News Briefs for January 13, 2016

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Headlines from around the world.

Lambda Legal Mourns the Passing of Former New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye 

(LAMBDALegal)  Judith Kaye, the first woman to sit on and to serve as chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, passed away last Thursday. Kaye served as the chief judge for the state’s highest court from 1983 to 2008; during her tenure she was a strong and wise voice on LGBT issues.  

Susan Sommer, Lambda Legal’s Director of Constitutional Litigation, issued the following statement:

"We mourn the loss of Chief Judge Kaye, a powerful jurist who recognized the need of LGBT New Yorkers and many others for equality and dignity under the law. She was a prescient voice for where New York -- and the nation -- should have been on such issues as marriage equality and the rights of same-sex parents and their children, taking positions in cases like Hernandez v. Roblesthat presaged the U.S. Supreme Court's later rulings in constitutional landmarks. We honor her as a jurist and champion of human rights, and express our deepest condolences on her loss. 

"We are saddened at the passing of this judicial icon. During her over 25 years on the bench, she set a high standard for justice. Our thoughts and condolences are with her family and loved ones.  We have lost a great trailblazer, but we will honor her memory by continuing to work for equality."

Ohio Secretary of State Sued over Delay on Drug Pricing Ballot Initiative

(AHF) A lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court of Ohio (Case # 2016-20) late Wednesday afternoon against Ohio Secretary of State John Husted over, Husted’s, “... failure to fulfill his clear statutory obligation to certify and transmit a proposed initiative. 

The lawsuit came about in response to Secretary Husted’s unprecedented actions—or lack thereof—regarding The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act , a citizen driven ballot initiative that will revise Ohio law to require state programs pay the same or less for prescription medications as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. V.A. pricing is generally believed to be 20% to 24% lower than for almost any other government program. 

Backers of the initiative, who intend to have it appear on Ohio’s November 2016 presidential election ballot, submitted 116,015 voter signatures, far more than the 91,677 needed to qualify the initiative. As of late last week, local election officials Ohio’s 88 counties had certified their respective signatures, and backers were eagerly awaiting the formality of the Secretary’s official certification of signatures and his subsequent transmission of the proposed [initiative] language to Ohio’s General [Assembly] for its review and possible legislative action. 

The proposed initiative language should have been transmitted to the General Assembly Monday, January 4th, the opening day of the 2016 legislative session, for its consideration. However, in a move that served as catalyst for this lawsuit, Secretary Husted failed to transmit the initiative to the Assembly and instead returned the signature petitions to local election officials in all 88 counties, issuing a directive instructing them to, “... re-certify their findings to the Secretary of State’s Office no later than January 29, 2016.” 

Secretary of State Husted’s actions came after a formal complaint about the initiative’s signature gathering and certification process was filed December 30th by attorneys representing the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactuers of America (PhRMA), the drug industry’s powerful and deep-pocketed trade group. Since 1999, Bricker & Eckler LLC, PhRMA’s law firm, has regularly contributed to Secretary Husted’s various political campaigns.

New Army Website Will Assist LGBT Discharged Vets (updated headline)

(AVERUSA) The US Army has created a website to establish online assistance in applying for discharge upgrades. An upgrade of a discharge classification for a veteran could mean access to benefits that were previously denied by the veteran’s other than honorable status, including disability compensation, separation pay, and education benefits under the GI Bill.

The Army Review Boards Agency (ARBA) “reviews discharges of former soldiers, except those given by reason of a sentence of a General Court Martial or over 15 years since discharge. The purpose of the review is to determine if the discharge was granted in a proper manner, i.e. in accordance with regulatory procedures in effect at the time, and that it was equitable, i.e. giving consideration to current policy, mitigating facts, and the total record.”

According to the New York Times, “a 2011 Obama administration policy generally grants an honorable discharge to any veteran who was kicked out for homosexuality unless there were ‘aggravating’ factors, such as misconduct. Records from the Department of Defense show 80 percent of the nearly 500 requests submitted since 2011 received an upgrade.”

