February 16, 2012 at 10:04 pm EDT | by Phil Reese
National news in brief: Feb 17
Kirsten Gillibrand, gay news, gay politics dc

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand helped intervene in a deportation that would have broke up a New York family. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

N.Y. senators intervene in deportation case

NEW YORK — U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have joined Rep. Tim Bishop in an effort to drop deportation proceedings against the same-sex spouse of an American citizen, winning a temporary reprieve, according to LGBT group Immigration Equality.

South African national Tim Smulian is the primary caretaker for his American husband Edwin Blesch, who is HIV positive. The two have been together for 12 years and were married in South Africa in 2009. Their marriage is recognized as legal in the state of New York, but the Defense of Marriage Act bars the federal government from recognizing their marriage, a major problem for many legally married same-sex bi-national couples.

“Tearing families apart for no purpose is un-American and a waste of taxpayer resources. We are thrilled that, thanks to the help of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congressman Bishop, Tim and Edwin are secure for now,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality.

Kan. ‘religious objection’ bill raises concerns

TOPEKA — The Kansas Legislature is considering a bill that would allow anyone to claim a religious exemption from local sexual orientation non-discrimination ordinances or policies, which a Kansas LGBT group says would put universities and localities with such rules in danger of civil suits.

The home state of the Westboro Baptist Church may nullify fair hiring and non-discrimination rules at universities and school districts, according to the LGBT group Kansas Equality Coalition. The group also fears its efforts to pass such ordinances in other municipalities would be halted.

Last year, Tennessee passed a bill barring municipalities from creating local non-discrimination laws. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Colorado constitutional amendment barring municipalities from protecting LGBT residents in Romer v. Evans.

Vanderbilt removes anti-gay shirt from store

NASHVILLE — After pressure from LGBT advocates, including the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Vanderbilt University has removed a controversial shirt from its online store.

According to OutSports, the shirts were created by Vanderbilt fans in preparation for the upcoming University of Kentucky game, and read “UK2GAY.” The creators of the shirts had initially offered a disclaimer claiming the shirts were not “meant to be offensive.” However, the shirts were pulled from the online store anyway.

Idaho Senate kills non-discrimination bill

BOISE — For the second time in three years, the Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee has killed legislation to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s non-discrimination law, according to Twin Falls Times-News.

Though more than 300 hopeful citizens had come to watch the hearing, the committee overwhelmingly voted down the bill, killing its chances for this legislative session.

“I think it’s important to let them see, no matter how they vote, that there’s strong support for the legislation,” said Twin Falls activist James Tidmarsh.

Illinois begins push for same-sex marriage

SPRINGFIELD — Last week, gay Illinois Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) along with Reps. Deb Mell and Kelly Cassidy introduced legislation that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

“The opponents when we passed civil unions are the same opponents of full marriage equality now,” Harris told the Blade. “Their arguments are still the same apparently too: ‘polygamy and the fall of humanity as we know it.’ I think most Illinoisans look around them and see those arguments didn’t hold much water then and are still pretty weak today.”

Provisions in the bill would allow couples to easily convert civil unions into marriages, if passed.


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