Army OKs criminals, but not gays
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Apr. 7 edition of USA Today featured a report on the rising percentage of Army recruits needing a waiver to join the service because of a past criminal record. The article stated that the percentage has more than doubled since 2004 to an unprecedented one in every eight new soldiers. The waivers have helped the Army meet its Active and Reserve recruitment goals for the past several years.
In response to the report, Aubrey Sarvis (pictured), executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, blogged, “Each year bigotry towards lesbians and gays costs the military dearly. Statistics from the Williams Institute at UCLA suggest nearly 4,000 Americans a year never enlist, are discharged or decide not to re-enlist because of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ That means, since the law was passed in 1993, the military has lost nearly 60,000 qualified troops to the ban.
“That figure is more than equal to the number of men and women sent into Iraq last year as part of the surge. The loss of so many qualified service members is one of the reasons why recruiters are now granting waivers to ex-cons.”
Governor stands up for equality
NEW YORK, N.Y. — On Apr. 7, New York Gov. David Paterson was honored at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s New York Leadership Awards for his longstanding work on behalf of LGBT rights. Because he was “held hostage” by the budget process in Albany, Paterson sent an extremely supportive message via video to the standing-room-only crowd.
The governor said he was “proud to have run on a ticket that advocated for marriage equality and to win on that premise.” Speaking on the historic triumph of the marriage equality bill in the New York State Assembly, he reiterated “that when people love each other they should be able to express it in every way that they deem necessary and possible and they should have all the rights that the rest of us have.”
He vowed “to push on until we bring full marriage equality to New York state” and promised to fight for an end to bullying in schools, for transgender rights and for affordable health care for everyone. He concluded with a call to “change the face of New York which will be a catalyst for change in national policy.”
State workers get DP benefits
PHOENIX, Ariz. — The Governor’s Regulatory Review Council unanimously voted April 1 to extend domestic partner benefits including health coverage to unmarried state employees’ opposite- or same-sex partners. The policy is scheduled to become effective in October 2008. With this change, Arizona becomes the 15th state, plus Washington, D.C., to provide domestic partner benefits to state employees.
“This is exciting news, and great news for same-sex couples in Arizona and their families,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “GLBT state employees in Arizona work just as hard as their straight counterparts. [This] action sends a clear signal that they deserve to receive equal benefits for their work.”
The domestic partner policy was proposed late last year by the Department of Administration with backing by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano. According to state estimates, the number of partners likely to be covered ranges from 317 to 853.
Council bars gender identity bias
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Apr. 4, the City Council unanimously approved an ordinance updating its anti-discrimination policies to include gender identity. Kansas City joins more than 90 cities and counties as well as 12 states, the District of Columbia, and hundreds of private employers in prohibiting employment discrimination based on gender identity. The ordinance also bars discrimination in public accommodations and housing.
Councilperson Beth Gottstein, the measure’s primary sponsor said, “If our city code doesn’t protect everyone, it protects no one. I am proud that we have taken this action to make clear that no one in Kansas City should have to face discrimination.”
Jim MacDonald, president of Four Freedoms, a local LGBT political organization, praised the Council for its unanimous approval of the ordinance. “This vote represents an historic moment for the LGBT community in Kansas City. Never before has there been unanimous council support for an LGBT rights measure. It is truly a mark of how far we have come.”
Briefs filed in marriage case
DES MOINES, Iowa — At least 17 briefs have been filed by a wide array of both Iowa-based and national organizations and individuals at the Iowa Supreme Court on behalf of six same-sex couples seeking marriage in Iowa. One of the briefs, signed by former Lieutenant Governors Joy Corning and
Sally Pederson, states that the Iowa Supreme Court is the proper body to address the important issue.
In a joint statement Corning and Pederson said, “We signed our names to a brief submitted to the Court because we believe that the Court is the proper place to decide this matter. We have a keen understanding of the different roles the courts and legislature play in leading our state and treating all Iowans with fairness.”
Lambda Legal is representing the couples. Camilla Taylor (pictured), senior staff attorney in Lambda’s Midwest Regional Office in Chicago, said, “We feel very honored to have the support of so many influential Iowa leaders. Faith leaders, pediatricians, scientists, elected officials, child welfare advocates and civil rights groups are just a few among the signatories.”