In 2014, Stars and Stripes quoted AVER spokesman Denny Meyer, saying “LGBT veterans who served and sacrificed in silence during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as those who served before and during ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ in the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, deserve to see their service recognized and honored at long last.”

You can visit the Army Discharge Review Board at: http://arba.army.pentagon.mil/adrb-overview.cfm

Mormon Leader: Policy against Gay Marriage was Word from God

(AP) A high-ranking Mormon leader says the church policy against same-sex marriage was a revelation from God.

Apostle Russell M. Nelson, head of the religion's governing body and next in line for the Mormon presidency, said in a worldwide speech Sunday that Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Thomas S. Monson received instructions regarding same-sex couples directly from God.

Nelson said that led the church to consider gay marriage a sin worthy of expulsion and forbid children of such couples from becoming members of the church. Those children can become Mormons once they are 18 if they renounce same-sex marriage.

Nelson, a 91-year-old apostle, described how church leaders arrived at the decisions during a live-streamed speech from the campus of church-owned Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

Ex-Sen. George Mitchell to Lead NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade

(EDGE) A former U.S. Senate majority leader who helped broker peace negotiations in Northern Ireland has been picked to lead New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade.

George Mitchell tells the New York Times on Monday (http://nyti.ms/1RhRrNm ) he agreed to serve as grand marshal after being assured gay and lesbian groups' issues "had been fully resolved."

Last year the parade ended its controversial ban on permitting such groups and a gay delegation from parade sponsor NBCUniversal participated.

A second group, The Lavender & Green Alliance, will participate this year on March 17.

Mayor Bill de Blasio (dih BLAH'-zee-oh) didn't march last year, saying including one group wasn't open enough.

Mitchell, an 82-year-old Democrat, led negotiations in Northern Ireland from 1995 to 2001 that eventually lead to the Good Friday Agreement.

Group Urges Gay Marriage Supporters to Attend Meetings

(AP) Members of the Tennessee Equality Project are urging those who support gay marriage to attend upcoming county commission meetings in East Tennessee.

Equality Project Director Chris Sanders told the Johnson City Press (bit.ly/1O7inMe) that the organization is trying to organize groups to present dissenting opinions at meetings in Carter County and Unicoi County. Officials in both places are expected to consider resolutions later this month that call for state lawmakers to recognize marriage as being between only one man and one woman.

Some other counties in East Tennessee have passed similar measures since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled over the summer that states had to recognize same-sex marriages.

Reno Jeweler's Commercial Features Same-Sex Couple

(AP) A Reno commercial depicting two women getting engaged has been playing on local TV stations and in movie theaters and drawing little backlash, according to the jeweler who sought the advertisement.

"If anything, it was a risk on me being a small business in Nevada," BVW owner Britten Wolf said. "I love our state but you don't know how that's going to hit people here. Being a small business, it takes a few people here and there and you could have some adverse effects."

Still, Wolf was afraid his company might get blacklisted from industry events. So far, a small number of complaints have been from women who saw the ad on TV, he told the Reno Gazette-Journal (http://on.rgj.com/1OaeGmQ ). The ad mostly airs during commercial breaks during broadcasts of Ellen DeGeneres' talk show.

The commercial shows a same-sex couple riding through Reno in a Mercedes-Benz. Then one woman proposes to another on the Crystal Peak Toll Bridge overlooking the Truckee River.

Jeromy Manke, president of a Reno group advocating for LGBT awareness in northern Nevada, said ads like that can help encourage acceptance.

The company is part of a growing trend of companies, including Target and IKEA, recognizing the purchasing power of the gay and lesbian community.

A National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce report released in June 2015 estimates the combined buying power of the LGBT population to be worth more than $880 billion. According to the Pew Research Center, 35 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage in 2001. Today, 55 percent support it.

