Maryland Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage


The Maryland state senate voted yesterday to pass legislation to allow same-sex marriages. The Civil Marriage Protection Act was approved by a 25-21 vote and had a strong backing by the democratic majority.

The bill now moves to the Maryland House, which is expected to begin a hearing on the bill today.

If the bill becomes law, Maryland will become the sixth state to allow gay marriage.

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We Are One Step Closer To Not Being Second Class Citizens!


 

ObamaToday, President Barack Obama made good on his first promise to LGBTAmericans by signing the hate crimes legislation into law!

Today, we are one step closer to no longer being second class…

From an article entitled “President Barack Obama Signs Hate Crimes Legislation Into Law” at HRC.org:

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, praised President Barack Obama today for signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law.  The new law gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.  The legislation was added as a provision to the FY 2010 National Defense Authorization Act earlier this Summer.  For a comprehensive retrospective and historical overview of hate crimes advocacy visit: www.hrc.org/loveconquershate.

“This law honors our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters whose lives were cut short because of hate,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.  “Today’s signing of the first major piece of civil rights legislation to protect LGBT Americans represents a historic milestone in the inevitable march towards equality.  Although this is a major step in fighting the scourge of hate violence, it is not the end of the road.  As a community, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to changing not only laws but also hearts and minds.  We know that hate crimes not only harm individuals, but they terrorize entire communities.  After more than a decade of advocacy, local police and sheriffs’ departments now have the full resources of the Justice Department available to them.”

“We applaud President Obama for signing this bill into law and thank the leadership and our allies in the House and Senate.   We also will always remember the tireless efforts of Senator Edward Kennedy on this issue.  Senator Kennedy once said that this legislation sends ‘a message about freedom and equality that will resonate around the world.’   This marks the first time that we as a nation have explicitly protected the LGBT community in the law.  And this law sends a loud message that perpetrators of hate violence against anyone will be brought to justice,” said Solmonese.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act honors the memory of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student brutally murdered in an act of hate violence in 1998, and James Byrd, an African-American man who was dragged to death in Jasper, Texas, in 1998.

“We are incredibly grateful to Congress and the president for taking this step forward on behalf of hate crime victims and their families, especially given the continuing attacks on people simply for living their lives openly and honestly,” said Judy Shepard, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.  “But each of us can and must do much more to ensure true equality for all Americans.”

“We appreciate everyone who worked so hard on this bill.  My son was taken at such an early age and we hope this law will help prevent other families from going through what we experienced,” said Stella Byrd, mother of James Byrd.  “Even though we’re different colors and different sexual orientations or gender identities, God made us all and he loves us all.”

The new law also provides the Justice Department with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of violent crime resulting in death or serious bodily injury that were motivated by bias. It also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias motivated crimes.

This legislation was first introduced in the 105th Congress.  There have been 14 total votes in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to bring this historic legislation to the president’s desk.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Let’s keep this momentum going!  One day soon, we are no longer going to be Second Class Citizens!

Obama to NAACP: “Our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied their rights”


From President Obama’s address to the NAACP’s Centennial Convention:

“The first thing we need to do is make real the words of your charter and eradicate prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination among citizens of the United States. I understand there may be a temptation among some to think that discrimination is no longer a problem in 2009. And I believe that overall, there probably has never been less discrimination in America than there is today. But make no mistake: the pain of discrimination is still felt in America. By African-American women paid less for doing the same work as colleagues of a different color and a different gender. By Latinos made to feel unwelcome in their own country. By Muslim Americans viewed with suspicion simply because they kneel down to pray to their God. By our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied their rights. On the 45th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, discrimination must not stand. Not on account of color or gender; how you worship or who you love. Prejudice has no place in the United States of America.

Senate Adopts Unwelcome Amendments to the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act


From an HRC press release:hrc-logo

The Senate adopted three amendments by voice vote. One amendment, SA 1615, adds the death penalty to the provisions of the Matthew Shepard Act. HRC strongly opposed this unwelcome amendment and hopes to address it as the Act continues through the legislative process. The Amendment was offered by and supported by Senators who oppose the Matthew Shepard Act in an effort to derail the Act. Fortunately, a side-by-side- amendment offered by Senator Kennedy was also added to the bill. The Kennedy amendment provides for additional restrictions in the use of the death penalty under the Act.

The third amendment requires the Attorney General to promulgate guidelines with “neutral and objective criteria for determining whether a crime was motivated by the status of the victim.”

A final Sessions amendment, SA 1616, was adopted by a vote of 92 to 0. This amendment creates a new federal criminal offense for cases involving assaults or battery of a U.S. service member – or a member of the service member’s immediate family.

Read the full press release here.

Please, tell your Senators…tell the old rich white men that run this country that you support the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act and learn the truth about the legislation at www.FightHateNow.org.

There is no reason for these people to be trying to kill such an important piece of legislation.  Fight the hate!  Please, stand up and have your voice heard before this plays out this week!

Today is the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots


On this day, in 1969, a small bar in the West Village of Manhattan became the epicentre of an event that changed the course of gay history.

The Stonewall Inn, like most gay bars of the time, was frequently the target of police intimidation and demands for payoffs in returns for not arresting or publishing names of the patrons.

But, on June 28, 1969, patrons of the Stonewall Inn became fed up and instead of complying with police, patrons resisted.  They threw coins, bottles, and other bojects at police and fires were started.

These riots are commonly referred to as the first time in American history that gays and lesbians fought back against a government-sponsored persecution of homosexuals.  These events have come to be recognized as beginning of the modern day gay rights movement not only here in the United States but across the globe.

In only a couple weeks, the gay residents in Greenwhich Village organized themselves into activist groups that worked  to establish places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.  The fight continues now, 40 years later…

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Keep up the good fight, history favors those fighting for equality.

Obama Signs Memo for Limited Gay Benefits (And Mentions DOMA)


Obama just signed the memorandium granting some benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers as he originally promised today.  However, he did not provide them many benefits (such as health care), and this falls far short of what gay rights groups have been demanding.

He also called DOMA discriminatory and claims it will be repealed (does he think we have already forgotten the DOJ’s brief that was filed last week?)…

As Americans, how long are we going to accept our representatives saying one thing and then doing another?  As far as I am concerned, actions still speak louder than words–and Mr. President, your actions are illustrating your lack of true concern for equality and civil rights.

Check out the full story and video of the speech on MSNBC.