DESPITE HISTORIC 39 HOUR FILIBUSTER, MO SENATE CONTINUES ANTI-LGBT LEGISLATIVE ASSAULT: In a deeply disturbing 23 to 9 vote, the Missouri Senate voted to advance Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 39 – a measure that could enshrine discrimination against LGBT people and their families into the state constitution. Similar to so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” legislation introduced in other states, this outrageous and extreme resolution would lead to a ballot measure that proposes to allow individuals, organizations, and businesses to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people by broadly redefining the definition of religious organizations. The measure must receive one final administrative vote before being sent to the House of Representatives. The vote to pass the outrageous proposal attacking LGBT Missourians and their families came after a historic multi-day filibuster by Senate Democrats attempting to stop the legal attack. The discriminatory proposal has received widespread condemnation from fair-minded Missourians and businesses throughout the state, including Governor Jay Nixon, the St. Louis Post Dispatch editorial board, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, as well as Dow Chemical Company, and Monsanto. The St. Louis Regional Chamber said the proposal is “counter to MO values & will have negative economic consequences.” Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also spoke out against the resolution, which addresses no real problem in the state, as no federal or state law requires religious organizations or clergy to sanction or perform same-sex marriages. As HRC Legal Director Sarah put it, “Religious freedom is one of our nation’s fundamental values, and that’s why it’s firmly protected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” More here: bit.ly/1QLCJtC
FEDERAL JUDGE IN PUERTO RICO SAYS SCOTUS RULING ON MARRIAGE DOESN’T APPLY: In a bizarre twist for equality yesterday, a federal judge in Puerto Rico ruled that because the island is an unincorporated territory of the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Obergefell v. Hodges ruling last summer, in favor of marriage equality, does not automatically apply to the island. In his ten-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez wrote, “One might be tempted to assume that the constant reference made to the 'States' in Obergefell includes the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Yet, it is not the role of this court to venture into such an interpretation.” He went on to say that Puerto Rico's status an unincorporated territory means that “is not treated as the functional equivalent of a State for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment” - despite clear indications, including by the First Circuit, to the contrary. In October 2014, Judge Pérez-Giménez upheld the ban on same-sex marriage in Puerto Rico in a twenty-one page decision that disturbingly referenced incest and polygamy to argue against marriage equality. The First Circuit sent the case back to him for reconsideration in view of Obergefell. More here: bzfd.it/1OZMKkL
LILLY WACHOWSKI COMES OUT AS TRANSGENDER: Yesterday, filmmaker Lilly Wachowski, sister of director and producer Lana Wachowski, took a stand in the Windy City Times against tabloid reporters who attempted to out her against her will. In the statement, Lilly called out those who continue to demoralize and demonize transgender people. She writes, “I am one of the lucky ones. Having the support of my family and the means to afford doctors and therapists has given me the chance to actually survive this process. Transgender people without support, means and privilege do not have this luxury. And many do not survive. In 2015, the transgender murder rate hit an all-time high in this country. A horrifying disproportionate number of the victims were trans women of color.” Coming out is a long and arduous process. For those people whose gender identity or innate sense of their own gender doesn’t match with the gender assigned at birth, unraveling and expressing it to others can be complex and difficult. We stand in support of Lilly as she takes this brave step forward, and we condemn news outlets that attempt to threaten those on their personal journey to living openly and authentically. In 2012, HRC celebrated Lilly’s sister Lana Wachowski, who directed “Cloud Atlas,” with HRC’s Visibility Award. Read Lilly’s statement here: bit.ly/1RR7SOE
NC LAWMAKERS MOVING CLOSER TO RECKLESS $42,000 PER DAY “SPECIAL SESSION” TO PUNISH CHARLOTTE FOR ITS NEW LGBT NON-DISCRIMINATION PROTECTIONS: Looks like things are moving full speed ahead --and in the completely wrong direction-- on LGBT issues in North Carolina. The state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger has assembled a group of ten senators to work with the Lt. Governor and House lawmakers to devise ways to repeal Charlotte’s LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance, through what many expect to be a costly special session. Ever since the ordinance passed on February 22nd, dozens of State Republican lawmakers have come out harshly against the measure by vilifying transgender people - and reciting the same old false tropes claiming that allowing transgender people equal access to public accommodations is a “public safety” and “privacy” issue. With the General Assembly scheduled to reconvene on April 25, and the ordinance set to go into effect on April 1, House Speaker Tim Moore is working double time to rally the necessary support in both chambers for a special session to overturn these crucial protections. According to reports, the state’s most recent special session to address redistricting, cost taxpayers $42,000 a day, a hefty price tag that is also expected should lawmakers move to take up municipal pre-emption legislation, which is becoming more and more likely. In some additional bad news, advocates have been looking to Asheville as the next city that might act to expand LGBT non-discrimination protections, but unfortunately the City Council has sadly now made clear that they do not intend to pass a non-discrimination ordinance. More here: bit.ly/222ii2C and here: on.wsoctv.com/1UdYGpN
