Monday, November 09, 2009

U.S. House moves to extend health benefits to gay couples

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a health care reform bill Saturday that recognizes gay unions and makes health care more affordable for gay families.

Titled The Affordable Health Care for America Act, it extends Medicaid to subsidize moderate-income people who otherwise could not afford quality health insurance. Also tucked inside the bill is U.S. Representative Jim McDermott's (D-Washington) Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act of 2009 introduced in May.

The bill alters the tax status of health benefits granted to the spouses of gay employees (for states that have gay marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships). Under the bill, such benefits would no longer be considered taxable income for employees.

A report released in 2007 by M. V. Lee Badgett, research director at the Williams Institute, found that gay employees with partners pay, on average, $1,069 per year more in taxes than would a married employee with the same coverage.

"Collectively, unmarried couples lose $178 million per year to additional taxes," the report says. “U.S. employers also pay a total of $57 million per year in additional payroll taxes because of this unequal tax treatment."

Fifty-nine percent of Fortune 500 companies offer partner benefits, up from 40% in 2003, a 2009 Human Rights Campaign report says.

The legislation now moves to the Senate, where its future remains uncertain.

Kentucky's Mitch McConnell (R) a senior Senator and the U.S. Senate Minority Leader will like vote against it, or worse still, attempt to stop the bill in the U.S. Senate.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

House of Representatives Candidate Matthew Vanderpool talks about his campaign against conservative incumbent Stan Lee

Education is key to electing politicians. As an effort to educate everyone* about the importance of voting, not only in U.S. Presidential elections, but your elected lawmakers in Frankfort, United We Stand will be conducting interviews with conservative and progressive candidates so you know exactly who you are voting for will stand up for YOU. 

* Not only the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex population. 

Lawmakers in Frankfort determine funding, criminal codes, road and bridge projects, medical assistance, low-income assistance, parental rights, and thousands of other items.

To begin the series of interviews, Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer recommended that I begin with Mr. Matthew Vanderpool (D-Lexington), who is one of the candidates running against Representative Stan Lee (R-Lexington).

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Voters in the State of Maine repeal Marriage Equality - Washington's Referendum - 71 Update

With the defeat in the State of Maine, our interview with Mr. Vanderpool is being delayed until tomorrow.

Equality Maine has yet to issue any official press release, but the Associated Press has quoted several other organization, mainly the ones who repealed the law.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Finally, Rep. Stan Lee (R-Lexington), a nightmare to Kentucky's gay population, will be opposed!

Finally, one of the biggest nightmares to Kentucky's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community, Representative Stan Lee (R-Lexington) (pictured) has competition in the upcoming 2010 election.  Lee is not only a nightmare to the LGBTI community, but everyone who wants to move Kentucky forward and stands for equality, justice, and progress.   

The election is closer than you think considering the primary is in May 2010.  Representative Lee has run unopposed in the last several elections.  

Representative Lee has made a name for himself in the gay community for attempting to ban domestic-partner benefits at the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and all other Kentucky schools.  

Representative Lee, and one of his key allies, Representative Joseph Fischer (R) from Northern Kentucky have also tried to remove the ability of Kentucky cities to add people as a protected class.  Currently, Covington, Lexington, and Louisville have city ordinances which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Citizens in Maine and Washington will vote to repeal gay marriage or domestic partnership laws in defiance of their lawmakers and Governor

Citizens in two states decide whether or not to keep gay marriage, or institutions similar to them.  

In Maine voters will decide to override the Maine House of Representatives, Senate, and even the Governor to repeal their new "same-sex marriage law," or more appropriately chartered,  Maine's Marriage Equality Act.

In Washington citizens are also fighting the states expanded domestic partnership bill.  The expanded law adds benefits including the right to use sick leave to care for a domestic partner, and rights related to adoption, child custody and child support.

I am not sure I like the system of government in these two states; gay rights groups fought long and hard for these new laws, and after years of getting them passed in the legislature, signed into law by the sitting Governor, it could all be reversed!   

Religious groups in both states have spent millions and millions of dollars attempting to reverse these laws.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Kentucky Human Rights Commission 2009 Annual Report released

The Commonwealth News Center, the official media center for the Kentucky Government reports that the Kentucky Human Rights Commission annual report was released yesterday:

As has been the case for all of its 49 years, the commission received the most discrimination complaints based on the protected classes of race and color. One-hundred-twenty-five people listed race and color as the reason they were victimized by discriminators. This was still lower than last year’s 158 race and color complaints.

The commission received 322 new cases this year out of which the majority of 82 contained allegations of discrimination based on race and color in employment.

Employment was the number one area in all new cases, with 228 people alleging they suffered discrimination in the workplace. The commission also received 47 complaints in the area of Housing and 47 in the area of Public Accommodations.

Other than race and color, complainants alleged illegal discrimination based on the protected classes of religion, national origin, sex, age (over 40), disability, familial status, and tobacco-smoking status. The last mentioned class is unique to Kentucky, and only one person alleged discrimination in the workplace because of being a smoker.

