One Of The Best Kept Secrets In The LGBT Community

Secret

Secret (Photo credit: val.pearl)

 

Want to know what it is?

Click here.

HIV Patients Lose More Years To Smoking Than HIV

Bad news for people with HIV who smoke: you’re losing twice as many years of your life by continuing your habit. And that’s not all. You’re also going to die at three times the rate of non-smokers with HIV….

Smoking

Smoking (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Science Daily:

Among HIV patients receiving well-organized care with free access to antiretroviral therapy, those who smoke lose more years of life to smoking than to HIV, according to a Danish study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and available online. The findings highlight the importance of smoking cessation efforts in the long-term, integrated care of patients infected with HIV.

Marie Helleberg, MD, of Copenhagen University Hospital and colleagues estimated the effect of smoking on mortality, risk of death, and life expectancy, and the number of life years lost to smoking compared to years lost to HIV among nearly 3,000 HIV-infected patients treated in Denmark from 1995 to 2010. They also compared mortality associated with smoking between HIV patients and the country’s background population. Where HIV care is integrated and antiretroviral therapy is available at no cost, “more than 60 percent of deaths among HIV patients are associated with smoking,” rather than HIV, Dr. Helleberg said.

Estimated life expectancy differed significantly based on smoking status. A 35-year-old HIV patient who currently smokes had a life expectancy of 62.6 years, compared to 78.4 years for a nonsmoker infected with HIV. The loss of years of life associated with smoking was twice as high as that associated with HIV among HIV-infected patients. In addition, researchers found the excess mortality of HIV-infected smokers to be three times higher than that of individuals not infected with HIV.

Quitting smoking-along with increased exercise- are the two things people with HIV can do to extend their lives and overall health. I quit over three years ago. And yeah, it’s not easy. But it’s worth it.

So if you need a New Year’s resolution, it’s staring you right in the face. And if you need help, it’s readily available here.

Read the full article at Science Daily 

Better Know a Legislator: Rep. Edie McClafferty and Rep. Kris Hansen

We’re less than a month away from the 2013 Montana Legislative Session. This session, much like the 2011 session, is sure to be a tough session for causes, issues and people that we value. It’s imperative that everyone who shares our values gets involved by either testifying, contacting your legislators, writing letters to your local paper or simply talking to your friends and neighbors about what is happening in the session.

As a primer for the session, I decided that I’d do a few short profiles on some of the legislators that are sure to be making news throughout the session–bot for good reasons and bad.

With that, I’m proud to bring you the first edition of From Eternity to Here’s “Better Know a Legislator” series, where I’ll profile one of my favorite legislators Rep. Edie McClafferty (D-Butte) and one of my least favorite legislators Rep. Kris Hansen (R-Havre).

Rep. Edie McClafferty, HD 75

Rep. McClaffertyRep. Edie McClafferty is serving her 3rd term representing the people of Butte and Silver-Bow County, and was recently elected as part of the leadership in the House, where she’ll serve as one of the Democratic Whips.

Rep. McClafferty is a Butte native, and is a public school teacher. Her commitment to a strong public education system is why I was thrilled when she was named vice-chair of the House Education Committee. In this committee she’ll almost certainly see attempts to divert public funds to private, unaccountable charter and religious schools. She’ll also serve on the House Tax and House Rules committees.

In addition to being a staunch advocate for Montana’s students, Rep. McClafferty has also been a strong ally to the LGBT community in Montana. In the 2013 session, as she did in the 2011 session, Rep. McClafferty will be sponsoring a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, hiring and public accommodations. While this bill faces long odds, Rep. McClafferty never backs down from an opportunity to stand up for her values.

Rep. Kris Hansen, HD 33

HansenI intentionally chose to profile Rep. McClafferty with Rep. Hansen because they are essentially polar opposites.

Hansen represents one of the two Havre House districts. She’s serving her second term, after barely winning her election.

Hansen formerly served as a deputy county attorney, but abruptly resigned last year in order to work on education policy. After resigning her job, Hansen promised to disclose who was paying her for her services, however she has never lived up to her promise.

