News Briefs for December 2, 2015

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Leaders of Warming Earth Meet in Paris to Cut Emissions

(AP) Addressing the twin threats of global warming and extremist violence, the largest group of world leaders ever to stand together kicked off two weeks of high-stakes climate talks outside Paris on Monday, saying that by striking an ambitious deal to cut emissions they can show terrorists what countries can achieve when they are united.

The gathering of 151 heads of state and government comes at a somber time for France, two weeks after militants linked to the Islamic State group killed 130 people around Paris. Fears of more attacks have prompted extra-high security and a crackdown on environmental protests - and threaten to eclipse longer-term concerns about rising seas and increasingly extreme weather linked to man-made global warming.

"The challenge of an international meeting has never been so great because it's the future of the planet, the future of life," French President Francois Hollande said after a moment of silence for attack victims in France, Lebanon, Iraq, Tunisia and Mali.

"There are two big global challenges that we must face," he added, urging leaders to create a world free from both environmental destruction and extremist violence.

Many of the leaders paid their respects at sites linked to the attacks on their way to the conference. President Barack Obama, in a late-night visit, placed a single flower outside the concert hall where dozens were killed, and bowed his head in silence.

"We stand with Paris," said U.N. climate change agency chief Christina Figueres said at talks near Le Bourget airfield, just north of the city. "The city of light, now more than ever, is a beacon of hope for the world."

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people rallied around the world, calling on the leaders to make real progress at the talks. Violence erupted after one peaceful demonstration in Paris, and hundreds of people were arrested.

Philippine Court to Give Verdict in US Marine's Murder Case

(AP) A Philippine court plans to deliver its verdict in the emotion-charged case of a U.S. Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipino after discovering her gender when they checked into a hotel.

Officials plan heavy security for the ruling in the case involving U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton. Left-wing activists plan protests in Olongapo City, northwest of Manila, where Pemberton is accused of strangling to death Jennifer Laude after they met in a bar in October last year.

The killing sparked anger in the Philippines and reignited calls for an end to America's military presence at a time when the U.S. is reasserting its dominance in Asia, and Manila has turned to Washington for support amid a territorial dispute with China.

Gay Rights Activists March in New Delhi Parade

(AP) Hundreds of gay rights activists danced to drum beats and held colorful balloons as they marched in a parade in New Delhi on Sunday, celebrating what they call the diversity of gender and sexuality.

Organizers said that while the gay pride parade celebrated the gains India's LGBT community has made in recent years, they also wanted to highlight the continuing discrimination it faces.

The Delhi Queer Pride Committee also demanded the repeal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexual acts.

Over the past decade, homosexuals have gained a degree of acceptance in parts of deeply conservative India, especially in big cities. Many bars have gay nights, and some high-profile Bollywood films have dealt with gay issues.

Still, being gay is seen as shameful in most of the country, and many homosexuals remain closeted.

On Sunday, Harsh Aggarwal, who runs a digital marketing company in New Delhi, said that there has been progress, though it has come slowly. "But it's happening," he said.

"There are more people who are coming out without masks. Society also is respecting us. That's the progress," he said.

Activists had cheered in 2009 when the New Delhi High Court declared Section 377 of the Penal Code unconstitutional. But the judgment was overturned four years later when India's Supreme Court decided that amending or repealing Section 377 should be a matter left to Parliament, not the judiciary.

Vt. Activists Take Issue with Sanders' LGBT Support

(EDGE) In a recent New York Times article, gay rights activists from Vermont took issue with 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and his support for the LGBT community. They told the newspaper Sanders "was less than a leader, and not entirely present, on the issue." 

Sanders has called out presidential opposite Hillary Clinton for her track record on gay rights, pointing out he has been against the Defense of Marriage Act and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. But Vermont LGBT activist gave the NYT a different perspective on the independent senator, whom they said wasn't a leader when gay rights were an issue in the state.

The NYT reports when Sanders became the mayor of Burlington, Vt. in 1981, he approved a resolution in 1983, proclaiming June 25 to be Gay Pride Day, writing "In a free society we must all be committed to the mutual respect of each other's lifestyles." When Sanders rose to the state's House of Representatives in 1990, LGBT-related sentiments became rare. In 1996 he voted against DOMA but said his reasoning was based on state rights, not civil rights.

"We're not legislating values," Jane Sanders, the candidate's wife and then chief of staff, told The Associated Press at the time, according to the NYT. "We have to follow the Constitution."

When the Vermont Supreme Court approved of civil unions in 1999, Sanders supported the decision but did not mention same-sex marriage. A year later, Sanders said during a news conference that the ruling took attention away from the state's economic issues.

