‘No Excuses’ for inaction
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Human Rights Campaign has launched a national effort called “No Excuses” to lobby Congress on key issues of equality. Timed to take advantage of the congressional summer recess, when members are in their local offices and meeting with constituents, the campaign calls for HRC’s 750,000 members and their allies to meet directly with lawmakers and push for federal legislative change.

Using online tools, one-on-one trainings and staff and volunteer follow-through, HRC members will press lawmakers to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act; pass an LGBT inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act; repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; pass immigration reform that recognizes permanent same-sex couples; and, provide health benefits to federal employees’ same-sex domestic partners.

The interactive “No Excuses” website (noexcuses.hrc.org) allows supporters to download a meeting toolkit, schedule a visit and report back on how it went.

“While we salute and acknowledge the heroic members of Congress who have worked tirelessly on our behalf, far too many have dragged their feet on basic matters of fairness and equality that have lingered too long and hurt too many LGBT people and their families,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Yes, there are many challenges facing this Congress and this president. But LGBT people often face additional hardship protecting their families, their loved ones and their jobs, and too few in Congress are willing to champion these issues of basic fairness. Now, more than ever, members of the LGBT community need to make their voices heard face-to-face and in the districts where they live.”

Gays tapped for highest honor
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama plans to award America’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to a pair of gay trailblazers: Harvey Milk, one of the country’s first openly gay elected officials, and openly lesbian tennis great Billie Jean King.

Milk’s award will be accepted at an Aug. 12 White House ceremony by Stuart Milk, the nephew of the late San Francisco Supervisor and civil rights activist. Milk was the subject of an Oscar-winning biopic last year featuring Sean Penn in the lead role.

Upon hearing the news, Stuart Milk said, “The president’s action today touches the core of our very human hearts and my uncle would be so proud of this high honor. His election was, for him, a beginning — a chance to make real change. That change is happening, but we still have so far to go. I hope this recognition inspires LGBT Americans everywhere to heed Harvey’s call to run for office, to serve openly, to live proudly with authenticity and to demand the equality that we all deserve.”

In addition to Milk and Jean King, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who has championed LGBT equality throughout his political career, will be among the 16 who receive the Presidential Medal of Honor at the ceremony.

AAA expands family plan
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — AAA South, the fourth largest AAA auto club affiliate in the country, has committed to recognizing all spouses, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, in company policies and services. The policy now allows married same-sex couples to receive spousal discounts under AAA’s Associate Membership program.

Equality Florida launched conversations with AAA several months ago after receiving calls from married same-sex couples who had been denied family memberships. AAA South has more than four million members in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Puerto Rico.

Same-sex couples applying for a membership need only state that they are married to receive the family benefit. Management also left the door open to expand the policy to include domestic partners — LGBT and straight.

According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, AAA has supported the organization for nearly a decade as one of its top corporate sponsors.

DOJ issues HIV guidelines
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Justice issued a new fact sheet recently for state licensing boards and occupational training schools informing them that it is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act to bar people with HIV from professions such as barbering, massage therapy and home health care assistance. The guidelines were issued in response to requests from five AIDS advocacy organizations.

“The DOJ has sent a loud and clear message to the state licensing boards and occupational training schools that HIV discrimination won’t be tolerated,” said Catherine Hanssens, executive director of The Center for HIV Law and Policy. “Even this late into the HIV epidemic, we continue to hear from people who are being barred from professions out of fear and ignorance about how HIV is spread.”

In its call for the guidelines, the advocacy groups provided several recent examples of people with HIV facing discrimination from state licensing boards and training schools. These included a Georgia man whose massage license was revoked by the City of Atlanta, an Arkansas man who was kicked out of a cosmetology school because of the school’s interpretation of state licensing requirements, and a Tennessee couple who had their foster parent license denied because one of them had HIV.

David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at editor2@goqnotes.com.