Bill Aims to Replace Indiana's Religious Objections Law  

(AP) Indiana lawmakers will consider a proposal that would throw out the state's contentious religious objections law and replace it with a statute its sponsor says aims to protect six fundamental rights.

It is unclear how much support the bill might garner as legislators face a debate over a push to extend LGBT civil rights protections following last spring's uproar over whether the religious objections law would permit discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Under the new bill, state government and courts would give "the greatest deference" on six issues: the state constitutional rights to worship, religion, exercise of religion, speech, assembly and bear arms.

Bill sponsor Sen. Michael Young, a Republican from Indianapolis, said the religious objections law became too convoluted and should be replaced by recognizing the importance of multiple rights.

"We want those protected at the highest standard," Young said. "It protects our freedom."

Advocates of civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people maintain that Young's bill is aimed at derailing their push.

Peter Hanscom, of the business-backed pro-LGBT group Indiana Competes, said the proposal isn't a solution for concerns that the Legislature was legally permitting discrimination.

"Let's not address this by creating, potentially, another problem," Hanscom told WISH-TV.

Indiana University law professor Robert Katz, who testified against adoption of the religious objections law last year, questioned why the bill would enshrine only six of 37 sections of the state Constitution's Bill of Rights - including several religious rights - and leave out others, such as the right to equal privileges and immunities.

"It would effectively amend the Indiana Bill of Rights to create a two-tiered system of rights," Katz told The Indianapolis Star.

Trans Activist Michaela Mendelsohn Joins Board of Trevor Project

(EDGE) After competing in the Ms. Senior California Pageant and serving as a consultant to Jenji Kohan in the development of Laverne Cox's character on "Orange is the New Black," most people would be content to rest on their laurels. But not Michaeala Mendelsohn. This beauty dove right in to the important work of keeping our LGBT youth safe, becoming the first transgender board member of The Trevor Project. 

And it wasn't just for show; this Southern Californian parent of three grown children (plus a two-year-old son with her partner Carmel) recently accepted a position with Trevor, and is on three standing committees there: Finance, Programming and Board Development. She brings with her the experience gained as a businesswoman with over 40 years of entrepreneurial leadership experience, currently serving as the CEO of Pollo West Corp, one of the largest franchisees for El Pollo Loco restaurant in the Western Region of the United States.

Mendelsohn also part of their Southern Initiative, studying ways to introduce The Trevor Project's services in the South, where the cultural and religious divide is a major barrier. Mendelsohn also works with the California Trans Workplace Project, forming a coalition with several other organizations, to promote transgender employment opportunities.

Alabama County Resumes Issuing Gay-Marriage Licenses

Officials in Alabama's Mobile County say marriage license operations have resumed despite an order from state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore saying judges have a "ministerial duty" not to issue licenses to gay couples.

After Moore issued the order Wednesday, several probate judges suspended license operations for all couples and sought guidance.

Mobile County Probate Court Chief Clerk Joe McEarchern Jr. said the county's marriage license window reopened Friday morning "based on further review of what the law is."

Madison and Lawrence counties had also suspended marriage license operations, but resumed Thursday after getting advice from legal counsel.

Moore has denied that he is defying the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last June effectively legalizing gay marriage nationwide. He said he's simply trying to address confusion over conflicting orders between state and federal courts.

High Court Rejects Appeal over Same-Sex Parental Rights

(AP) The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from a woman who claims Florida's previous ban on same-sex marriage deprived her of the same parenting rights as married couples.

The justices on Monday let stand a lower court ruling that said Peggy Willis had no parental rights to a child conceived by her former partner.

Willis and Anne Marie Mobley were in an 11-year relationship, but never married. They agreed to raise a child together, and Mobley gave birth after being inseminated with donor semen purchased over the Internet.

The relationship ended when the child turned one. A Florida state court threw out Willis' claim to parental rights. Willis said the ruling violated her constitutional rights because the Supreme Court last year overturned state bans on same-sex marriage.

