Several major gay rights groups withdrew support Tuesday for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would bolster gay and transgender rights in the workplace, saying they fear that broad religious exemptions included in the current bill might compel private companies to begin citing objections similar to those that prevailed in a U.S. Supreme Court case last week.
The gay community is a key constituency and source of campaign donations for Democrats, and calls to rewrite the most significant gay rights legislation considered in recent years is a major setback for the White House, which had used passage of the legislation last fall as a way to draw a contrast with House Republicans, who have refused to vote on the measure.
But the groups said they can no longer back ENDA as currently written in light of the Supreme Court’s decision last week to strike down a key part of President Obama’s health-care law. The court ruled that family-owned businesses do not have to offer their employees contraceptive coverage that conflicts with the owners’ religious beliefs.
The “Hobby Lobby case,” was led by Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts chain that co-founder David Green has said is run on biblical principles, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania cabinetmaking company owned by a Mennonite family.
Signs of crumbling support for ENDA came first Tuesday from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, one of several gay rights group that has aggressively pushed Obama to expand gay rights through executive action since the start of his presidency.
Rea Carey, the group’s executive director, said in an interview that “If a private company can take its own religious beliefs and say you can’t have access to certain health care, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to an interpretation that a private company could have religious beliefs that LGBT people are not equal or somehow go against their beliefs and therefore fire them. We disagree with that trend. The implications of Hobby Lobby are becoming clear.”
“We do not take this move lightly,” she added. “We’ve been pushing for this bill for 20 years.”
Separately, a coalition led by the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights said in a joint statement that they also would be withdrawing support. The bill’s religious exemptions clause is written so broadly that “ENDA’s discriminatory provision, unprecedented in federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, could provide religiously affiliated organizations – including hospitals, nursing homes and universities – a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people,” the group said, adding later that if ENDA were to pass Congress, “the most important federal law for the [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community in American history would leave too many jobs, and too many LGBT workers, without protection.”
The Senate approved ENDA with bipartisan support last November, marking the first time federal lawmakers had approved legislation to advance gay rights since repealing the military’s ban on gay men and lesbians in uniform in late 2010. The legislation passed with the support of several Republicans, some of whom had opposed previous attempts to pass the legislation but had decided that the time had come to expand protections to gay, lesbian and transgender workers. But House Republicans have said they will not take up the bill, in part because they believe the bill’s current religious exemptions aren’t clear or broad enough.
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 17 states and the District also bar discrimination based on gender identity. Hundreds of the nation’s largest companies also have similar bans.
Since the court’s ruling, the White House and congressional Democrats have said that they will seek ways to address the Hobby Lobby decision through legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday called the decision “outrageous” and said “we’re going to do something about it” without providing specific details. Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), among others, are working on proposals that are expected to be merged and unveiled in time for a vote as early as next week, senior Senate Democratic aides said Tuesday.
A new, separate push to rewrite ENDA may serve as a useful political tool for gay rights organizations that have used previous election cycles to pressure Democrats to take up legislation important to their concerns. The threat of withholding campaign donations during the 2010 campaign cycle helped push Obama and congressional Democrats to push for repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And Obama’s decision to announce his support for same-sex marriage before his reelection in 2012 also was seen as a nod to the gay community, a reliable and leading source of campaign donations to Democratic candidates.
Carey said her group is also pushing to ensure that Obama does not include a broad religious exemption in an executive order that he is expected to sign soon that will ban discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender employees of federal contractors. The order is considered the last significant action he is likely to be able to make to advance gay rights without the cooperation of Congress, according to gay rights groups.
But after the Supreme Court’s decision last week, religious leaders redoubled efforts to ensure that Obama includes a religious exemption in his executive order.
Despite the new opposition to the bill, the Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation’s largest gay rights groups, said Tuesday that it continues to support the bill “because it will provide essential workplace protections to millions of LGBT people.”
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), a lead sponsor of ENDA and the Senate’s first openly lesbian member, said Tuesday that she was reviewing the decision of groups to withdraw support for the bill. She noted that the bill’s religious exemption language had been tweaked last year to secure more support from Democrats and Republicans, “and there was clearly discomfort expressed at that point” by gay rights groups concerned that the changes might make it easier for employers to seek religious exemptions.
(Courtesy of WashingtonPost.com)
Researchers from the University of Melbourne surveyed 315 same-sex parents with a total of 500 children. About 80% of the children have female parents, while 18% have male parents.
The children raised by same-sex partners scored an average of 6% higher than the general population on measures of general health and family cohesion. They were equivalent to those from the general population on measures of temperament and mood, behaviour, mental health and self-esteem.
The lead researcher, Simon Crouch, said same-sex couples are more likely to share childcare and work responsibilities more equitably than heterosexual parent families, based more on skills rather than gender roles.
