More On Montana Domestic Partnerships Appeal

The post I put up yesterday wasn’t alone, the Montana ACLU appeal got some good coverage over at Towleroad, and I also wrote a bit more of an in-depth piece at Bilerico. Excerpt:

As Niki Zupanic, Public Policy Director for the Montana ACLU told me today:

“Montana’s Constitution is clear. Everyone is guaranteed equal protection under the law. When our plaintiffs are being denied bereavement leave, access to medical information and death benefits they are not being treated fairly under the law. Montanans support treating same-sex couples fairly and providing them with the legal recognition they need to care for and protect their families. The Montana Supreme Court is the place where we can make that happen for Montana’s same-sex couples.”The decision to go to the Supreme Court just makes sense. The Montana Constitution has an obvious discrepancy here. Fair and equal treatment of persons can’t be applied arbitrarily – it has to apply across the board – and that includes people in same-sex relationships. Judge Sherlock did not rule on the constitutionality question in April, only that he couldn’t order the legislature to make any changes. The Supreme Court is the next logical step to clarify this issue.

Hopefully, it will clarify in favor of gay and lesbian relationship recognition, and not against.

For the rest of the story- and to add comments, click here.

ACLU Asks Montana Supreme Court to Grant Legal Protection to Same Sex Couples


 

Domestic partnership recognition is necessary to uphold Montana Constitution’s right to fair treatment for all

 

The American Civil Liberties Union today filed its appeal of a Montana District Court decision dismissing the same-sex domestic partnership case, Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana, to the Montana Supreme Court. The appeal argues that the Montana Constitution guarantees fair and equal treatment to all people, including gay and lesbian couples.

“This case is about treating people fairly and humanely,” said plaintiff Jan Donaldson, a Helena nurse who has been with her partner, pediatric neurologist Mary Anne Guggenheim, for 27 years. “Mary Anne and I have appreciated the support we’ve received from fellow Montanans who understand that all families need to be able to take care of each other. We just want the dignity of having our committed partnership recognized as worthy of those legal protections.”

U.S. Census numbers released over the summer show 2,295 Montana same-sex households. Without recognition of domestic partnerships, these couples are vulnerable when they need bereavement leave, face the illness or death of their partner or are presented with any other situation in which their lack of legally recognized status puts them in a position where a married husband or wife would be protected.

The plaintiffs in the case have faced just this kind of discrimination. When Guggenheim had a hip replacement, the doctor’s office staff would not speak to Donaldson without a release. Kellie Gibson of Laurel was denied bereavement leave when her partner Denise’s father died. Mary Leslie of Bozeman lost her home because she was ineligible for worker’s compensation death benefits when her partner was killed in an accident.

“Anyone who works and pays taxes should be treated equally and fairly by our state. When two people are in a committed relationship, they should be eligible for benefits, like filing a joint tax return, regardless of whether they are a same-sex couple or a different-sex couple,” said Jennifer Giuttari, interim legal director for the ACLU of Montana.

Plaintiffs in the case Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana are Mary Anne Guggenheim and Jan Donaldson of Helena, Stacey Haugland and Mary Leslie of Bozeman, Mike Long and Rich Parker of Bozeman, MJ Williams and Nancy Owens of Basin, Rick Wagner and Gary Stallings of Butte and Denise Boettcher and Kellie Gibson of Laurel.

In addition to Giuttari, the couples are represented by Elizabeth Gill, a staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project; James Goetz and Ben Alke of the Bozeman, MT, law firm Goetz, Gallik & Baldwin P.C.; Betsy Griffing; and Ruth Borenstein and Neil Perry of the law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP.

Additional information about the case, biographies of the plaintiffs and links to videos of the plaintiffs can be found at www.aclumontana.org and www.aclu.org/mtpartnerships.

Study: Incarceration Increases Risk Of STI’s, HIV Infection

Something nobody ever seems to want to talk about: sex, prison and STD’s.

The study’s objective was to assess the link between incarceration and sexually transmitted infection, including HIV, from a social network perspective.

Data collected from a social network study in Brooklyn (n=343) were measured for associations between incarceration and infection with herpes simplex virus-2, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis or HIV and sex with an infected partner, adjusting for characteristics of respondents and their sex partners.

