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Election results bolster state marriage fights

Rhode Island, other states expected to debate issue in 2013



Barack Obama, Election 2012, gay news, Washington Blade
Barack Obama, Election 2012, gay news, Washington Blade

Polls show President Obama’s same-sex marriage support did not hurt him among voters. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Same-sex marriage advocates contend the Nov. 6 election results have given them additional momentum to fight for nuptials for gays and lesbians in their respective states.

Ray Sullivan, campaign manager of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, the group fighting for marriage rights for same-sex couples there, noted to the Washington Blade in a post-Election Day interview the General Assembly will have “more pro-equality legislators seated than ever in history” in 2013.

Gay House Speaker Gordon Fox, who sparked controversy in 2011 when he endorsed a civil unions bill because of a lack of support in his chamber for a marriage measure, has pledged to call a vote on a proposal that would allow nuptials for gays and lesbians in the state before the end of January. The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union noted in May only 52 couples had obtained civil union licenses since the state’s civil union took effect in July 2011.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed an executive order earlier this year mandating state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in neighboring Massachusetts, Connecticut and other states. He has also publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples, even though he reluctantly signed the controversial 2011 civil unions bill into law.

“There is this sense that finally in Rhode Island it’s not a matter of if, but when,” said Sullivan, who noted MERI and other advocates could focus on building additional support for the same-sex marriage bill in the state Senate if it passes in the House. “The results from last Tuesday both here and throughout the country represent quite frankly ground-shifting momentum for the pro-equality effort. Our focus and our jobs will be to capitalize on that momentum, reaffirm the support we already have, work with this record [majority and] finally make 2013 the year that we get this done.”

Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington on Election Day approved referenda that either extended nuptials to gays and lesbians or upheld their state’s same-sex marriage laws. Minnesotans also rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, who supports nuptials for gays and lesbians, is among those who spoke out against Amendment 1.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who signed his state’s civil unions bill into law in May 2011, raised eyebrows in August when he suggested to the Huffington Post state lawmakers could debate a same-sex marriage bill as early as next year.

Garden State Equality Chair Steven Goldstein expressed confidence in a post-Election Day statement New Jersey’s Democratic-controlled state legislature will override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of the same-sex marriage bill lawmakers approved earlier this year. The state does not have a referendum or initiative process, but Goldstein stressed his group remains opposed to the idea of allowing voters to consider marriage rights for gays and lesbians at the ballot.

“The majority should never vote on the civil rights of a minority, period,” he said.

Same-sex marriage advocates in other states are poised to implement a different strategy.

Basic Rights Oregon has launched an online campaign designed to bolster support for a 2014 ballot measure that would overturn the state’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Oregon would become the first state in the country to overturn such a ban if voters support the referendum.

“As more and more Americans are having conversations with gay and lesbian friends and family about why marriage matters, they’re coming to realize that this is not a political issue: This is about love, commitment and family,” reads the appeal. “We know that we are on the right path. Our outreach, just like that of the states who [have won] the freedom to marry is winning hearts and minds.”

Rick Sutton, executive director of Equality Indiana Action, which opposes a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban marriage for same-sex couples that is expected to go before voters in 2014, told the Blade his group has already looked to the campaign that defeated Minnesota’s Amendment 1 for guidance.

“It’s pretty clear to me to win an amendment like that — there’s was very similar to what ours will likely be — you have to have a pretty broad coalition of businesses, faith community, labor, retired folks, the whole gamut,” said Sutton. He noted WellPoint, the Simon Property Group and other Indiana-based corporations have already spoken out against the proposed amendment. “It will be difficult to attract and retain top quality scientists and engineers, particularly younger ones, who just don’t think this is something government should be getting involved with. They’re concerned about their future workforce.”

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Nov. 14 indicates 51 percent of Americans support marriage rights for same-sex couples. A Gallup poll conducted shortly after President Obama publicly endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples noted 60 percent of respondents said his position on the issue would not influence whether they would support or oppose his re-election bid.

“What happened I think with this election is that it’s taken away the argument from our opponents that when legislators are forced to vote to affirm the right of same-sex couples to marriage equality, the popular sentiment is on the opposite side,” Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov told the Blade.

Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois on May 30 filed lawsuits against the Cook County Clerk’s office on behalf of 25 same-sex couples. Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez have both said they support the litigation, while Cook County Clerk David Orr and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are among those who support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

More than 4,800 same-sex couples have taken advantage of the state’s civil unions law since it took effect in July 2011, but Cherkasov said the election results confirm “there’s popular support for marriage equality.”

