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Obama won’t sign ‘contractor ENDA’ executive order
Washington, D.C.--President Barack Obama will not sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating by gender identity or sexual orientation.
The measure would have added to an existing order that already includes factors like race, religion, age and gender.
LGBT advocates learned of his decision in a meeting on April 11 with Obama aides Valerie Jarrett and Cecilia Munoz. They were told, however, that the president would urge federal agencies and outside corporations to oppose discrimination themselves.
Winnie Stachelberg, the executive vice president of the Center for American Progress, had a sharp response to the news.
“These types of policies are supported by nearly 75 percent of Americans, many of the nation’s largest and most prominent Fortune 500 corporations, and nearly two-thirds of all small business owners, based on findings from a 2011 Center for American Progress survey,” she noted. “It has been shown time and time again . . . that gay and transgender people face disproportionately high rates of discrimination in the workplace and that policies that protect employees are also good for business and the economy at large.”
“Just as Congress should pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act now, the president should now also use his executive authority to extend existing nondiscrimination requirements of federal contractors to cover workers who are gay and transgender,” she continued.
First charges under hate crime law
Louisville, Ky.--Two eastern Kentucky men are the first in the nation to face federal hate crime charges under the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Act for allegedly beating a gay man in a park.
David Jason Jenkins, 37, and his cousin Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, were indicted by a federal grand jury in mid-April for the attack last April on Kevin Pennington, 28, which left him with numerous injuries.
The two Jenkinses pleaded not guilty to the charges on April 12, stemming from the attack in Kingdom Come State Park. Pennington had gone for a ride with the men. David Jenkins’ attorney said Pennington knew his client.
Pennington told police that David Jenkins demanded a sexual act from him, but he refused. He said that Jenkins then threatened to rape him.
When the truck stopped for a tree fallen across the road, the Jenkins men pulled him out and beat him. According to the federal indictment, they intended to kill him. He told police he escaped during a lull in the attack, and hid in the woods.
Two women in the truck, Anthony Jenkins’ wife and his cousin, have pleaded guilty to charges in the case. Both are 19.
The FBI affidavit said that the men called Pennington anti-gay epithets while beating him.
The Shepard-Byrd act, passed in 2009, added real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, race, color, national origin and religion to federal hate crime law.
Researcher repudiates ‘ex-gay’ paper
New York City--Columbus University researcher Dr. Robert Spitzer, who was involved in the 1973 removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Assocation’s diagnostic manual, is repudiating a 2001 paper he wrote asserting that “ex-gay” therapy can change sexual orientation.
He told American Prospect, “In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct. The finding can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.”
While he refutes his earlier paper, and offered to write a retraction for the journal that published it, he is still very proud of working in 1973 to have homosexuality removed as a mental illness.
“Had there been no Bob Spitzer, homosexuality would still have eventually been removed from the list of psychiatric disorders, but it wouldn’t have happened in 1973,” he said.
Miss Universe now open to TG women
Los Angeles--The Miss Universe Pageant’s 2013 season will be open to transgender women, a move the organization said it planned before attorney Gloria Allred threatened legal action.
The change was announced in early April, when Jenna Talackova, a 23-year-old Canadian, was told she could compete as long as she meets the legal requirements to be considered female in Canada.
The Miss Universe Pageant is owned by Donald Trump, who sent a searingly inappropriate Twitter response to Allred’s attack on him during the press conference threatening a lawsuit.
Paula Shugart, the president of the Miss Universe organization, said the credit for Talackova’s acceptance should go to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and not to Allred. She cited ongoing discussions with GLAAD, accusing Allred of delaying the process.
Talackova had won a regional feeder title, but was disqualified from the Miss Canada Universe competition.
Study: Homophobes are closet cases
Rochester, N.Y.--In a confirmation of what many people have suspected for years, a new study in the April Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that homophobes quite often have secret same-sex desires.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester, the University of Essex in England and the University of California - Santa Barbara, states that homophobia is more visible in people with unspoken same-sex attractions who had authoritarian parents.
Co-author Richard Ryan of Rochester said that these people are “at war with themselves” and “turning this internal conflict outward,” according to Science News Daily.
The research covers four separate experiments in Germany and the United States, each with a sample size of about 160 college students.
Suit seeks end to Nevada marriage ban
Las Vegas--A septuagenarian couple are the lead plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against Nevada’s marriage ban filed on April 10 by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The two women, Beverly Sevcik and Mary Baranovich, have been together for over 40 years, and their suit against Gov. Brian Sandoval in federal court is considered a strategic move. If the case is appealed by either party, it will go to the same appeals court that ruled against California’s Prop. 8.
The suit says that there is no “legitimate, let alone important or compelling,” reason to bar same-sex couples from marrying, especially since Nevada has civil unions.
Lambda Legal and the outside attorneys working on the case are suing solely on equal protection claims, and not on a due process claim. That also parallels the Department of Justice’s reasoning behind not defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
U.S. makes travel easier for TG people
Washington, D.C.--The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a policy memo on April 13 updating the Adjudicator’s Field Manual to make it easier for transgender people to travel outside the U.S.
The policy mirrors the State Department’s updated rules on passports, that make it easier for people to change their gender on government documents. Instead of requiring gender reassignment surgery, a doctor simply needs to certify gender.
It also clarifies that opposite-sex marriages will continue to be recognized even after one of the couple transitions.
“The guidance is an important step forward for transgender immigrants and their families,” said Victoria Neilson, legal director for Immigration Equality. “It brings USCIS in line with DOS in its guidance for updating gender markers on identity documents.”
“The memo affirms existing law and precedents, and recognized that if a marriage is considered valid and opposite sex under state law, it is valid for immigration purposes,” she continued.
Two held under ‘no gay speech’ law
St. Petersburg, Russia--Two men were arrested on April 3 for holding up a sign saying “Homosexuality is Normal,” the first arrests under a new city ordinance barring pro-gay speech.
Films, music videos, books and newspapers cannot have “homosexual content,” and the rainbow flag has been barred by the law, which passed on February 29.
A virtually identical bill is now in the Russian national legislature.
The two men face a possible fine of 500,000 rubles, about $17,000, more than the average annual income in the country.
Madonna, who is going to be performing a concert this summer in St. Petersburg, was warned by a politician not to violate the law. She said she plans on violating it greatly.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Russia, and it was stricken from medical guides as a mental illness in 1999.
Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.