The fact that we don’t know who is paying Hansen for her educational policy lobbying is especially troubling because she’s going to be the chair of the House Education Committee in 2013. As you watch her decisions and the bills that come out of the House Education Committee, it’s important to remember that she’s receiving her paychecks from an undisclosed educational policy group. This is corruption at its worst.

While writing this post I looked at Hansen’s financial disclosure form- something she’s required to fill out to run for office. Interestingly, she claims that her primary source of income is from a private law practice. However, when I looked at the Secretary of State’s database of registered businesses, it appears that Hansen’s private practice was established just two days before she filed to run for reelection. Not only that, Hansen’s private practice is registered out of her own house. It sounds to me like Hansen is trying to cover her tracks. It’ll be interesting to see if any reporters investigate this during the session.

However, if you’ve heard of Hansen, it’s probably not because of her corruption on education. It’s probably because Hansen sponsored a bill last legislative session that sought to prohibit municipalities from expanding protections beyond the state’s Human Rights Act. This bill essentially would have nullified the Missoula, and now Helena, nondiscrimination ordinance. Thus far Hansen has not requested a similar bill for the 2013 session.

Limits on Understanding

An attempt at a discrimination graphic.

An attempt at a discrimination graphic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

It was 9:30 at the Helena City Council meeting when the mayor slightly rolled his eyes as he tapped his gavel, signaling the close of the public hearing portion on final passage of the LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance.

 

“What’s your pleasure,” he said to the council members.

 

The council took up four amendments proposed by the sponsor in a vain attempt to rescue her two years of campaigning and soulful work on this ordinance to make it as fair and inclusive as possible.  The other members of the commission were simply not having it, as she tried to persuade them to drop the trans phobic “locker room” amendment.

 

“It’s beyond the limits of my understanding,” the mayor proclaimed with exasperation, and a council member said the same a few minutes later.

 

And, then again, “This is beyond the limits of my understanding,” the mayor repeated, seemingly liking the sound of the phrase he had coined even more the second time around.

 

He just as well have said, “I don’t understand, and I don’t want to understand!” for that is what I heard with a sinking feeling that remains with me, now rooted in my psyche just as firmly as the amendment is now part of the ordinance, which to some now codifies the vilification of trans people, and legalizes a certain form of discrimination against them.

 

I had not considered these thoughts prior to the hearing, and I apologize to the trans community for failing you.  I had taken the amendment lightly, as if any self respecting pre-op trans woman would be caught dead showing off the wrong genitalia in the women’s locker room.  (I focus on trans women only because that was the sum and substance of the hysteria at the hearing, though I do not wish to belittle the safety risk to trans men in the men’s locker room.)  I know that I would not have dared reveal my pre-op attachment – I was way too afraid of being read.  I’m thinking a penis would have been a dead give away.  But, more than that, I am far too modest and respecting of the women around me to compromise them in such a way, for I take my solidarity with women as a sacred trust.  For it is to this sisterhood that I belong, and losing that sense of belonging, as a woman among women, would be a fate worse than death.  Indeed, it would be as akin to death or more, while yet breathing, as were the last years of living as a man, drunk, dispirited and demoralized.

 

Could I have made a difference by continuing to urge a more specific understanding, as I had in general terms in my testimony?   Some have suggested that the council member who proposed the amendment relied on his belief that I “was okay with it” in so doing.  Well, I wasn’t okay with it.  In fact, I had posted just last week (and sent the post to the council) a suggested compromise to the  amendment whereby a public accommodation would not be discriminating if they asked a person who displayed socially inconsistent genitalia in the locker room to leave.  Some would have trouble with even this compromise, although, given my statements above about fear, modesty and solidarity, I think it is entirely reasonable.  I stand by it.

 

Nonetheless, I did not talk about bathrooms in my testimony, so, council members evidently did not feel that the trans community objected.  I am just one person who testified, I realize, however, many have looked to me to represent their interest and I did not.  I let you down and I regret that.