“Lawmakers should follow suit and actually grant marriage equality to gay and lesbian couples in loving, committed relationships,” he said. “We intend to carry that message to our lawmakers in Illinois.”

Sutton agreed as he discussed Obama’s evolution on the successful same-sex marriage referenda in Maine, Maryland and Washington on Election Day.

“National momentum is there,” he said. “The time has come for the other side to realize where they are. They won’t give up quietly. Their argument never changes. It’s always the same, and we’re ready for that. We’re absolutely ready.”

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Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott signs anti-Trans youth sports bill

“Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids & adults- the emails to the Governor to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law”



Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott (Blade file screenshot)

AUSTIN – Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Monday H.B. 25, an anti-Transgender youth sports bill banning Trans K-12 student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. 

H.B. 25 is the 9th statewide bill signed into law this year banning transgender youth from participating in school sports and the 10th in the country. This bill also comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

“We are devastated at the passage of this bill. Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids and adults, families and advocates, and the many emails and calls our community placed to the Governor’s office to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, said.

“Most immediately, our focus is our community and integrating concepts of healing justice to provide advocates who have already been harmed by this bill with spaces to refill their cup and unpack the acute trauma caused by these legislative sessions. Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who firmly believe that discrimination against trans and LGB+ people is wrong,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Texas state government was criticized for removing web pages with resources for LGBTQ youth, including information about The Trevor Project’s crisis services. The Trevor Project the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people.

“Transgender and nonbinary youth are already at higher risk for poor mental health and suicide because of bullying, discrimination, and rejection. This misguided legislation will only make matters worse,” Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

To every trans Texan who may be feeling hurt and attacked by this legislation and months of ugly political debate — please know that you are valid, and you are deserving of equal opportunity, dignity and respect. The Trevor Project is here for you 24/7 if you ever need support, and we will continue fighting alongside a broad coalition of advocates to challenge this law,” Paley said.


Additional resources:

Research consistently demonstrates that transgender and nonbinary youth face unique mental health challenges and an elevated risk for bullying and suicide risk compared to their peers.  

  • The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. 
  • A newly published research brief on “Bullying and Suicide Risk among LGBTQ Youth,” found that 61% of transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) students reported being bullied either in-person or electronically in the past year, compared to 45% of cisgender LGBQ students. TGNB students who were bullied in the past year reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not. And TGNB students who said their school was LGBTQ-affirming reported significantly lower rates of being bullied (55%) compared to those in schools that weren’t LGBTQ-affirming (65%).
  • A 2020 peer-reviewed study found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience discrimination based on their gender identity.
  • Trevor’s research has also found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (68%) had never participated in sports for a school or community league or club — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at, or by texting START to 678678.

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Ohio high school cancels play with Gay character after Pastor complains

The School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month until the play was canceled



Hillsboro High School (Screenshot via Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO-TV)

HILLSBORO, Oh. — A Southwest Ohio high school’s play was abruptly canceled after Jeff Lyle, a local pastor from Good News Gathering, complained of a gay character. 

Hillsboro High School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month, until students learned the play would be canceled last week, reports Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate WCPO

The story follows a high school senior as she learns about her late sister’s life. It is implied throughout the play that her sister is gay, according to the news station.

The play’s cancellation comes a week after Lyle, a long-time voice of the anti-LGBTQ+ religious-right in Ohio, and a group of parents confronted the production’s directors at a meeting, according to Cincinnati CBS affiliate Local 12. Lyle denies pressuring school officials, but tells WCPO he supports the decision.

“From a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain,” Lyle said. 

Some families say they believe Lyle did influence the school’s decision. 

“I think that’s wrong,” Jon Polstra, a father of one of the actors, told WCPO. “All they would have had to do if they objected to something in the play was not go to the play.”

In a statement to Local 12, Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the play was canceled because it “was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the school planned to perform a version intended for audiences as young as 11 years old. 

Students were “devastated” and “blindsided” by the news, according to WCPO. 

“It felt like we had just been told, ‘Screw off and your lives don’t matter,'” Christopher Cronan, a Hillsboro High student, said. “I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character.”

Cronan’s father, Ryan, also voiced his frustration. 

“They want to say the town is just not ready, but how are you not ready? It’s 2021,” Ryan Cronan said.

Students have started a GoFundMe in hopes of putting on the production at a community theater in 2022.

“If we do raise enough money, I am going to be genuinely happy for a very long time, because that means people do care,” Cronan told WCPO.

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VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights



(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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