“Infection with an STI or HIV was associated with incarceration of less than one year (adjusted prevalence ratio=1.33; 95 percent confidence interval=1.01, 1.76) and one year or longer (adjusted PR=1.37; 95 percent CI=1.08, 1.74). Sex in the past three months with an infected partner was associated with sex in the past three months with one partner (adjusted PR=1.42; 95 percent CI=1.12, 1.79) and with two or more partners (adjusted PR=1.85; 95 percent CI=1.43, 2.38) who had ever been incarcerated,” the results found.

There is a need for STI and HIV treatment and prevention for current and former prisoners, concluded the authors. The results provide preliminary evidence to indicate that incarceration may influence HIV and other STIs, “possibly because incarceration increases the risk of sex with infected partners.”

I love it when science follows common sense. Well, at least informed common sense…

STUDENT NON DISCRIMINATION ACT NEEDED TO PROTECT GLBT YOUTH FROM BULLYING

Kathy Baldock, www.canyonwalkerconnections.com

Casey, sixteen and gay, was being bullied by two students at his high school in Ohio. His youth pastor, a friend of mine, helped to secure a restraining order to protect him, but the principal downgraded the severity with a weaker solution.  He let Cody come to the office five minutes before classes ended and stay until five minutes after they started; Casey would then be safe from bullying in the hall-passing time.  One of Casey’s bullies was still in class with him.  Did this principal create a safe learning environment and protect Casey from abuse?  Why did it even get this far?  Why was there no policy in place to protect this child from bullying due to his sexual orientation or even his perceived sexual orientation?

No gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (glbt) child in public schools in the United States is federally protected from bullying and harassment for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Shocked?  This is true.  No Child Left Behind (2001), soon to be re-authorized after ten years in the updated Elementary and Secondary Education Re-Authorization 2011 (ESEA), made it out of committee in October 2011 without the bipartisan support it needed to include protection for glbt students.   Currently, students are protected from bullying for: race, sex, religion, disabilities and national origin, but not sexual orientation and gender identity.

When the ESEA is brought to the floor of the Senate in either December or January, there is a push to attach the Student Non-Discrimination Act HR 4350 (SNDA) to it. SNDA includes comprehensive federal prohibitions against discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  It would forbid schools with public funding to discriminate against glbt students or ignore harassing behaviors.

The bill was re-introduced, having not been added in committee in ESEA, by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO). (watch the video, grab a tissue.)  Co-sponsored by 34 senators, it needs the approval of 60 senators to attach it to the ESEA before going to the House for a vote before it becomes law.

“Is it needed?” you may ask.  Only 13 states have laws protecting glbt students from harassment at school; this is not a surprising statistic when you also realize that 15 states do not even include sexual orientation and gender identity on the “hate crimes” list; in 29 states you can still be fired for being gay; and in 34 states you can be fired for being trans.

Come on, it is really necessary to pass another law?  Lots of kids are bullied in school; that is “just the way it is.”  Research shows highly rejected glbt youth were at a very high risk for health and mental problems when they become young adults.  Highly rejected glbt youth were:

  • More than 8 times as likely to attempt suicide
  • Nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression
  • More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs and
  • More than 3 times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases *

Knowing that the primary socializing institutions for children and youth are families, schools and faith communities, should we not try to make those places safer for children?  This is not just a “family issue” forglbt youth.  Many of them are not even out in their own families.  As mysterious as that may seem, the biggest loss a child fears is family rejection so many will delay coming out to their own parents.  Churches are wellknown sources of anti-gay rhetoric, leaving many children thinking they have only one protected place: school.

Now is the time to voice to your senators and representative  that it is their duty as public servants to serve the most vulnerable of their constituents: glbt children.  Tell them to get on record now in support of the Senate bill and the version that comes to the House.  Any senator or representative that votes against the protection of vulnerable children should not hold that position of trust.

I am a Mom too, with two straight, adult children.  I am a straight, Evangelical Christian compelled by my faith to stand for justice and against oppression.  The argument of some conservative family groups and lobbies against this bill is the fear that this bill will “victimize people of faith by turning religiously-based, anti-gay comments into ‘thought crimes’ ” (Rep. John Kline R-MN).  This is fear-based rhetoric.  Anti-discrimination laws punish actions, not opinions or beliefs.

