April 22, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
National news in brief

Pelosi expects House vote on ENDA ‘soon’

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week she thinks a floor vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will happen “soon” and the committee of jurisdiction is working hard to advance a strong bill.

Asked by DC Agenda during an April 15 press conference what’s preventing the bill from coming to the House floor as well as when she expects a vote, Pelosi said the House Education & Labor Committee is working hard to “have the strongest possible bill” and she believes a floor vote “will be soon.”

She added that she and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have agreed that ENDA will come to the floor as soon as the House Education & Labor Committee is ready to report out the legislation.

The legislation, sponsored by gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), would bar discrimination in the workplace for LGBT people. The bill is pending before the House Education & Labor Committee and has 199 co-sponsors.

LGBT advocates have been pushing Pelosi to bring ENDA to a House floor vote. Longtime activist Cleve Jones, in conjunction with the Courage Campaign and GetEqual.org, wrote an open letter to the speaker last month calling on her to bring the measure to a vote immediately.

Supporters of ENDA were also arrested in Pelosi’s offices in D.C. and San Francisco last month after they staged sit-in protests to draw more attention to the measure.

2 New Yorkers face trial in immigrant’s death

NEW YORK — Two New York City men face trial on charges of beating two Ecuadorean immigrants — one fatally — while yelling slurs.

The Associated Press reported that opening statements were expected Tuesday. Hakim Scott and Keith Phoenix are charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime in the death of Jose Sucuzhanay. They’re also charged with assaulting his brother, Romel Sucuzhanay.

Prosecutors say Scott and Phoenix hurled anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs during the 2008 attack in Brooklyn. The brothers had been walking arm-in-arm to keep warm.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty. Phoenix says he acted in self-defense.

Texas says gays can’t get divorced

DALLAS — After the joy of a wedding and the adoption of a baby came arguments that couldn’t be resolved, leading Angelique Naylor to file for divorce.

According to the Associated Press, that left her fighting both the woman she married in Massachusetts and the state of Texas, which says a union granted in a state where same-sex marriage is legal can’t be dissolved with a divorce in a state where it’s not.

The AP reported that a judge in Austin granted the divorce, but Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is appealing the decision. He also is appealing a divorce granted to a gay couple in Dallas, saying protecting the “traditional definition of marriage” means doing the same for divorce.

A state appeals court was scheduled to hear arguments in the Dallas case on Wednesday, after DC Agenda’s deadline.

The Dallas men, who declined to be interviewed for this story and are known only as J.B. and H.B. in court filings, had an amicable separation, with no disputes on separation of property and no children involved, said attorney Peter Schulte, who represents J.B. The couple, who married in 2006 in Massachusetts and separated two years later, simply want an official divorce, Schulte said.

The drawn-out process has been frustrating for Naylor, who says she didn’t file for divorce as an equal rights statement — she just wants to get on with her life.

“We didn’t ask for a marriage; we simply asked for the courtesy of divorce,” said Naylor, 39, of Austin, who married Sabina Daly in Massachusetts in 2004.

That year, Massachusetts became the first state to let same-sex couples tie the knot. Now, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia also allow them.

Gay and lesbian couples who turn to the courts when they break up are getting mixed results across the nation. A Pennsylvania judge last month refused to divorce two women who married in Massachusetts, while New York grants such divorces even though the state doesn’t allow same-sex marriage.

“The bottom line is that same-sex couples have families and their families have the same needs and problems, but often don’t have the same rights,” said Jennifer Pizer, a lawyer for Lambda Legal, a national legal organization that promotes equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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