 

As I ponder these matters, in the quiet half light of dusk, with a growing philosophical sense, I realize that I am not to blame.  No one is that powerful – to enlighten the minds of those with limits upon their own understanding.

 

 

Bittersweet Win In Helena

Tonight, Helena took another step toward equality.
 
An LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinance was passed by Helena’s City Commission unanimously with five votes. The citywide ordinance prohibits discriminatory acts in employment and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. However, it only provides some protections in public accommodations.

Bill sponsor Katherine Haque-Hausrath was unable to convince her colleagues to eliminate an amendment requiring transgender people to use the bathroom or locker room that matches their “anatomical sex regardless of their gender identity.”

Jamee Greer, Montana Human Rights Network’s LGBT organizer, called the amendment “cowardly.”

“The capital city in Montana has become the second city in the state to pass an ordinance, which is historic,” Greer said. “I’m incredibly proud of all the hundreds of hours of volunteer work; people came to hearings starting in March 2012 and continued to come over and over. It’s a bittersweet victory for me knowing that many transgender people in our community are excluded from part of this ordinance. It feels like I can’t own it.”

While we are aware of the hard work ahead, we are grateful to all the community members who attended and/or testified at the hearings and to the staff at theMontana Human Rights Network for their leadership on this ordinance.

Together, we will continue to move our community forward.
With Pride,
Caitlin Copple
Regional Development Organizer in Montana

 

Racing in the Wrong Direction on Gun Issues

The most common type of gun confiscated by pol...

The most common type of gun confiscated by police and traced by the ATF are .38 special revolvers, such as this Smith and Wesson Model 60 .38 Special revolver with a 3-inch barrel. LaPierre, Wayne (1994). Guns, Crime, and Freedom . Regnery Publishing. p. 58. ISBN 0895264773. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The terrible events in Newtown sent my mind racing this weekend. I kept coming back to where we in Montana stand on preventing gun violence in our state. It was clear that we’re not just moving in the wrong direction on preventing gun violence in Montana we’re racing in the wrong direction.

The best way to illustrate this point is by looking at the work of Sen. Dave Lewis (R-Helena). Last session, Sen. Lewis chaired the Senate Finance & Claims Committee (the primary Senate budget committee), and, as chair, he slashed funding for crucial services- including mental health services. He and his Republican colleagues maintained that the state didn’t have enough money to pay for treating and providing support for those with mental illness (and some other issues as well).

While Lewis was busy slashing services for Montanans, he sponsored a bill that would have given tax cuts to gun ammunition manufacturers to “ensure availability.”

So in Sen. Dave Lewis’ world, we have enough money to give ammunition manufacturers tax cuts, but we don’t have the money to provide mental health counselling for Montana’s most vulnerable people.

While I do find Lewis to be one of the most detestable political figures in Montana history, this post isn’t about him. It’s about the fact that through their decisions, Montana’s elected officials are making our communities more vulnerable to the types of gun violence we’ve seen throughout the country over the past few years.

In the 2011 legislative session, there were 13 bills introduced related to guns and firearms. Only 2 of these bills could be construed as gun control measures. The rest would have done things to allow guns in banks, bars and other buildings. These bills would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons (simply by telling themselves they were allowed to), and would have even allowed students in public schools to bring guns on campus.

We as a state, much like the country, have to get beyond partisan dogfights over guns and gun violence, and have an honest effort to pass policies that will keep our communities safer. These policies must deal with not only rules about who, when, and where you can carry guns, but they must also deal with ensuring adequate mental health services for all Montanans.

I’ll be honest, I don’t expect our elected officials to display the courage to push responsible gun control laws. But I do think we have an opportunity to tackle the mental health aspect of the puzzle.

The Medicaid expansion that is part of the Affordable Care Act is our best chance to expand mental health coverage to tens of thousands of currently uninsured Montanans. This expansion is the part of the Affordable Care Act(ACA) that the US Supreme Court ruled states had the option of whether or no to implement.