“This appears to be contributing to a more harmonious household and having a positive impact on child health,” he said.
But about two-thirds of these children experience some form of stigma due to their parents’ sexual orientation, Crouch said.
“What we have found is that the more stigma these families experience the greater the impact on the social and emotional wellbeing of children.”
The most recent census counted 6,300 children living in same-sex-couple families.
(Courtesy of theGuardian.com)
The month begins with Mercury going direct (yippee) on July 1, 2014. Issues connected to communication, travel, computers, home remodels, machinery, cars, and new projects will be much more positive now. So, if you’ve been holding your breath about making new plans, you can exhale now!
As usual, I’d like to add a note of caution for July. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be a good astrologer. The Sun in Cancer will be opposing Pluto in Capricorn, and then squaring Uranus in Aries during the first days of the month. July 4 and July 8 will be key dates. This will “re-activate” the Grand Cardinal Cross, a controversial and volatile astrological influence that occurred in late April of 2014. Those of you who were on that wild roller-coaster ride around the last two weeks of April will remember it well, I imagine.
Without being all doom and gloomy, suffice it to say that the beginning of July may have some drama associated with it. Power struggles are likely during this period, both on the personal level, and in the political arena. Oh, and the fact that the Sun/Pluto opposition is exact on July 4th makes it an auspicious and tense day for the Good Ole US of A, as that it her birthday. And a head’s up for Cancers born July 1-10. This will be a year of strong transformational energy for you!
There’s a Full Moon in Capricorn on July 12/13. Full Moons are a focal point for energy each month. With the Sun in Cancer and the Full Moon in Capricorn, the energy will be about the Yin/Yang polarity, responsibility, commitment, and family. This Full Moon sheds light on the balance, or lack thereof, between business life and personal life. Use the strong energy of the Full Moon to align yourself with your spiritual side, but remember to keep your feet on the ground!
There’s a New Moon in Leo on July 26, opening up a window for new thoughts and plans. New Moons are quiet, neutral, and potent times for inward reflection and preparation for future action.
Astro-Opportunity Days: July 7, 8, 9, 16, 20, 25, 29 and 30.
Femastrology Horoscopes for July 2014
For all the Sun Signs: Mercury direct will be a wonderful opportunity to get connected to your aspirations and ambitions. Some of the things that happened last month may have been frustrating. This is a great time to fix up anything that went haywire in June and put it behind you. Watery energy abounds with the Sun in Cancer, Jupiter in Cancer, Saturn in Scorpio, and Neptune in Pisces. Take advantage of this unique vibe. Connect to your emotions. Share your feelings. Work with your psychic abilities. Connect to your dreams. All things “watery” are enhanced during this time period. Even being in or near water has a more powerful effect! So plan a trip to an ocean, lake, or river near you! This is also a fantastic time for art and creativity.
Aries (March 21-April 19) Aries born in early April are probably wondering what the *&)(% as the Universe keeps demanding they break from their old patterns. All Rams will benefit now by taking time to bring more balance and harmony into the home and family department.
Taurus (April 20-May 20) Taureans, particularly those of you born in early May, are learning powerful lessons about relationship. Don’t waste time with those who do not reciprocate. Pay attention to writing and communication now. Get to the point and avoid being scattered. Take care of car issues.
Gemini (May 21-June 20) Venus, the Love Goddess, is in your sign! Single twins (oxymoron) should expect to get lucky! Your creativity will be high, so use it! On the more mundane front, take care of any loose ends pertaining to money. This includes any financial obligations you have with a partner.
Cancer (June 21-July 21) Powerful forces are pushing you to change the way your present yourself to the world, and some of your most important relationships. Your life is transforming. Make a conscious effort to gain clarity about your top priorities. Fateful decisions now will open new roads to achievement and personal satisfaction.
Leo (July 23-August 22) This is a good time to slow things down a little and regroup. Take care of your health and all matters of daily life. Jupiter will be in your sign soon enough, and you will want your wits about you. Many amazing things will be possible in the weeks to come. Conserve your energy.
Virgo (August 23-September 22) This could be a highly fortuitous period for social interaction. Helpful people abound…so make sure you are making out their connecting to them. You may feel some nervous energy around finances. Just keep putting energy into progress there, and things will improve.
Libra (September 23-October 22) Your outer world beckons now. Put energy into career goals. Let people see you and what you are capable of. Don’t be lazy. Now is the time to stretch your wings. Don’t cling to old goals that haven’t materialized. Concentrate on the NEW.
Scorpio (October 23-November 21) Saturn in Scorpio has probably become your BFF by now. And that’s a good thing. You should have the energy and patience to remove obstacles and forge ahead. This month could be both pleasant and productive.
