Plaintiffs, from left: Kim Kiel, Rose Griego, Miriam Rand and Ona Porter.
Photo courtesy ACLU of New Mexico.

Marriage suit filed in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry filed a lawsuit on March 21 in Albuquerque’s district court after they applied for and were denied marriage licenses by the Bernalillo County Clerk.

The lawsuit claims that the New Mexico marriage statutes and New Mexico Constitution do not bar same-sex couples from marrying, and therefore the State of New Mexico should issue civil marriage licenses to any same-sex couple who applies for one.

The couples are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of New Mexico, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Albuquerque law firm Sutin, Thayer & Browne, APC, and local cooperating attorneys Maureen Sanders, Lynn Perls and Kate Girard.

New Mexico is the only state in the country that does not either explicitly recognize same-sex relationships through marriage or civil unions or ban recognition of same-sex relationships by statute or constitutional amendment.

The couples are Miriam Rand, 63, and Ona Porter, 66, and Rose Griego, 47, and Kim Kiel, 44. Miriam and Ona currently live in Albuquerque, while Rose and Kim reside in Santa Fe.

Just days before the lawsuit was filed, Santa Fe city officials said they believe New Mexico law allows county clerks to issue licenses for same-sex marriages. Santa Fe City Attorney Geno Zamora agreed, saying that New Mexico law defining marriage is gender-neutral and lacks any prohibition on same-sex marriage.

— LGBTQ Nation

High school creates gender-neutral restrooms

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland’s largest public high school has reclassified six restrooms as unisex to create another option for transgender students and faculty who feel uncomfortable with traditional bathrooms.

The move is a first in the district and relatively uncommon nationwide for K-12 schools, which typically make staff or other small restrooms available, reported The Oregonian.

Officials at Ulysses S. Grant High School say four student restrooms and two staff restrooms — all single-stall — will be open to all students but create another option for the five to 10 transgender students at the high school.

According to The Oregonian, Grant High School Vice Principal Kristyn Westphal helped lead the initiative after school counselors raised concerns.

“We just need to make sure that all students are safe and comfortable here, and that they have their needs met,” Westphal told the newspaper. “If they feel unsafe using the bathroom, that’s a problem.”

Scott Morrison, a 17-year-old senior who was born a female but identifies as a male, says he stopped drinking water at one point so he wouldn’t have to choose between gender-specific restrooms.

Now, Morrison says he doesn’t have to struggle with the choice.

The state passed the Oregon Equality Act in 2007, joining at least 15 other states and Washington, D.C., in offering some legal protection for transgender people.

Earlier this year, Portland Public Schools’ general counsel Jollee Patterson sent administrators guidelines about how to deal with transgender issues, including bathrooms.

“This (bathroom) issue requires us to consider the need to support our transgender students, while also doing our best to ensure the safety and comfort of all students,” she wrote.

— LGBTQ Nation

Starbucks CEO defends gay support

SEATTLE, Wash. — Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz defended the company’s decision to support marriage equality and told investors at a shareholder meeting on March 20 that if they weren’t on board, they could sell their stock and go elsewhere.

Last year, the Seattle-based company announced its support for legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington state, prompting opponents of the measure — notably the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage — to launch a boycott of Starbucks.

At the company’s annual meeting, shareholder Tom Strobhar described Starbucks’ first-quarter performance as disappointing, and suggested that was due in part to the boycott.

“In the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earnings — shall we say politely — were a bit disappointing,” Strobhar said.

Unfazed, Schultz replied that the company’s decision to support marriage equality was not the bottom line, but about respecting diversity, reported KPLU.

“If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much,” he said, to loud applause from the audience.

He said the company had delivered a healthy return last year, regardless of the boycott.

For 2012, Starbucks delivered a 14 percent increase in net revenues over the prior year, reaching a record $13.3 billion. The company returned approximately $1.1 billion to shareholders through share repurchases and dividend payments.

In February, Starbucks joined nearly 300 other companies in filing a brief calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a section of the Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal benefits and recognition to same-sex couples.

— LGBTQ Nation

Transgender rights bill advances

OTTAWA, Canada — A bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against transgender people was approved on March 20 by the House of Commons. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is expected it will be approved.

The legislation passed by a vote of 149-137. Prime Minister Stephen Harper opposed the bill.

— Matt Comer, LGBTQ Nation contributed

Archbishop appoints Carolinian

LONDON, England — Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has announced that the Rev. Dr. Jo Bailey Wells has been appointed as his new chaplain, based at Lambeth Palace.

Primary focus of her work will be centered around spiritual life at Lambeth, as well as “supporting the Archbishop’s pastoral and liturgical ministry,” the Archbishop’s office said.

Wells, a U.K. native, has served as director of the Anglican Episcopal House of Studies at Duke Divinity School. While there she was associate professor of the practice of Christian ministry and Bible and has authored “God’s Holy People: A Theme in Biblical Theology” and “Isaiah: The People’s Bible Commentary.”

Wells wrote in “Covenant-making, divine and human” from “Writings on Marriage,” The Bishop of North Carolina’s Task Force on Marriage journal, “That which models an exclusive, permanent commitment of two parties represents the most direct, and personal, and particular outworking of the call to be covenant-keepers. Seen in this light, it seems to me unnecessary that the opportunity be confined only to conventional heterosexual marriage, even though I hesitate to use the term ‘marriage’ for any other kind of union. So long as it is done responsibly — as the marriage liturgy puts it, ‘not… unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately…’ — it seems fitting to encourage all forms of covenantal relationship that seek to mirror and reflect the divine.”

— Lainey Millen

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