May 27, 2010 at 4:17 pm EDT | by Staff reports
National news in brief

Iraq veteran to lead Log Cabin Republicans

Log Cabin Republicans has chosen a former diplomat and veteran to serve as the organization’s new executive director.

R. Clarke Cooper, who worked in the George W. Bush administration most recently as counselor and chief of staff at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, was announced Monday as the candidate Log Cabin’s board of directors selected to lead the partisan group.

Cooper said he will emphasize “the principles of limited government, individual liberty, individual responsibility, free markets and a strong national defense” as he pursues “equal treatment under the law for gay and lesbian Americans.”

Log Cabin Board Chair Terry Hamilton said Cooper’s “16 years of public policy and political experience has uniquely prepared him to lead Log Cabin” and would help “ensure our role as a key player in strengthening an inclusive Republican Party.”

“As Congress is debating the failed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, we could not have a better advocate in ensuring that this policy gets overturned,” Hamilton said.

Cooper served in Iraq in 2004 as an Army reserve officer on active duty, earning the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award and other decorations. He later worked as legislative affairs adviser for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and senior legislative adviser for a division within the Office of Iraq Affairs.

Franken introduces bill to aid LGBT students

U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has introduced a bill aimed at protecting LGBT students throughout the country from discrimination in schools.

Introduced on May 20, the Student Non-Discrimination Act would bar schools from discriminating against LGBT students or ignoring harassing behavior that targets them. Potential penalties could include a loss of federal funding or a legal cause of action for victims.

Franken told the Blade in a statement that the legislation is necessary because “kids need to feel safe in their schools in order to learn.”

“Our nation’s civil rights laws protect our children from bullying due to race, sex, religion, disability and national origin,” Franken said. “My proposal corrects a glaring injustice and extends these protections to our gay and lesbian students who need them just as badly.”

Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, praised Franken for introducing the bill and said the legislation is needed to ensure LGBT students “can learn without the fear of being discriminated against simply for who they are.”

In the House, gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) is sponsor of companion legislation. Supporters of the measure have said they’re considering including the bill as part of upcoming Elementary & Secondary Education Act authorization legislation in Congress.

Gutierrez wants UAFA in immigration reform

An influential, pro-immigrant U.S. House member has endorsed including language to benefit LGBT bi-national couples as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

In a statement May 20, Rep. Luiz Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said inclusion of language allowing LGBT Americans to sponsor foreign partners for residency in the United States is an important part of a broader reform bill.

“Our efforts to fix our broken immigration system and protect basic civil rights are not truly comprehensive if we exclude same-sex couples,” he said.

Standalone legislation that would enable an estimated 36,000 bi-national same-sex couples to stay together in the United States is known as the Uniting American Families Act. Proponents of the bill have sought its inclusion in UAFA as part of upcoming comprehensive immigration reform legislation in Congress.

Late last year, Gutierrez introduced a version of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that was seen as an alternative to the working bill. However, even though Gutierrez is a co-sponsor of UAFA, his bill didn’t include UAFA-like language.

According to the statement from Gutierrez’ office, the lawmaker’s recent announcement means he’s “recommitting himself” to inclusion of specific UAFA-like language as part of comprehensive reform.

Steve Ralls, a spokesperson for Immigration Equality, called Gutierrez a “key ally” because of “his leadership on immigration issues, his membership in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.”

“He’s someone who carries a huge amount of influence and credibility on immigration reform generally,” Ralls said.

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