Gay activists against unions bill

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Rhode Island legislature approved a bill June 29 that would permit same-sex couples to enter into civil unions in the state. Unlike similar legislation passed in other states, however, the Rhode Island bill includes a sweeping exemption that would permit individuals and organizations, such as hospitals, schools and adoption agencies, to completely disregard the validity of a civil union because of their religious beliefs or affiliation. If signed into law, this measure would drastically curtail existing non-discrimination protections. At press time, LGBT equality groups were calling for Gov. Lincoln Chafee to veto the measure.

Bachman wants marriage amendment

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) responded to New York state’s June 24 legalization of same-sex marriage with an announcement that she will introduce a federal constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman if she is elected president. Bachman, one of the country’s most influential social conservatives, officially declared her candidacy for the nation’s top office the week following the New York decision. She defended her position by noting, “Every time it’s [same-sex marriage] going on the ballot, the people have decided to keep the traditional definition. After all, the family is the fundamental unit of government.”

New health guidelines applauded

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has outlined an action plan to improve health data collection for LGBT individuals. The June 29 announcement is an important step forward. Data collection that tracks the health status and experiences of LGBT individuals is essential since such data provide government agencies and community-based healthcare workers with information about how to offer the best health services for LGBT individuals and communities. It also will document and address health disparities experienced by LGBT people.

The plan will allow HHS to more fully count and track the health of LGBT individuals by collecting and reporting sexual orientation and gender identity data on the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The plan establishes a timeline, including benchmarks along the way, for ensuring that sexual orientation and gender identity questions are added to the NHIS survey. This process includes field testing existing questions on sexual orientation as well as developing and field testing gender identity questions with the assistance of leading researchers in the field of LGBT data collection.

Healthcare facilities more welcoming

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new study by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation reveals that an increasing number of U.S. healthcare facilities are working toward a more welcoming environment for LGBT patients, however work remains to be done.

The report details the results of the most recent Healthcare Equality Index, an annual survey administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. This year’s survey found that nearly 90 percent of respondents include sexual orientation in their Patient’s Bill of Rights and/or Non-Discrimination Policy, but only 60 percent include gender identity in these policies. Additionally, only 49 percent of respondents have an explicitly inclusive visitation policy granting equal access for same-sex couples and 52 percent have such a policy inclusive of same-sex parents.

In response to a memorandum from President Obama, the Department of Health and Human Services issued rules in January of this year requiring all hospitals that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding — nearly every hospital in America — to protect the visitation rights of LGBT people. Additionally The Joint Commission, which accredits U.S. hospitals, has new standards that encourage LGBT-inclusive policies.

Suit filed for marriage rights

TRENTON, N.J. — Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit June 29 seeking equal marriage rights on behalf of Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization, and seven same-sex couples and their children harmed from the unequal civil union system. The case combines both state and federal claims, arguing that the civil union law violates both the New Jersey Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment of the federal Constitution.

“The constitutional guarantee of equality under the law does not stop midway through the Lincoln Tunnel,” said Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director, in reference to New York’s passage of same-sex marriage rights five days earlier. “Our clients have been kept from each other during medical crises, denied health insurance, and even discriminated against in funeral homes because their civil unions relegate them to second-class status. New Jersey’s same-sex couples have been stuck in a limbo caused by the confusion and indignity of living with an inferior status.”

Soccer coach fights lesbianism

NIGERIA — Eucharia Uche, the coach of the Nigerian national women’s soccer team, the Super Falcons, has said she will use spirituality to combat lesbianism on the team. Speaking about what she termed “spiritual warfare,” she recently said, “I came to realize it is not a physical battle; we need divine intervention in order to control and curb it [lesbianism].” As soon as she was hired as the first female coach of Nigeria’s powerful women’s national soccer team, Uche expressed her concern about rumoured lesbians on the national squad, describing it as a “worrisome experience” at a seminar.

David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at