One Equal World

International human rights communities around the world are celebrating the latest ruling by the Ugandan constitutional court that struck down a recently passed law that imposed lengthy jail sentences for both “attempted homosexuality” and “promotion of homosexuality.” The head of the United Nations called the decision a “step forward” and Amnesty International named the ruling a “significant victory.”

The original law was introduced earlier this year in Uganda and had been condemned by many world leaders, including President Obama, who called it “odious.” The law, which went into effect in February after being signed by President Yoweri Museveni, increased the punishment for homosexuality and made acts of “aggravated homosexuality” punishable with a life sentence in prison. Two men are still currently awaiting trial under these laws.

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The court struck down the archaic law because on procedural grounds, it was invalid with no quorum in Parliament when the legislation was passed on December 20th. Since the vote last year, there has been a 20-fold increase in incidents of anti-LGBT harassment, according to a study by Sexual Minorities Uganda.

“Many people are going to retaliate and attack community members,” said Kasha Jacqueline of the organization Freedom and Roam Uganda, another of the petitioners. “People are going to retaliate — not just the members of Parliament and anti-gay groups and religious leaders, but in the community as well.”

One present concern is that the ruling still leaves Ugandan politicians room to reintroduce the law or similar legislation if they have a full quorum present to pass it. “We now hope that this step forward translates into real improvements in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people in Uganda, who have been trapped in a vicious circle of discrimination, threats, abuse and injustice for too long,” said Amnesty International.

Despite how the law was struck down on something of a legal technicality, it appears that the presence of a deeply homophobic community in Uganda remains, proving that the fight for social equality is far from over there.

Cincinnati’s 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals heard six cases regarding same-sex marriages this past Wednesday, a landmark in terms of the high number of cases being reviewed all at once. Each of the cases was previously seen by lower courts that struck down bans on gay marriage or required state governments to recognize gay marriages that took place in other states.same-sex-marriage-cincinnati

Despite a long line of federal court victories for proponents of same-sex marriage dating back to 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, the six cases being discussed in Cincinnati may very well end in negative results for proponents of gay marriage. Two of the judges hearing the cases were nominated by President George W. Bush, and two were nominated by President Bill Clinton, reflecting the current Republican/Democrat split in the courts. Though these judges did rule 5 to 4 in US v. Windsor that the federal government couldn’t refuse to recognize same-sex marriages originating in states where they are legal, they also did not rule on whether or not states can ban gay marriages. And given the opposing ideologies, it’s likely that there will be conflict over whether marriage is a fundamental right for all or whether states should be free to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples.

The ideological split may very well lead to Supreme Court intervention—and in the meantime, it could mean the dissolution of previously legal unions.

The cases being heard by the 6th Circuit Court include two regarding the same-sex marriage bans in Michigan and Kentucky and four regarding recognition of same-sex marriages that took place in different states where the marriages are legal.

Currently nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

A 2013 poll from Out and Equal Workplace Advocates revealed that 67 percent of American adults now believe that nationwide marriage equality is inevitable. Happily, this opinion is one that is shared with many politicians, legal advisors and analysts, and policymakers across the country. With marriage equality momentum gaining in states from coast to coast, it appears that the freedom to marry nationwide is in fact inevitable.marriage-equality

Prominent political figures such as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, former Vice President Al Gore, former First Lady Laura Bush, the Clintons President Barack Obama, and many others have come out in support of marriage equality. President Obama once said, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages,” a statement that many politicians have echoed.

Celebrities, attorneys, judges, and social commenters have also been influential in directing the national dialogue about marriage equality. Kendall Coffey, an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law has been gauging the fight for marriage equality through a legal lens, and notes that the momentum is going to continue. Even Florida, an unlikely state to champion marriage equality amid its southern neighbors has had multiple judges vote in favor of the freedom to marry. Coffey and other legal analysts predict that his kind of momentum will only grow, and that inevitably, same-sex marriages will be legally permitted nationwide.

Adam Buska’s NOH8 Campaign is another place that reveals just how many individuals support same-sex marriage. Those who are photographed for the campaign are essentially pledging their support for the freedom to marry; the photographs feature celebrities, politicians, lawyers, television and news personalities, athletes, and other people from all walks of life.

With so many influential figures and the majority of the American public showing their support for marriage equality, hopefully it won’t be too long before same-sex marriages are recognized nationwide.

Image via paintings / Shutterstock.com

The United States Ambassador to the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe has married his partner Brian Walsh, Baer began the fourth openly gay person in a state department emissary role when he came into the position back in September. He is the seventh openly gay person appointed by President Obama.

Said Baer in a tweet, “So, I got married this morning. Thank you @BarackObama @HilaryClinton &@JohnKerry for your commitment to equality.”

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Baer and his now-husband Brian Walsh married in Vienna, Austria surrounded by friends and family.

