A Truly Moving Moment at the Oscars

February 24, 2009

If you missed it, here was the greatest moment from Sunday’s Oscars:

While Sean Penn’s call for gay rights after winning his Best Actor award for his performance in Milkwas heartening, Dustin Lance Black’s victory for best original screenplay — and his moving speech about LGBT rights, his hopes for marriage, and his hopes for today’s LGBT youth — was a powerful reminder of the personal stories behind our fight for equal rights for all. Take a couple of minutes to watch and to be moved.


Helping Bring Competitive Insurance Benefits to Texas Universities

February 23, 2009

This past weekend, we were invited to participate in a conference at the University of Texas working toward competitive insurance benefits for employees of all university systems in Texas. Right now, employees can secure insurance benefits for spouses but not for domestic partners, and an UT @ Austin based organization called Pride and Equity Faculty Staff Association is working to change that.

Our panel, on legal issues surrounding this push for competitive insurance benefits, included Texas State Representative Elliott Naishtat, who is one of our strongest allies in the Legislature for LGBT rights and the author of HB 816; and Randall Terrell of Equality Texas, who we’re partnering with on our upcoming Lobby Day on March 2.

The conference received attention from Austin media — this story appeared in the Daily Texan (the student paper at the University of Texas), this story aired on KUT-FM (Austin’s NPR station), and this story aired on KTBC-TV (Austin’s FOX affiliate).

It was an honor to be part of this conference, and Atticus Circle is proud to be working with organizations like PEFSA toward securing competitive insurance benefits for University of Texas System and Texas A&M employees.

How Facebook Helped Elect South Carolina’s First Gay Public Official

February 20, 2009

Congratulations are in order for Nick Shalosky, a 21-year-old openly gay College of Charleston student who has become South Carolina’s first gay public official. Shalosky won a seat on the Charleston County District 20 Constituent School Board after noticing that no one had filed for the seat. As he notes in a guest post on the Bilerico Project, he was able to engineer a write-in campaign using Facebook. Without spending any money on his campaign, he won the election and added his name to a list of pioneering LGBT candidates. His use of Facebook underscores the value of social media in finding supporters no matter what the political landscape.

Greetings from Indiana!

February 14, 2009

This is Jodie and Jenny checking in from Bloomington, Indiana, where we’re participating in the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference. We’re going to be talking about how to help eliminate bullying through legislation, including giving tips on how to support bills and lobby legislators. As we gear up for our own Lobby Day efforts in Texas (see our last post for more on what we’re doing March 2) , we’ll be taking some of those lessons to our friends in the Midwest — including the importance of linking your own personal story to relevant facts.

Come Lobby With Us at the Texas State Capitol March 2

February 12, 2009

We’re excited to be a partner with Equality Texas for Lobby Day on Monday, March 2 — the best possible way we can think of to celebrate Texas Independence Day!

Lobbying is easier than and not as scary as you may believe it to be – it’s simply a one-on-one conversation, in which you communicate the issues that are important to you with the individuals elected to represent you. On Lobby Day, you’ll be able to join hundreds of citizens from across the state to oppose public policy discrimination against Texans and their families based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression — and to support bills that would offer our LGBT friends and family members necessary protections and rights.

Here are the bills currently being considered by the Texas State Legislature (with links showing how the bills are progressing):

House Bill 197, relating to prohibition of insurance discrimination based on sexual orientation;
House Bill 353, relating to health care rights of domestic partners;
House Bill 538, relating to the prohibition of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression;
House Bill 616, relating to a study regarding the effectiveness of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act; and
House Bill 861, relating to the authority of certain university systems to provide benefits to certain qualified individuals.

If you’re interested in joining the Atticus Circle lobbying group on March 2, we ask you do two things:

1. Join Atticus Circle — our Texan members receive weekly Atticus Alerts to keep you updated on what’s happening with these bills, as well as to educate you about the legislative process and to let you know specific things you can do to help
2. Once you’ve become an Atticus Circle member, register on the Equality Texas website. When filling out the form, be sure to list Atticus Circle under “organization.” (This page also details the schedule for the March 1 welcome reception and the full slate of Lobby Day activities.)