IOWA SENATE VOTES TO ADD PROTECTIONS FOR TRANS IOWANS TO HATE CRIMES LAW: Yesterday, the Iowa Senate advanced a bill that would add protections based on gender identity and gender expression to the state’s hate crimes law. One Republican joined all the Senate’s twenty-six Democrats to vote in favor of the bill which now moves to the Republican-led House. As Metro Weekly reports, the legislation must move out of committee by Friday if it is to get voted on in the House. Donna Red Wing, Executive Director of One Iowa welcomed the news saying, “The Iowa Senate again came down on the right side of history… Almost 1,500 Iowans signed our petition and today, the Iowa Senate showed real leadership and a commitment to equality.” More here: bit.ly/1R6lkLg
SACRAMENTO SUPPORTS REGION’S FIRST AFFORDABLE, LGBT-FRIENDLY HOUSING: The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved funding for a 53-unit, LGBT-friendly affordable housing project. Council member Steve Hansen said that the $16 million project addresses a “huge unmet need in the LGBT community.” The Sacramento Bee reports that the Sacramento LGBT community first proposed the project because LGBT seniors often face discrimination and lower-quality of care in both assisted and individual housing. LGBT advocacy groups estimate that LGBT seniors are “half as likely as non-LGBT seniors to have close family to lean on in their older years,” SacBee reported, and also report higher poverty rates, and a reluctance to seek out services out of fear of facing hostility. More here: bit.ly/1USp8Wp
AROUND THE WORLD
SENATOR JEANNE SHAHEEN INTRODUCES GLOBAL RESPECT ACT: Yesterday, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Global Respect Act in the Senate, a bill that would provide a new mechanism to prevent the world’s most anti-LGBT state actors from receiving a visa and entering the United States. The Global Respect Act would make clear to the world that the U.S. is not open to those who abuse, harass, and murder LGBT people. Senator Shaheen said in a statement, “While we’ve seen tremendous progress towards equality in the United States, the fact remains that the LGBT community is still under threat both here at home and around the world. No one should live in fear of physical violence or oppression because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Global Respect Act would send a strong message to the international community and a stern warning to those who persecute LGBT individuals, that the United States will continue to defend human rights.” If passed, the bill would further empower the U.S. government to aggressively deny or revoke visas of foreign officials who have a significant role in the violation of LGBT people’s rights in their home countries. This would send a signal to world leaders and officials that they cannot persecute LGBT people, seek to travel to the U.S. and expect to be welcomed here. The Global Respect Act was first introduced in the House in June 2014, and reintroduced in May 2015 by Representative David Cicilline (D-RI). It now has 26 cosponsors. More here: bit.ly/1R6lcLO
DISTURBING ATTACKS ON THE RISE IN POLAND: The Campaign against Homophobia (KPH) and other LGBT rights groups in Poland have faced a recent wave of break-ins and attacks, with assailants leaving anti-LGBT slurs and threats on offices. While the government has been quick to condemn these attacks, advocates are calling for laws to protect LGBT people and other minorities, and hold those who incite hate accountable.
INDONESIA GEARING UP FOR ATTACKS: The last few months in Indonesia have brought an array of hateful rhetoric and homophobic attacks that has left Indonesian LGBT people afraid for their safety. In response to this, LGBT Indonesians have set up safe houses, and hotlines to try and protect themselves and each other. Many are also trying to reign-in their digital footprint, out of fear that facebook friends or websites might reveal their identities and place them in harm's way.
HUNGARY OFFERS LAME EXPLANATION FOR VETOING LGBT PROTECTIONS: In a shameful move earlier this week, Hungary has used its veto power in the European Union to scuttle a draft agreement which would help protect LGBT people and fight discrimination and violence. Hungary’s government explained that “Hungary is not in the position,” to protect LGBT people. What exactly is ‘the best position’ for doing the right thing? More here: bit.ly/1RzFiP8
THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA BATTLES ROTTEN LEGISLATION: Georgia is contemplating a flat-out constitutional ban on marriage equality in a political maneuver designed to help the ruling coalition maintain its dominance. Meanwhile, the rights of LGBT people are being used as a pawn in a messy political game -- which could get even worse if the World Congress of Families settles on Georgia as the host for it’s annual gathering of anti-LGBT activists from around the globe. More here: bit.ly/1TL8pp9
Rolling Out interviews Jason Collins about safety for LGBT sports fans… Autostraddle breaks down two state’s attempts at passing LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination laws… New York Magazine looks at the anti-gay prejudice behind the myth of HIV’s “patient zero”... Care2 laughs at the Alabama’s Supreme Court’s (multiple) failed attempts to undermine LGBT rights…the Washington Blade chronicles how the right started using “religious freedom” to justify opposition to marriage equality.... And, in honor of International Women’s day, Attitude introduces us to Karla Avelar, an El Salvadoran activist risking her life to fight for transgender rights.