Sagittarius (November 22-December 21) Finish up old business and get ready to truly put the past behind you. It’s time. Sagittarians me be wondering about relationships, both business and personal, that are not quite tangible. My advice: connect with those whose interest in you is obvious.
Capricorn (December 22-January 19) The challenge this month: how to make yourself happy, and please others at the same time. Frankly, if you are having anxiety about committing to things or people, it’s probably your “gut” telling to take a step backwards.
Aquarius (January 20-February 18) Sometimes you just have to attend to the business at hand. If things aren’t flowing in your personal world, health, and your home environment, it will affect your outer world eventually. Find your inner balance.
Pisces (February 19-March 20) Use your inspiration and creative energy to manifest your own needs. Sounds simple, right? But if you are not being clear about your true needs and priorities, suddenly, it becomes impossible. Eyes wide open!
Victoria Bearden has practiced astrology for over 30 years, with clients across the country and abroad. To set up a personal consultation you can call her at 760-634-1028 or visit her web site at www.victoriabearden.com.
- An exclusive interview with Executive Producer Marina Bader of “Elena Undone” and “A Perfect Ending” …now with her Directorial Debut of “Anatomy of a Love Seen”;
- Aphrodisiacs in the Kitchen with HERstyle’s Summer of Love;
- Airmail by Babe, “I just hitch up my girdle and give it all I’ve got.”;
- Angelina Jolie, what Fairly Tales are made of;
…and much, much more!
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Under Obama, Windsor Implementation Constitutes the Largest Conferral of Rights to LGBT People in History
WASHINGTON – Earlier today, the Justice Department released a report
detailing the Obama administration’s broad implementation of the
Supreme Court’s United States v. Windsor decision, which struck down
key components of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last year. Under
the leadership of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder,
the breadth with which this administration has implemented the Windsor
decision constitutes the single largest conferral of rights to LGBT
people in history.
“President Obama’s advocacy on behalf of LGBT people is nothing less
than historic,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad
Griffin. “We are incredibly grateful to both the president and
Attorney General Eric Holder for keeping their promise of fighting to
wipe out anti-LGBT discrimination at the federal level. There is no
question that the lives of LGBT people today are immeasurably better
today than they were before this president took office.
“The administration’s sweeping interpretation and implementation of
the Windsor decision has led to greatest conferral of equal rights,
benefits and obligations to LGBT people in our nation’s history. In
record time, Attorney General Holder has moved heaven and earth to
guarantee equality, and the LGBT community could not ask for a better
partner in progress.”
Today’s report also identifies that the administration is unable to
extend some Social Security and Veterans benefits to married same-sex
couples living in states that do not recognize their marriages. The
Justice Department has determined that statutory references to “state
of domicile” or similar terms require Congress to pass legislation to
amend the statues to provide for a “state of celebration” standard.
Also included in the report was an announcement that the VA Acting
Secretary will allow for same-sex couples to be buried together in a
national cemetery. Furthermore, the Social Security administration
will begin extending survivor benefits, lump sum death benefits and
aged spouse benefits to same-sex couples if one partner is eligible to
inherit from the other partner under state law. This would include
couples with civil unions or domestic partnerships from states like
Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin.
Just prior to the release of the report, the Department of Labor
issued a notice of proposed rulemaking which will permit same-sex
couples to access leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
regardless of state of residence. The Office of Personnel Management
also announced its intent to extend family leave to all federal
employees who are married to a same-sex spouse.
(Courtesy of HRC)
31 years ago today astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space. Almost two years ago, after Dr. Ride’s death, it was revealed that she had been with her female partner, Tam O’Shaugnessy, for 27 years. Today we celebrate her life, her legacy and her love.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has directed his staff to draft an executive order that would ban workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors, a White House official told The Huffington Post.
The move is the clearest indication to date that the administration is prepared to take action on LGBT rights where Congress has fallen short. Notably, the official would not say whether the president will sign the order into law on Monday — suggesting the White House is leaking the news to warn lawmakers that they have a limited window to pass more sweeping workplace discrimination legislation before he acts without them.
“The president’s intentions are clear,” the official said, when asked whether Obama would sign the order. “We will keep you posted.”
Obama’s plan to draft an executive order comes after years of inaction on this front. The administration has been calling on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal for employers nationwide to fire or harass someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill passed the Senate, but as it stalled in the House, pressure mounted on the president to act in ways that don’t require legislative approval.
To the dismay of LGBT rights groups, Obama has resisted taking matters into his own hands. An executive order banning workplace discrimination against employees of federal contractors could affect as many as 16 million workers, but Obama has not issued one, despite pledges to do so during the 2008 campaign. Vice President Joe Biden appeared to get out in front of the president last month when he told The Huffington Post he didn’t see a downside to such an order, but that statement did not lead to any action until Monday.
