take bold steps to meet them.  I look forward to his leadership in the months and years to come."

Posted Mar. 14,2012 at 12:42 PM EST by in AIDS/HIV, Barack Obama, Grant Colfax, News, San Francisco | Permalink | Comments (3)



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