Who should care and act on this now:

  • Parents of glbt children.  There are over 350 chapters of Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG) with over 200,000 members nationwide.  Be the advocates you already are and tell your families and friends to insist on the addition of the SNDA in the ESEA.
  • Educators who see the crises and have no guidelines under which to operate when they witness bullying of glbt students.  School boards will take seriously the loss of federal funding should they not enforce the law.
  • Members of the glbt community know the damage many of them suffered for being gay or perceived as gay.
  • Christians are to take seriously the mandates of our faith to fight injustice and stand against oppression (oh, and toss in a good dose of helping the poor) Isaiah 58. A Christian who would consider blocking the protection of a child needs to consider deeply the examples of Jesus.
  • Any parent that understands the difficulty of peer bullying in schools.  Consider that the children that may not be yours suffer it more profoundly; look at those stats again for rejection of glbt youth.  Teach your children well.
  • Conservative family groups need to hold to their own missions—protecting families which include glbt youth.  The irony of Family Research Council ignoring family research and producing policies directly impacting the health and mental wellness of glbt youth is glaring.  Focus on the Family really does need to focus on families and help families with glbt youth.  Concerned Women for America should be concerned about the children of women in America.  Excluding glbt children from the mission statements of those organizations shows severe bias which places religious beliefs over a higher calling of caring for the families and children that even the names of their organizations imply.
  • Any person with even a modicum of wisdom that understands that all children desire the comforts of love, acceptance and security. Healthy children grow into healthy adults and build healthy societies.

Bottom line: who should care that the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) be voted into law as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Re-Authorization Act (ESEA)?  All of us. Partisan politics drives me crazy.  When I see a vote that goes right down party lines, I know the public servants are voting to maintain power and money balances and have succumb to party/special interest groups pressure.  Voting for the protection of children is not a partisan issue.  Every public servant in this country should be protecting the least of these.

And what has become of Casey? Along with his youth pastor, PFLAG stepped in to protect this child. The school administration knows they are being watched and are more cautious. This is what ESEA will do for all children and in all schools; it will strengthen the federal law to include the protection glbt students against bullying.  And, after five years of blocking a Gay Student  Alliance (GSA), Casey’s school now has one and he is the president. He is safer.

Apply pressure and make your voice heard now.  There are 90 million children in this country under 18 years of age, including approximately 4.5 million that are glbt.  Speak up for their safety and insist that the non-inclusion of SNDA at the committee level be corrected when ESEA comes to Senate vote in December or January.  Insist and speak up for Casey and other glbt students.

RECAP:

Contact your senators and representatives and tell them that it is essential that the SNDA (HR 4350) become part of ESEA when it comes for vote in the Senate in December or January.  It will expand the protection from bullying based on: religion, sex, national origin and disabilities to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity for glbt students. And stay on them, especially the Republicans who may be resistant to approve it. And big kudos to Al Franken, thank him too. 

 

*Family Acceptance Project, Dr. Caitlin Ryan, “Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Children” (2009)

 

2011 Election Results- An LGBT Glance

In State politics, candidates who favor inclusive policies for LGBT persons won seats on City Councils in Missoula and Helena. Caitlin Copple of Missoula and Katherine Haque-Hausrath of Helena both ran on inclusive policy platforms- and it didn’t seem to hurt their electability- although the races weren’t quite runaways.

Nationally, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force gives a great rundown:

Supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Michigan’s Traverse City, workers’ rights in Ohio, women’s reproductive freedom in Mississippi, and voters’ rights in Maine were among those scoring big victories in the Nov. 8 election. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force assisted in many of these efforts.

Full story here. 

But the best national rundown comes from Towleroad (which includes our own Caitlin Copple!):

Overall, LGBT candidates and causes scored huge wins in yesterday’s elections. Here’s a round-up of some of the highlights and stinkers. Apologies if I’ve missed any. Please add them in the comments section.

Read more: http://www.towleroad.com/2011/11/election-results-highlights-and-stinkers.html#ixzz1dEU0YpGV

 

Secretary Clinton On HIV: “Embrace Treatment As Prevention”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today called for a new approach to ending HIV- treatment as prevention.

Clinton said the answer was clear.

“If we take a comprehensive view of our approach to the pandemic, treatment doesn’t take away from prevention. It adds to it,” she said. “So let’s end the old debate over treatment versus prevention and embrace treatment as prevention.”

You said it sister.

This administration has made HIV treatment and prevention a priority- in a way no other administration ever had the courage or the moral fiber to do. Just another reason not to go back to the Draconian Health Nightmare that was the Bush Administration by electing another Republican administration….

Full text and video here

AIDS Drug Assistance Program Numbers, 11/03/11

 

From The NAPWA Positive Voice Newsletter:

The waiting lists numbers keep coming down – a little. The federal government released $1.8 billion to support federal-state HIV partnerships, with $813 million earmarked specifically for ADAP programs with waiting lists.