“Unfortunately Congress has been paralyzed to act in this regard,” said Richard Socarides, a Democratic strategist and former advisor on gay rights to President Bill Clinton. “The Senate passed an ENDA bill, it stalled in the House. It looks like at best we will have a divided Congress for two more years at least. So that ENDA bill is going nowhere and I think the president was forced to act and showed a lot of courage in doing so.”
The executive order being drafted by the president’s staff would “build upon existing protections, which generally prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” according to the White House official.
“Today, millions of Americans in most states in the country go to work every day knowing they could lose their jobs simply because of who they are or who they love,” the official said. “No current federal law adequately protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers from employment discrimination. That’s why the President has long supported federal legislation to explicitly prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The timing of the announcement comes a day before Obama is set to give remarks at a Democratic National Committee LGBT gala in New York City and coincides nicely with his designation of June as LGBT Pride Month. It also comes in a year when the president has vowed to use his executive authority whenever he can in the absence of needed congressional action.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a sponsor of the Senate’s ENDA bill, praised Obama’s move and noted that most people don’t even know that it’s still legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in 32 states.
“With this announcement, the arc of history bends a little farther toward justice,” Merkley said. “This executive order will allow millions more Americans to go to work empowered with the right to do their jobs free of harassment or discrimination.”
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, tweeted her support for the executive order shortly after the news broke.
— Valerie Jarrett (@vj44) June 16, 2014
(Courtesy of HuffPost.com)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton engaged in an awkward exchange with NPR’s Terry Gross on Thursday when the radio host pushed her on her evolving stance on gay marriage.
When Clinton ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, she, like then-candidate Barack Obama, opposed gay marriage. Since then, both Clinton and Obama have both publicly switched their stance on the issue. Gross attempted to clarify whether Clinton’s initial opposition was a “political calculation.”
During their conversation, Clinton responded vaguely to Gross’ attempts to clarify whether the likely 2016 candidate’s position on gay marriage changed at any point, making general points like “just because you’re a politician doesn’t mean you’re not a thinking human being,” and “I think I’m an American, I think that we have all evolved.”
Gross continued to reframe her question, asking whether Clinton, at any point, changed her mind about gay marriage, or whether she supported it personally all along.
“You know, I really — I have to say, I think you being very persistent, but you are playing with my words,” Clinton said several minutes into the conversation. “And playing with what is such an important issue.”
“I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand,” Gross said, but was then interrupted by Clinton.
“No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify. I think you are trying to say that I used to be opposed [to gay marriage], and now I am in favor, and I did it for political reasons. And that’s just flat wrong. So let me just state what I feel like you are implying and repudiate it. I have a strong record. I have a great commitment to this issue and I am proud of what I’ve done and the progress we’re making,” Clinton said.
(Courtesy of HuffPost.com)
“For the United States to hold true to our commitment to defending the human rights of all people around the world, we must stand with the LGBT community in their struggle for recognition and equality everywhere.”
A special envoy for LGBT rights would be created under legislation to be unveiled later today by Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey.
The bill, titled “The International Human Rights Defense Act,” was formally introduced in the Senate on Thursday along with more than 20 co-sponsors, all Democrats.
“For the United States to hold true to our commitment to defending the human rights of all people around the world, we must stand with the LGBT community in their struggle for recognition and equality everywhere,” Markey said in a statement to BuzzFeed. “By fostering a coordinated effort across the federal government and relevant agencies, we can meet the enormous challenge before us and work to ensure equality for all people around the globe.”
If it passes, this would signal how much U.S. foreign policy has changed under President Barack Obama. The diplomatic team of President George W. Bush had helped block efforts to make LGBT rights a priority for the human rights bodies of the United Nations.
However, American LGBT rights advocates have grown frustrated with the Obama administration’s response to the new anti-homosexuality act in Uganda, since the White House has been delaying action on internal recommendations on how to change aid policy following the law’s enactment in February.
In addition to creating the envoy’s office, the bill would direct the State Department to “devise a global strategy” to prevent discrimination and violence against LGBT people and coordinate with LGBT-rights advocates in other countries and in international organizations.
The bill is endorsed by a dozen human rights organizations, including the Council for Global Equality, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and the American Jewish World Service.
Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign applauded Markey’s proposal, saying, “In many nations around the world, [LGBT people]… persistently face the threat of harassment, discrimination, and violence, and we must do everything we can to ensure their rights are fully included in and championed by America’s foreign policy. Passing this legislation is an important step in that direction.”
But the bill faces an uncertain road to passage. Even if it were to clear the Senate, no House member has announced an intention to sponsor a companion bill in the Republican-controlled House. But the Obama administration could chose to create this post without congressional action, as it did in 2009 when it established an ambassador at large for global women’s issues.
Here’s the full bill:
(Courtesy of BuzzFeed.com)