Bears of South Florida give back to the Community

(BOSFL) At the recent Bears of South Florida annual holiday dinner held in the Pride Center, over 100 BOSFL members and guests gathered to celebrate the holiday season and donate to other local LGBT nonprofit organizations.

This year the Bears of South Florida donated to four local groups, including, Island City Stage, the Pride Center at Equality Park, the Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida and the Food Pantry of Broward Country.

The Bears of South Florida also collected Teddy Bears, in collaboration with the Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida, for distribution to kids in the hospital thru the Broward County Pediatric Auxiliary.

Throughout the year, BOSFL holds fundraising events and donates the net proceeds to benefit local LGBT and ally organizations.

For more information, visit BOSFL.Org   or contact Harvey Shapiro, Director at 740.504.4050

Drawbridge Repairs to Shut Down Andrews Ave.

(HBMD) The Highway and Bridge Maintenance Division (HBMD) will be performing minor repairs on the S. Andrews Avenue Drawbridge over the New River, south of E Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.  Work is scheduled to begin Sunday, January 17, 2016 and will conclude on or before Thursday, January 21, 2016, barring any unforeseen conditions or weather delays.

The purpose of this project is to perform minor repairs to the bridge. Construction activities include repairs to the deck grating and the resistance barrier.

The affected area includes S. Andrews Avenue, in both directions, between E Las Olas Boulevard and SW 5th Street.  

Commuters notes:

-       S. Andrews Avenue will be closed to vehicular traffic between SW 5th Street and E Las Olas Boulevard during the working hours of 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday

-       Traffic will be detoured onto the SE 3rd Avenue via E Las Olas Boulevard and SE 7th Street

-       SW 4th/7th Avenue and US-1 should be considered as alternates to avoid delays


For more information, contact Project Manager Harry Diaz at 954-577-4631 or 954-931-9067 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You may also call the Highway and Bridge Maintenance Division at 954-357-6040.

A larger map of the work area can be found at http://www.broward.org/Streets/Pages/Default.aspx

Haverhill Protects LGBT Town Employees     

(PBCHRC) Following up on an LGBT-inclusive resolution supporting freedom from discrimination adopted last year by the Haverhill Town Council, the Town has updated its Equal Employment Opportunity and Anti-Harassment Policies to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression".

The 2015 resolution and this year's policy changes were requested by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, a local nonprofit organization which is dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.  The organization is responsible for the enactment of more than 100 gay rights laws and policies in Palm Beach County.

Haverhill, one of Palm Beach [County’s] smallest municipalities, has less than 2,000 residents.

"Haverhill is a great town with a diverse community," said Vice Mayor Lawrence Gordon. "The policy changes let our employees know that Haverhill has taken to ensure that all Town employees are treated equally.

"There are neither federal nor state laws which prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees and job applicants," said retired judge Rand Hoch, President and Founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. “Nor is there any likelihood that such laws will be enacted this year."

"Until the U.S. Congress or the Florida Legislature take action, local LGBT advocacy organizations such as Palm Beach County Human Rights Council must continue to work with county and municipal leaders to protect our community from discrimination," said Charlie Fredrickson, a 30 year town resident who urged the Town Council to make the policy changes.

 Vaccine Essential to Conclusively Ending HIV/AIDS

(EDGE) Adding a vaccine to the comprehensive HIV/AIDS response is essential to conclusively ending the epidemic, according to modeling research published today.

"These new analyses underscore the powerful potential of an AIDS vaccine to help save and improve the lives of millions in a cost-effective manner," said Mark Feinberg, President and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), which conducted the study in partnership with AVAC and Avenir Health. "It is clear that we must continue to expedite development of an effective HIV vaccine alongside the critical efforts to accelerate and sustain broad and equitable access to effective antiretroviral therapy and new approaches for pre-exposure prophylaxis."