"There are a dozen other issues out there that are as important or more important as that issue." he said. 

In a recent interview with the NYT, Sanders said "without tooting my own horn," he opposed DOMA, which was signed by President Bill Clinton at the time. 

"I'm not evolving when it comes to gay rights. I was there!" he added.

Vermont was the first state to recognize civil unions.

Attorney Compares Kansas Sperm Donor's Plight, Gay Marriage

(AP)  A Kansas sperm donor's battle to avoid being declared the legal father of a same-sex couple's child has some similarities to the fight for gay marriage, the man's attorney argued in court filings.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families has sought to have William Marotta of Topeka declared the father of the child born to Jennifer Schreiner in 2009. The state wants Marotta to be responsible for thousands of dollars in public assistant the state provided, as well as future child support.

Marotta has said he contacted Schreiner and her then-partner after seeing an ad they placed on Craigslist seeking a sperm donor and signed a contract waiving his parental rights and responsibilities.

Kansas law requires a physician to be involved in the artificial insemination process, but that didn't happen in Marotta's case, The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1LGN6uI ) reported. In June, a Shawnee County district court judge said that meant he isn't entitled to the same protections given to other sperm donors.

Charles Baylor, who represents Marotta, argued in a filing earlier this month that state statute shouldn't discriminate against the lesbian couple by forcing the child to have a male parent.

"In October 2012, when this case was filed, it may have been legally justifiable to look only for a non-custodial male upon whom to pin an obligation of child support. That day has passed," Baylor writes in the filing.

The Kansas Parentage Act requires enlisting the help of a licensed physician during the artificial insemination process. That requirement went into effect in 1973.

Gay Marriage Is Legal But Not On Tribal Lands

(AP) Following the U.S. Supreme Court's historic decision this year that legalized gay marriages nationwide: American Indian reservations are not bound by the decision and many continue to forbid gay marriages and deny insurance and other benefits.

The reasons vary and to some extent depend on cultural recognition of gender identification and roles, and the influence of outside religions, legal experts say. Other issues like high unemployment, alcoholism and suicides on reservations also could be higher on the priority list, said Ann Tweedy, an associate professor at the Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, who has studied tribes' marriage laws.

Advocacy groups largely have stayed away from pushing tribes for change, recognizing that tribes have the inherent right to regulate domestic relations within their boundaries.

"Tribal sovereignty is very important to tribes," Tweedy said. "They don't want to just adopt what the U.S. does."

The Navajo Nation is one of a few of the country's 567 federally recognized tribes that have outright bans on gay marriage. Some tribes expressly allow it, while others tie marriage laws to those of states or have gender-neutral laws that typically create confusion for gay couples on whether they can marry.

The mish-mash occurs because tribes are sovereign lands where the U.S. Constitution does not apply.

Cleo Pablo said she's never felt unwelcome in the tribal community where she works as a probation officer but doesn't believe she should be treated differently under the law. Pablo follows in the footsteps of a handful of other tribal members in Oregon, Washington state and Michigan who lobbied their governments for marriage equality.

"As Native people in the community, we're taught to stand in the background, not create waves," she said. "I've done the opposite. People know who I am, who I was. I wouldn't rock the boat. It gets to the point if you don't say anything, nothing is going to change."

Wisc. School Cancels Reading of Book about Trans Kid after Threat from Hate Group

(AP) A southern Wisconsin elementary school cancelled a planned reading of a children's book about a transgender girl after a group threatened to sue.

The Mount Horeb Area School District released a statement Wednesday saying it will not proceed with its planned reading of the book "I am Jazz," the Capital Times reported (http://bit.ly/1TadnaG ). The district said it would give the Board of Education the opportunity to address a situation, for which the district has no current policy.

Last week, the principal of Mount Horeb Primary Center sent a letter to parents saying the book would be read and discussed because the school has a student who identifies as a girl but was born with male anatomy.

"We believe all students deserve respect and support regardless of their gender identity and expression, and the best way to foster that respect and support is through educating students about the issue of being transgender," the letter said.

The Florida-based Liberty Counsel group threatened to sue, saying it was contacted by concerned parents. In a letter to the school district, the group contended that reading the book would violate parental rights. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the Liberty Counsel as a hate group that advocates for "anti-LGBT discrimination, under the guise of religious liberty."

In its statement Wednesday, the district said as it seeks to address the needs of the individual student, it will be mindful of the needs of other students and families. It also said families whose children may be affected will be notified of future actions, and the goal is to protect all students from bullying so they can learn together in a safe environment.

The school district was closed Friday, and emails to the superintendent, elementary school principal and others were not immediately returned to The Associated Press.


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