Administration defends DOMA
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In December, President Barack Obama said his views on gay marriage equality were “evolving.” However, his personal position stands in stark contrast to his administration’s recent decision to defend in court the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bars the federal government from recognizing legally married same-sex couples.
On Jan. 13, the Department of Justice filed a brief appealing two federal court rulings that found DOMA unconstitutional. The administration claims that it has a duty to defend the laws that are on the books, despite the president’s stated belief that DOMA is discriminatory.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT rights group, rejected the DOJ’s argument and has called on its 1.3 million members and supporters to urge President Barack Obama to support marriage equality for all Americans.
“All families deserve the recognition and respect of their government. We know the president supports us. It’s time for him to help lead the American public toward full equality for all Americans,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “We ask him to fully recognize the dignity of LGBT Americans and their families by supporting marriage equality.”
Toughest anti-bullying law enacted
TRENTON, N.J. — On Jan. 6, Gov. Chris Christie signed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, making New Jersey’s law against bullying and harassment the toughest in the nation. The law goes into effect at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, and it applies to all public schools. Portions of the law also apply to public colleges. Both houses of the New Jersey legislature voted overwhelmingly this past November to approve the measure.
The bill strengthens New Jersey’s existing law against bullying, which has been on the books since 2002. Whereas certain anti-bullying measures were once recommended, many are now required. Among them:
• Specific people in each school and district must be appointed to run anti-bullying programs.
• Bullying episodes must be investigated within a day after they occur.
• Teachers, administrators and school board members must undergo anti-bullying training.
• Superintendents must make public reports twice annually that detail any bullying episodes in each school. Each school will then receive a letter grade that is to be posted on its website.
The law also lists harassment, intimidation or bullying as grounds for suspension or expulsion from school.
At press time, 45 states have laws against bullying, although none of them is as strong or as detailed as New Jersey’s new law.
“Other states have bits and pieces of what this New Jersey law has, but none of them is as broad, getting to this level of detail, and requiring them, step by step, to do the right thing for students,” said Sarah Warbelow, state legislative director at the Human Rights Campaign.
NCLR launches photo campaign
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — In preparation for its 35th anniversary next year, the National Center for Lesbian Rights has launched the “I am NCLR …” photo campaign to reflect and showcase the “clients and supporters who fight alongside us everyday to ensure that every lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender person can live with dignity and security.”
Through March 31, 2012, NCLR would like your photos — be they portraits, snapshots or special moments — featuring “a homemade poster or sign in which you fill in the sentence, ‘I am NCLR, and I am…,’ telling us how you reflect our groundbreaking work.”
A panel of artists, photographers, and NCLR staff will select some of the best images for use in NCLR promotional and marketing materials throughout the anniversary year. “We will showcase many of your photos that will help tell NCLR’s story through real images from real people,” the group explained in a press release.
Gov. dept. tops workplace index
LONDON, U.K. — National LGBT rights group Stonewall has revealed its Top 100 Employers 2011 list, showcasing Britain’s best employers for gay workers. For the first time a central government department, the Home Office, has been recognized as the best place to work for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. In second place is Lloyds Banking Group and Ernst & Young ranks third.
Home Secretary Theresa May said, “I’m delighted the Home Office is being celebrated as an employer which supports the diversity of its staff. This government will continue to do all it can to tackle discrimination and help make this country a more tolerant and fair place for everybody.”
The rankings are based on a range of key indicators which this year included the largest-ever confidential survey of LGB employees, with over 9,000 participants. The Top 100 index, which started in 2005, includes a sports employer for the first time with the inclusion of The Rugby Football League. Similarly, ITV is the first broadcaster to enter the Top 100.
Census will count trans people
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal’s national census will include a new category for transgender people when counting begins in May. Two years ago, the Supreme Court in Nepal ordered the government to enact laws protecting the rights of LGBT people.
“Earlier, we had only two categories, men and women. But in the upcoming census, we are including a ‘third gender’ category,” said Bikash Bista, director of the Central Bureau of Statistics in Kathmandu. He acknowledged that the High Court ruling prompted the change.
“We will send supervisors to each household and get the figures of the household, its members and their gender. This is when we count the number of transgenders,” he said.