Many European countries, such as Austria, do not currently permit gay marriage, however civil partnerships are allowed. The Advocate is reporting that Baer returned to the United States to receive a marriage license, presumably in Massachusetts where he is also a professor at Harvard University.

The Advocate also reported that the marriage took place in the garden of Baer and Walsh’s home in Vienna. If true, he was married in the officla residence of the US Mission, which would be US federal territory, where the US federal government also doesn’t allow for same-sex marriage.

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Jason Combs, 45, accused of “predatory towing” tactics.

A tow truck operator in Florida was arrested this weekend after illegally towing cars in Orlando. Not only was he illegally towing, but the operator was also specifically targeting LGBT cars during Gay Days in Orlando. Jason Combs, 45, towed over 100 cars between June 5-9th. Combs’ attorney was not responding to email or phone messages this weekend.

During the event, Combs allegedly would send others to watch the area for cars to tow. He is now faced with 29 counts of grand theft of a motor vehicle and other charges. Combs is the owner of ASAP Towing and did not have an up-to-date contract to even tow vehicles or have proper signs to tell motorists that the lot was a tow-away zone.

“With many of these people, their cars were towed within 5, 10 15 minutes [of parking],” Cpl. Rick Schmeltzer said according to the Sentinel. “This was total predator towing. There’s really no other word for it.” The cars were towed from the Westwood Town Center across the street from the Gay Days host hotel, DoubleTree by Hilton.

Now Schmeltzer is also claiming the tow company targeted cars at Gay Days events last year. Those whose cars were towed had to take a cab ride to the towing company and were charged $165 cash to get their cars, including a $40 “gate fee,” which isn’t permitted under Florida law, the complaint says. The law was also broken because Combs towed the cars more than 10 miles away from their locations, which is against Florida law.

Between 200,000 and 300,000 people attended the annual LGBT Pride Parade in San Diego, a celebration of the 40th annual Pride Weekend. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, the first lesbian and San Diegan to run the lower chamber of the state Legislature, was the parade’s grand marshal. Republican candidate for governor Neel Kashkari was another of many other notable politicians expected to participate.san-diego-pride

“Oh my gosh, I could not be prouder to be walking in the parade,” parade attendee Valerie Lacaba said.  This year’s celebration was even more special than normal: It was titled “Reflections of Pride” since it was the city’s 40th year doing it.

The first San Diego Pride was 1974, a time that far preceded today’s much more accepting view of LGBT people. We still see discrimination today, of course, but back then things were fare worse for LGBTs. The first Pride consisted of four hundred men and women, who showed up at Balboa Park for a rally and a march. San Diego was a right-leaning California city back then, but the Hillcrest neighborhood had begun shifting into a more safe and accepting place within the city.

Today, Hillcrest remains one of the most prominent LGBT communities in Southern California, a place where LGBTs can feel loved and accepted for who they are. What was once a small on-day gathering is now a full weekend of joyous celebrations, bringing in tens of thousands of people in each year.

Speakers for this year’s event included Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, veteran activist Nicole Murray-Ramirez and San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria. “Orange is the New Black” star and transgender icon Laverne Cox also served as the keynote speaker.

An organization called the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry is looking to remove the traditional-marriage stance from the GOP platform at the Republican National Conference in Cleveland, in hopes of seeing party leaders drop their support of the same-sex marriage ban by summer 2016. If successful, it would be the first time the Republican National Convention and its party members would drop the backing of the same-sex marriage ban.

 

 

Republican gay-rights lobbyists believe that their party’s stance on the issue is well outside the majority of the nation at this time. Said Marc Solomon, a group member with Freedom to Marry and a former Republican Hill staff member, “The ground has never been more inviting and welcoming to someone changing their positions on the issue. Where the polling is on the issue, it shows that we have a real legitimate chance at victory in 2016.”

Having already met with state and county party officials in New Hampshire, the group is also planning a trip to South Carolina and Nevada in September, and hitting Iowa as early as August. Says Tyler Deaton, the group’s campaign manager, “The convention is in two years, and we’re exceptionally organized.”

Many conservatives believe that opposing equal rights for gay Americans will become politically flawed very shortly, and if the goal isn’t met by the convention in 2016, it will quickly become a political nightmare for the GOP.

“I would say in America’s suburbs this is quite often the No. 1 test for younger voters to see how tolerant you are,” said Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who supports gay marriage.

Says Ken Mehlman, political strategist and former campaign manager for George Bush in 2004, “rather than talking about gay marriage, strategists are guiding Republicans to talk about the freedom to marry, and they cast the question in familiar conservative terms about the government’s role in people’s private lives,” of the way that national political dialogue is becoming more inclusive of the rights of all people, including LGBTs.

Despite the influx of Republican support to drop the ban from the party’s agenda, not all conservatives are looking to give up the issue. The Family Research Council is working to undo the Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, and the council’s polling shows that 82% of Republicans favor the traditional marriage. Time will tell if the work of the Young Conservatives will pay off in time for the 2016 Republican National Convention.

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