December 4, 2009
Bill would allow gay troops to testify openly in Congress
Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL) [has] introduced legislation to allow gay members of the armed forces to testify openly at Congressional hearings. The bill, the “Honest and Open Testimony Act,” has 27 co-sponsors. If it becomes law, it will allow gay troops to testify openly without risk of discharge or other punishment. Because the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy requires the discharge of service members who acknowledge that they are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, the bill would serve as the first relaxation of the military ban in sixteen years.
Hearings on “don’t ask, don’t tell” that were promised by the end of this year have been postponed and are now expected in early 2010. The new bill would apply to those as well as any other hearings on the topic in the House or Senate. It is seen as a “carve-out” because it would carve out, and drop, a section of "don't ask, don't tell" for the purpose of giving Congress access to full information.
Several recent initiatives to soften or suspend “don’t ask, don’t tell,” including a moratorium proposed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) as well as a proposal by Congressman Hastings to de-fund the implementation of the ban, were blocked by Congressional leadership and the White House. The new bill is the latest in this trend, and is seen as consistent with comments by President Obama and his Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, that they are seeking “more humane” and flexible ways to apply “don’t ask, don’t tell” by relaxing its enforcement.
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In 2004, University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Tobias Wolff published an article in the Iowa Law Review in which he argued that gay troops’ inability to testify openly in Congress violates their First Amendment right to free speech. The Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee held hearings on “don’t ask, don’t tell” in July 2008 but no openly gay troops were included in the panel of witnesses who testified.
December 3, 2009
DOMA showdown?: the judiciary vs. the administration on health benefits for gay spouses
Our colleague Ruthann Robson from Conlawprof Blog highlights a possible looming showdown between the chief judge of the 9th Circuit U.S. court of appeals and the Obama administration over spousal health benefits for gay employees of the Court.
December 1, 2009
Rick Warren's ties to Uganda's proposed death-to-gays law
Rick Warren, whom Barack Obama chose to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, has never exactly been a favorite with gays due to his religious-political agitation against marriage equality. Now Warren turns out to have some unsavory connections to a Ugandan legislator who has authored a bill providing for prison or even death for various offenses related to homosexuality.
The Ugandan penal code already criminalizes sexual relations "against the order of nature," a characterization that is frequently used to prosecute gays. Under the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, homosexual relations are specifically targeted. Anyone in a position of authority who is aware of a gay or lesbian individual has 24 hours to inform police or face jail time. Individuals found to engage in efforts to sexually stimulate another for the purpose of homosexual relations, or found touching another for that purpose, will face life in prison.
Those who engage in "aggravated homosexuality" -- defined as repeated homosexual relations or sexual contact with others who are HIV/AIDS infected -- will face the death penalty.
Blogger Andrew Sullivan calls on Warren (who was the featured guest this past Sunday on Meet the Press) to "stop hiding his own enmeshment with the most virulent forms of fundamentalist hatred under the veil of media-savvy benevolence":
His schtick of actually being the nice evangelical -- a schtick that got him to Obama's inauguration -- is a lie. If he cannot condemn this fascist act of violence against a tiny minority of vulnerable human beings, then his position in this struggle is clear enough.
November 30, 2009
December Lesbian/Gay Law Notes now available
The December issue of Professor Art Leonard's indispensable Lesbian/Gay Law Notes is available here. In the lead story, Art analyzes the decision of the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, to unanimously reject two attempts by the Alliance Defense Fund, an antigay litigation group, to
obtain invalidation of actions by government officials authorizing recognition
of out-of-state same sex marriages.
November 29, 2009
Argentina's first gay marriage: what does it portend for the rest of Latin America?
The UK's Observer reports that when two men marry this Tuesday in Buenos Aires, supporters and opponents of gay marriage across Latin America will be watching closely:
Not surprisingly, the marriage is already being hailed by equality activists as a significant triumph against the odds in a traditionally macho society. Argentina – and Latin America in general – is not known for a tolerance of sexual diversity, and violence against gays is an everyday occurrence.
"This marriage is bigger than José María and I," [Alex] Freyre told the Observer. "It is a victory for all who face prejudice and discrimination across Latin America and the Caribbean. It is proof that at last the grip of the Catholic church is slipping across Latin America, the system that has kept gay communities silent and fearful is crumbling. What is happening on Tuesday is a strike against those attitudes that have repressed sexual rights across this continent for too long."