Focusing on the low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that are home to the vast majority of the world's people living with HIV/AIDS, the study published in PLOS ONE shows that adding a vaccine could dramatically reduce new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths even if other treatment and prevention tools are extensively scaled up.

For example, the analysis shows that a 70-percent-efficacious AIDS vaccine with strong uptake could reduce new annual HIV infections in LMICs by 44 percent in its first 10 years and by 65 percent in 25 years, ultimately averting tens of millions of infections and saving millions of lives.

The study also demonstrates that an AIDS vaccine would be impactful and cost-effective across a wide range of product characteristics. Higher efficacy, longer-lasting protection, fewer doses, lower vaccine costs and a more effective rollout will increase both health impact and cost-effectiveness. The data also illustrate how a vaccine could significantly reduce treatment costs and potentially total HIV/AIDS response costs over time.

"Adding a vaccine to a comprehensive HIV/AIDS response will hasten the end of the global epidemic and ensure that it won't rebound," said AVAC Executive Director Mitchell Warren. "A safe, effective and affordable AIDS vaccine is an essential complement to the existing treatment and prevention options, and this study highlights why accelerated investments are needed for both implementation of what we have and the development of what we still need."

The new study builds on the UNAIDS Investment Framework Enhanced, which articulates how accelerated scale-up of existing HIV/AIDS interventions and the addition of new prevention options could significantly change the trajectory of the global epidemic. The new study adds extensive analysis on the impact of key characteristics of a vaccine (efficacy, duration of protection, number of doses) and of vaccination programs (how many people would be covered with how many visits, cost per regimen, etc.).

The study was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 120 countries worldwide.

Anglican Leader Hopes Meeting Can Avoid Homosexuality Split

(AP) Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said Monday he hoped this week's meeting of world Anglican leaders could avoid a split over homosexuality in the worldwide fellowship and lead to "finding ways to disagree well."

However, Welby said there's little he can do if some of the 38 leaders quit the meeting in Canterbury. Welby is the spiritual head of the 85-million-member Anglican Communion but, unlike a pope, he has no authority to force a compromise.

"Certainly I want reconciliation, but reconciliation doesn't always mean agreement - in fact it very seldom does. It means finding ways to disagree well and that's what we've got to do this week," Welby told the BBC. "There's nothing I can do if people decide that they want to leave the room. It won't split the communion."

The communion, a fellowship rooted in the Church of England, has been fracturing for decades over gay relationships and women's ordination, among other issues. The rifts blew wide open in 2003 when the Episcopal Church, the Anglican body in the United States, consecrated the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in New Hampshire. The most vocal outrage over Robinson's election came from Africa, home to some of the fastest-growing churches in the communion and the deepest opposition to gay relationships as a violation of Scripture.

Over a series of world meetings, leaders of the national churches, called primates, have debated whether they should remain one world fellowship given their differences. In 2009, Anglican national leaders in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and other church provinces helped create the Anglican Church in North America, as a conservative alternative to the U.S. Episcopal Church. Welby invited the leader of the conservative North American body to participate in the Canterbury assembly.

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, head of the Anglican Church of Uganda, said in a statement last week that he and many other conservative archbishops would walk out of the gathering "if godly order is not restored."

Meanwhile, more than 100 Anglican clergy and lay people sent a letter urging the primates to repent of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the church and "to be prophetic in your action and Christ-like in your love" toward gays at the Canterbury meeting. The top U.S. Episcopal legislative body voted last year to authorize gay marriages in their churches, and the Anglican Church of Canada is scheduled to vote on a similar authorization this July. Anglicans in Brazil, South Africa and some other countries have also expressed openness to accepting same-sex relationships.

A news conference has been scheduled for Friday at the end of the meeting, when church leaders are expected to issue a document explaining what they've decided.

Even if a walkout occurs in the middle of the summit, Welby said, "the church is a family and you remain a family even if you go your separate ways."


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