June 30, 2011 at 2:30 pm EDT | by Staff reports
National News in Brief: July 1


Kristen Gillibrand

Kristen Gillibrand joined 12 other U.S. Senators in a new 'It Gets Better' video. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

13 senators release ‘It Gets Better’ video

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Udall (D-Col.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) unveiled a new “It Gets Better,” Wednesday, aimed at encouraging LGBT youth not to give up when facing bullying and depression.

The video also features Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

A study released last year by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network found 90 percent of LGBT students were harassed at school. The ‘It Gets Better Project,’ which has produced more than 10,000 encouraging videos for LGBT youth from everyone from the president to sports teams, seeks to ease those fears for youth.

“We’re proud so many elected officials are working to make it better for struggling LGBT youth and hope other leaders from both sides of the aisle will join them,” said Scott Zumwalt, a spokesperson for the It Gets Better Project.

Chicago Pride marred by violence

CHICAGO — Despite celebrating the beginning of Illinois’ civil unions law, vandalism prior to the Chicago Pride march cast a pall over the Midwest’s best-attended Pride parade, Sunday.

Tires were slashed on 51 floats gathered in a lot operated by Associated Attractions. Several of the entries were forced to abandon their floats completely.

“It was a reminder of why we are still marching in the streets with pride celebrating the LGBTQ community in remembrance of the beginning of the fight for our civil rights,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director of the Civil Rights Agenda whose float won “Best Organizational Float,” despite being damaged.

During the Lincoln Park neighborhood-based parade, tensions heightened by overcrowding led to several fights, which forced Chicago police to reroute parts of the contingent at the last minute. During the violence at least one parked car was damaged near the route.

“I think the violent act that started the Pride parade and the overcrowding set a negative tone for some bystanders,” said Lindsey Dietzler co-founder of the Video Action League. “Some organizations and businesses like GayCo and Berlin had their floats diverted and were devastated to be unable to participate in the parade after months of hard work.”

Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Front, said the vandalism was “clearly a hate crime,” and suggested that the violence during the Pride parade was due to overcrowding from Pride-goers running into fans arriving for a Cubs game blocks away from the path of the parade.

“With all the perks that professional sports teams get in our town, you’d think that the mayor and aldermen could jaw-bone the Cubs into scheduling away-games on Pride weekend,” Thayer said.

Group files suit in N.J. seeking marriage rights

TRENTON, N.J. — On Wednesday, Lambda Legal, Garden State Equality and seven same-sex couples announced Garden State Equality v. Dow, a new suit against New Jersey in an effort to correct what advocates call inequalities in the state’s institutions for recognizing same-sex couples.

In a joint statement, the groups announced the case “argues that the civil union law violates both the New Jersey Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment of the federal Constitution.”

In Lewis v. Harris October 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court struck down as unequal a domestic partnership registry law enacted in 2003, compelling the state legislature to offer the same rights to same-sex couples as opposite-sex married couples. However, in December, the lawmakers turned down the opportunity to become the second marriage equality state and opted instead for civil unions.

In 2009, outgoing Gov. John Corzine pushed to upgrade the unions to full marriage, but a bill failed to pass. Current Gov. Chris Christie is opposed to same-sex marriage.

In addition to naming workplace benefits, and medical visitation as primary reasons for upgrading civil unions to marriages, the statement concludes “exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage deprives them and their children of their dignity as a family and certainty in their legal rights and status to each other.”

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