The release of funds is slow, though, and the four states that account for almost the entire waiting list – Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and Louisiana – aren’t stepping up to the plate to match the additional federal money.

The waiting list states say they can’t afford it. We visited Florida’s ADAP debate in the October 24 Positive Voice. Let’s turn in this issue to Georgia.

Georgia Public Broadcasting reports the state’s waiting list numbers have fallen by about 300, from roughly 1,700 to 1,400, with $3 million in new federal funds. Eliminating the waiting list altogether, state officials say, would cost $15 million the state doesn’t have.

Time for a reality check….

Georgia’s proposed 2012 budget is $20 billion. The $15 million that would eliminate the waiting list amounts to 0.075% – less than one-tenth of one percent – of that budget. Even in a period of state financial stress, with an expected five percent deficit, the needed $15 million is so minuscule that spending it or not spending it to end the waiting list has no material impact on the state’s budget crisis. But Georgia’s political conversation continues to be dominated by proposals to lower higher-income and corporate tax rates and “pay” for the cuts by cutting services and shifting tax burdens to middle and lower-income Georgians.

Georgia’s $15 million we can’t is really a $15 million we don’t want to. And the future cost of this year’s $15 million we don’t want to will be a lot more than $15 million.

Here are the latest waiting list numbers from our friends at NASTAD:

Rehberg’s Jesus Smokescreen

My inbox today contained the “Congressman Denny Rehberg Newsletter “(Click here for online version).

Yes, I subscribe. I mostly enjoy the way that the embedded polls don’t work if you vote against Denny’s stated positions on things.

But I digress.

There is a flashing police light animation at the top of the page- leading one to believe that the newsletter contains information vital to National Security- or, at the very  least, a “Cops” video.

Unfortunately, neither is true.

What’s the hubbub about? It’s the manufactured story of the impending removal of the Jesus Statue abutting Big Mountain, ostensibly under the umbrella of First Amendment Rights and equally ostensibly, the trampling of the memory of every Veteran who has ever served the United States of America.

Again, neither is true.

This smokescreen is manufactured by the Rehberg campaign to obscure his gaping lack of congressional leadership in the face of the impending reality of Jon Tester’s more impressive record.

Period.

I happen to agree with Cowgirl:

At first I had thought maybe Rehberg had seen an opportunity to make inroads among persuadable churchgoing voters.

But I now realize that all of this Jesus stuff is being aimed at Tester for his strength: support from veterans.  The statue was constructed 50 years ago by World War II veterans, as a memorial, an homage to a similar statue that these vets had seen in Italy during their tour of duty.

And Jon Tester’s star is very high among veterans, and has been so ever since he took office in 2007 and immediately made vets a centerpiece of his domestic policy.  He focuses not on statues, but on services–health care for veterans, jobs for veterans, loans for veterans, things that matter. Veterans like Tester, a lot.

Naturally, Montana Republicans (who after two decades of dominance have been virtually eradicated as statewide officeholders, thanks to Schweitzer, Tester and a resurgent Democratic party) believe that the veteran vote is a GOP birthright that can never be taken from them.  And now that Tester has taken it from them, Rehberg had decided to pander to vets. He is has taken up a meaningless issue, trying to seem as if he is fighting a battle for their statue, when in fact the statue never stood any chance of being moved.

Tester also believes the statue should remain unmolested.  But after making his opinion known, he moved on to doing real work on things that matter, because he understands (unlike Rehberg who is a man-child) that if you are in Congress, you should be acting like an adult. (emphasis mine)

And so Tester is in the news this weekend, for example, fighting for a bill that would help decrease unemployment among veterans by offering tax credits to businesses who employ them.  He is fighting for soldiers who fought foreign wars, while the dunce Rehberg is looking for credit for fighting a fictitious War on Jesus. 

Rehberg is turning this into the opening salvo in a non-existent culture war- shooting at the most easily-offended sensibility of Christians- and pretending that it’s “Liberals” holding the gun.

I just hope I’m not the ony person of faith who sees this smokescreen for what it is- shameless (and gutless)  pandering.

“Quit Flaunting Your Lifestyle” Goes National

Many of you have read my response to the homophobic letter to the editor in the Bozeman Chronicle a few weeks ago. I decided to post it to Bilerico and see where it goes.

Good news- my Bilerico article has been drawing some attention to Bozeman- I’ve received several inquiries about the dates of the Montana Pride Celebration from out of state people interested in coming to support LGBTQ rights in Montana.

Is that awesome, or what?

The article is here.