We encourage you to participate in this very exciting and important part of the legislative process. If you can’t be there with us on the 2nd, the Atticus Alerts (and this blog) will let you know what you can do from home.

Legislation Alert: Uniting American Families Act

February 9, 2009

Our friend Eugene Sepulveda alerted us to a new piece of proposed legislation intended to help those LGBT couples impacted by immigration enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples. According to the Gay Life section of About.com, the Uniting American Families Act, UAFA, H.R. 2221, seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act. If passed, the legislation would allow permanent partners of United States citizens and permanent residents, including same-sex partners, to obtain residency. Currently, only the heterosexual spouses of U.S. citizens are granted citizenship once they marry.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is reintroducing the legislation this coming Friday, after introducing a version in 2007.

If you’re moved to write a letter to your representatives in Congress to alert them to the reintroduction of the bill and your support for it, here’s a suggested template:

I am writing to ask for your support of gay & lesbian equality in immigration policy by asking that you sign as a cosponsor of the Uniting American Families Act of 2009.

The U.S. government discriminates against gay and lesbian binational couples by not allowing us/them to sponsor foreign-born life partners for immigration. Because of this, we/they face the terrible choice of separating from the person we/they love or leaving our/their country. As Americans, we should not have to choose between family and country. Please cosponsor the Uniting American Families Act of 2009 by reaching out to Rep. Nadler before February 12.

Passage of the bill would not only be a triumph for those LGBT couples who find themselves in this situation, but it will also be another step forward in helping LGBT couples gain the same rights that straight couples currently have.  We’ll keep you updated on its status.

Defense of Marriage Act to Be Overturned? and More Recent News on Gay Marriage

February 6, 2009

There’s exciting news on the Defense of Marriage Act — and the possibility of it being overturned — we wanted to make sure you were aware.

There’s a good story here and the original brief here, both in the Los Angeles Times, details yesterday’s potentially landmark decision. From the lead of today’s article:

“Brad Levenson and Tony Sears spent Thursday fielding congratulatory calls from gay rights supporters around the nation for their success in getting a federal judge to call into question the legality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this week that Sears — who married Levenson, a deputy federal public defender, last July — is entitled to the same spousal benefits that heterosexual couples employed by the department receive.”

Though the ruling is not final, it potentially paves the way for the 1996 rule to be struck down in federal court for not meeting the Constitutionality test.

We’ve also run across a couple of other interesting updates on anti-gay marriage legislation over the last couple of weeks we wanted to share.

First, in California, Proposition 8 is awaiting a March 5 hearing in the California Supreme Court, to determine whether or not the recently-passed ban on gay marriage is constitutional. This Los Angeles Times story gives a good overview as to what might happen in the hearing, as well as what might happen to the couples who were married during the period in which LGBT couples were legally allowed to marry.

One of our favorite reporters, the Associated Press’s Lisa Leff, wrote this story, noting that if Proposition 8 is upheld, a proposition to overturn it could be voted on in California as early as 2010. While some gay rights advocates are concerned that its defeat could be seen as further reinforcement for LGBT discrimination, others feel that it should be put to the voters again, to allow Californians to stand up for LGBT equality.

And in Ohio, where anti-gay marriage legislation has been in effect since 2004, one church, as detailed in this story, has decided not to sign marriage licenses for straight couples until gay marriage is legal in the state, joining a growing number of churches making the same civil rights stand.

We believe that 2009 is going to be a crucial year in the fight for LGBT equality. Now more than ever, it’s important for straight allies to speak up for LGBT equality. While the continuing court debate on DOMA and the upcoming hearing on Proposition 8 will help us gauge where the courts are on discriminatory legislation, it’s up to us to help the nation gauge the importance of achieving LGBT equality, starting with this fundamental right to marry.