Unfortunately, this expansion is sure to get marred by political games by Republicans who refuse to vote in support of anything related to the ACA. While Republicans may hold majorities in the legislature, Democrat Steve Bullock will hold the Governor’s office, and its bully pulpit and veto pen. He should use this bully pulpit and veto pen to ensure the Medicaid expansion is implemented in our state.

Governor Schweitzer accounted for the expansion in his final budget proposal, but thus far Bullock hasn’t said whether or not he’ll push for the expansion.

I hope that the horrible events of Friday will provide Bullock with a little more incentive to champion the expansion of Medicaid as a means of preventing gun violence in our state, without taking on a battle over gun control laws that he almost certainly cannot win with the legislature. If Bullock does this, we’ll begin to finally take small steps towards preventing gun violence in Montana.

Montana Supreme Court Allows Domestic Partnership Case for Same-Sex Couples To Move Forward

 

 

 

Justices reverse dismissal of case by the district court and allow litigation to proceed

 

 

 

011: Card-Carrying

 (Photo credit: vociferous.)

 

HELENA, MT — The ACLU and plaintiffs, six loving, committed same-sex couples, will move forward with efforts to secure domestic partnership protections in light of a Montana Supreme Court decision, which in part granted their appeal in Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana from a dismissal of the case by the district court.

 

Though the court denied the plaintiffs’ initial appeal as too broad, the justices said the ACLU could move forward with more narrowly tailored efforts to secure equal treatment for same-sex couples in the state.

 

“Three of the justices said they would have granted same-sex couples recognition as domestic partners now. The majority also made clear that the decision to remand the case for additional proceedings in the lower court was based on technical issues, not on the substance of our argument that the Montana Constitution mandates equal treatment of all people,” said ACLU of Montana Legal Director Jon Ellingson. “They said that while we could not challenge the omission of same-sex couples from all of the statutes involving the rights of married couples in one case, we can challenge those statutes individually. We plan to do just that.”

 

The opinion states: “It is this Court’s opinion that Plaintiffs should be given the opportunity, if they choose to take it, to amend the complaint and to refine and specify the general constitutional challenges they have proffered.”

 

“We’re encouraged by the decision because the justices said that we could pursue the protections we are seeking,” said Mary Leslie, who lives with her partner, Stacey Haugland in Bozeman. “Legal protection is essential, not just for our families, but for all same-sex couples. We won’t stop until every loving couple is treated fairly.”  Leslie lost her home because she was ineligible for worker’s compensation death benefits when her partner was killed in an accident. Another plaintiff, Denise Boettcher of Laurel, was denied bereavement leave when her partner Kellie Gibson’s father died.

 

In his dissent from the majority, Justice James Nelson wrote that same-sex couples should be given full protection now, saying the case, “concerns the right of committed intimate same-sex couples to receive the same civil protections which the State makes available to committed intimate different-sex couples. Plaintiffs assert, and rightly so, that their government may not single out unpopular groups for disfavored treatment, as the State of Montana has done here… I have never disagreed more strongly with the Court as I do in this case. With due respect, I believe today’s decision… wrongly deprives an abused minority their civil rights.”

 

Nearly 1,500 Montanans and more than 100 Montana-owned businesses have signed on in support of domestic partnerships, and more are signing on each day. Sixty-six Montana religious leaders signed onto an amicus brief supporting the ACLU’s appeal. Even more clergy signed a statement supporting the rights of same-sex couples.

 

“Montanans believe all their neighbors deserve dignity and respect,” said Rev. Marc Stewart, a Montana/Northern Wyoming United Church of Christ Conference Minister. “We believe that loving, committed couples should be able to fully live their own lives and have the protection of the state.”

 

Plaintiffs in the case 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. All say they will continue working with the ACLU to pursue legal recognition of their lifelong commitments to each other.

 

In addition to Ellingson, the couples are represented by Elizabeth Gill, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project; James Goetz and Ben Alke of 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 can be found at http://www.aclumontana.org and http://www.aclu.org/mtpartnerships.