U.S. Senate Passes Amendment to Confront LGBT Human Rights Abuses

The United States Senate today passed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for 2010, including an amendment that will significantly increase the involvement of U.S. embassies in monitoring and intervening in acts of anti-LGBT violence and discrimination. Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill played a major role in influencing the creation and implementation of this amendment.

An amendment that successfully passed as part of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s State Department authorization bill would increase U.S. monitoring of international violence and other discrimination relating to sexual orientation or gender identity.

With some Republican support, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, April 27, accepted the amendment, sponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), on a roll call vote of 12-7. Later in the committee’s session on Tuesday, the entire Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2010-11 was passed on a voice vote. [Read more...]

Apparently the Government Doesn’t Proofread in Texas

banning strait marriageSome like to call it an amendment goof. I prefer to call it irony at its best. Thanks to the investigative work of Democratic attorney general candidate Barbara Ann Radnofsky, we can all see exactly how a constitutional disenfranchisement of gay and lesbian couples can backfire. The irony is just far too delicious to resist. According to David Montgomery,

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general, says that a 22-word clause in a 2005 constitutional amendment designed to ban gay marriages erroneously endangers the legal status of all marriages in the state.

The amendment, approved by the Legislature and overwhelmingly ratified by voters, declares that “marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.” But the troublemaking phrase, as Radnofsky sees it, is Subsection B, which declares:

“This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”

Architects of the amendment included the clause to ban same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships. But Radnofsky, who was a member of the powerhouse Vinson & Elkins law firm in Houston for 27 years until retiring in 2006, says the wording of Subsection B effectively “eliminates marriage in Texas,” including common-law marriages.

[Read more...]

Abortion is a Red Herring in the Health Care Debate

uscapitol1Yesterday the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee voted 13-10 for health care reform. The vote was predictably split along party lines, and Republicans voted unanimously against the health care reform package, even though Republicans had offered over 100 amendments to the bill. I’m sure each of the Republican members of the HELP committee will have several reasons for voting against the health care reform bill. But one thing is absolutely clear – GOP members were never going to vote for health care reform. Their efforts to pin this on abortion are just a red herring, an easy excuse for rejecting health care coverage for all Americans.

Today the House will begin amending and debating their version of the health care bill. GOP members are also unlikely to vote for it in the House. So don’t be fooled by the smoke and mirrors. Each time the Republicans bring up abortion, they’re simply trying to split the Democratic vote – the Republicans were never going to support health care reform, with or without abortion coverage.

Senate Pushes Forward a Permanent Ban on the Global Gag Rule

Seems like common sense to me. Then again, the Bush Administration global gag picdidn’t have a whole lot of common sense, particularly when it came to women’s reproductive health. With that being said, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the foreign aid appropriations bill two days ago, seeking to ban the Global Gag Rule, permanently.

As many of you know, the Global Gag was an extremely restrictive policy that prevented international non government organizations from receiving federal funding if they provided abortion services for women. It was an incredibly destructive policy as it not only eliminated our ability to help women access reproductive health services, but it also prevented funding for any sex-education measures that were designed to decrease the rate of abortions to begin with. Fortunately enough, President Obama rescinded this policy in January as one of his very first executive orders.

Although Obama’s decision was certainly a victory for women worldwide, the Senate had to consider the possibility that the next administration to step into the white house, 4 or 8 years from now, may have a different set of ethical values when it comes to women’s rights, internationally. It took very little time and effort for the Bush Administration to sign away women’s access to reproductive health care, and it was absolutely necessary that the Senate protect their rights from being eliminated in the future. [Read more...]