News Briefs for July 15, 2015

News briefs this week...

Same-Sex Marriage Back in Court in Kentucky

(AP) A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments about a county clerk who is refusing to issue marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is one of a handful of local officials across the country who have refused to comply with the court's order. Davis and others say it violates their religious beliefs. The stance has prompted a debate about whether religious liberty extends to those officials, who are charged with carrying out state government functions.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Davis on behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples who were denied licenses.

U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning, son of former Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, is scheduled to hear arguments at noon Monday.

Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Raises Issues for Kansas, Missouri

(AP) Kansas and Missouri legislators face debates next year over religious objections proposals and expanding their state's anti-discrimination laws to protect gays and lesbians.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation raised both issues in both states.

The high court ruling immediately led social conservatives to warn that the religious liberties of gay marriage opponents at risk. Among those expressing concern was Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas.

Supporters of the ruling suggested just as quickly while gays and lesbians can marry, they aren't protected by law from losing their jobs or housing over their sexual orientation. They included Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri.

Both states had banned gay marriage. Neither's anti-discrimination laws cover bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

County Clerk in East Texas Resigns Over Gay Marriage Ruling

(AP) An East Texas county clerk has resigned rather than comply with the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Rusk County Clerk Joyce Lewis-Kugle submitted her resignation letter Thursday. County Judge Joel Hale, Rusk County's top administrator, said Lewis-Kugle wrote that she could not in good conscience issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

County commissioners are scheduled to vote on her resignation Monday. Hale said he expected it would be accepted.

District Attorney Michael Jimerson said Lewis-Kugle asked about her options and he told her "the Supreme Court is the law of the land." He said she had a choice of issuing the license or resigning in protest.

Lewis-Kugle has no published telephone number and couldn't be reached to comment on her resignation.

Oregon Creates First of Its Kind LGBT Veterans Liaison Position

(Human Rights Campaign) The Oregon legislature created the position of LGBT Veterans Coordinator within the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs. The new position will assist LGBTQ veterans and with applications for status of discharge upgrades that happened under 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'. 

 Senator Sara Gelser, who sponsored SB 946, celebrated its passage. 

“When our friends and neighbors step up to serve in the military, they give their all for our nation,” said Gelser. “In return, we must be sure to meet the needs of each of our veterans.  Unfortunately, decades upon decades of misinformed policies deprived gay, lesbian and bisexual veterans of their dignity and the services and benefits they earned in service to our nation, including in combat.”

There are an estimated 15,000 LGBT veterans in Oregon.  The coordinator will be available to serve each of them, regardless of their discharge status.

The bill passed the Senate on a 25-4 vote, and the House on a 38-21 vote. The bill now heads to Governor Kate Brown and becomes effective on the date of her signature.

Virginia School Board Defends Anti-Trans Bathroom Policy

(AP) A Virginia school board says its policy prohibiting a transgender student from using the boys' restrooms is not discriminatory and was not enacted to stigmatize or embarrass the teenager.

The Gloucester County School Board defended its policy this week in court papers arguing that a lawsuit filed by 16-year-old Gavin Grimm should be dismissed. A hearing is set for July 20 in U.S. District Court in Newport News on Grimm's motion for a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the policy.

In the lawsuit, he claims he used the boys' restrooms at Gloucester High School without incident until the board, responding to complaints from parents, adopted a policy in December stating that "students with gender identity issues" will be provided an alternate, private facility.

But the school board argued in Tuesday's brief that the only federal case similar to Grimm's supports the board's position. In that case, a judge ruled that the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown did not discriminate against a transgender student who was barred from men's facilities.

"The School Board has a responsibility to its students to ensure their privacy while engaging in personal bathroom functions," the board's attorney wrote. "This is particularly true in an environment where children are still developing, both emotionally and physically."

The board says it has established three single-stall, unisex restrooms that any student can use.

"Under this policy, Plaintiff is treated the same as his fellow students," the brief says.

The U.S. Justice Department has taken Grimm's side in the dispute. The department filed a statement of interest last week stating that transgender students must be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.


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