Yap, that's right; you cannot be fired for being a smoker.... but you can be fired for your sexual orientation or gender identity. The wonderful people at the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights asked the Kentucky House and Senate to add sexual orientation and gender identity, but of course the Kentucky Senate will not allow anything remotely attached to the word "homosexual" pass into law. (see previous story about the Kentucky Senate)

Kentucky law:

A private employer may not refuse to hire, discharge, or discriminate against an individual because the individual is a smoker or nonsmoker, as long as the person complies with workplace policy concerning smoking. A private employer may not limit, segregate, or classify employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive an individual of employment opportunities because the individual is a smoker or nonsmoker, as long as the person complies with workplace policy concerning smoking. Additionally, a private employer may not require as a condition of employment that any employee or applicant for employment abstain from smoking or using tobacco products outside the course of employment, as long as the person complies with workplace policy concerning smoking.

Unbelievable. So I guess if I am fired for being gay, I'll just claim it was because I am smoker? But then, I would have to start smoking.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Obama has been busy, but will sign the symbolic Matthew Shepard Act

By: Tony Begley

I admit that along with the rest of the gay community, the contributors here at United We Stand have been tough on U.S. President Obama.

U.S. State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton has done more for LGBTI people since assuming office for the U.S. Department of State... all it takes is her signature and it becomes policy. (previous story# 1), and (previous story # 2)

But, Obama has been extremely busy:

According to the New York Post (source), and CBS’ Mark Knoller: "President Barack Obama has only been in office for just over nine months, but he’s already hit the links as much as President Bush did in over two years. On October 26, 2009 – "Obama ties Pres. Bush in the number of rounds of golf played in office: 24. It took Bush 2 yrs & 10 months.”

One cannot help but wonder if the super popular gay blogger, author, and real estate guru Andrew Sullivan's summary of Obama is correct. (previous story # 1), and (previous story # 2)

Let us not forget that the Obama administration decided to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) after being sued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, even as Obama has stated publicly he plans to seek repeal in Congress. (previous story)

President Obama is scheduled to sign Wednesday what is being described as the nation's first significant pro-gay rights legislation. Attached to the defense authorization act, the measure would add sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability to the list of protected classes under the 1969 federal hate-crimes law. But it isn't because he has lobbied for it.

Kentucky has a hate crimes law, and the U.S. Department of Justice has no jurisdiction unless state lines are crossed, and since all states and the U.S. Government (itself a state) are all sovereign, neither enforce the others laws.

The Washington Post reports:

A state can ask the U.S. Justice Department to step in if it lacks a hate-crimes law but feels such charges are warranted (18 states do not have a law addressing hate crimes based on sexual orientation).

The law doesn't outlaw bigotry or "thought crimes." It applies only to "violent acts motivated by" the characteristics of the victim -- acts, not thoughts or speech. But crimes that target someone because of race or sexual orientation are more than offenses against that individual. They can terrorize whole communities.

While this is an advance, more important legislation awaits: banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, ending the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, and allowing same-sex marriage. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) must make it a priority to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and the Defense of Marriage Act. President Obama has repeatedly said he'd sign those bills into law.

It's time for Congress to follow through.

It is a disgrace that it has taken Congress
11 years after University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was tortured and left to die on a fence post outside Laramie, Wyoming to act, even though this legislation is more symbolic than anything (unless state lines are crossed) it is still a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Equality in Kentucky is getting closer; the truth about the Kentucky Senate

Want to know why Kentucky doesn't have a statewide law banning discrimination against gay and lesbian people (the entire community, LGBTI) in employment, housing, credit, and accommodations? The answer is simple, Republicans in the Kentucky Senate always defeat the measure, most of the time without the legislation making it out of committee. (previous story)

However, equality and fairness may be closer than you think.

Long time anti-gay Senate President David Williams is slowly, but surely losing control of the Kentucky Senate. Why? Governor Steve Beshear keeps appointing them to executive positions within his cabinet, and under his control. One by one, Republicans are leaving the Kentucky Senate for higher paying jobs in the Executive Branch of Kentucky's Government, or the Judicial Branch.

Kentucky Democrats gained another chance Monday to increase their numbers in the GOP-led state Senate when Gov. Steve Beshear opened up a seat by appointing a longtime Republican senator to serve as a judge.

Beshear, a Democrat, appointed Sen. Dan Kelly to be circuit judge in Kentucky's 11th Judicial Circuit, which represents four counties southeast of Louisville. Republicans held a 20-17-1 lead - including one independent who tends to side with the GOP - in the state Senate before Kelly's departure.

"I made the decision based on his qualifications," Beshear said.

Senate President David Williams, a Burkesville Republican, had predicted that Beshear would appoint Kelly to the judicial vacancy. Williams said at the time Beshear was "poisoning" the state's political atmosphere by dangling jobs to lure Republicans out of the Senate.

Governor Beshear has helped Kentucky's LGBTI community, but he cannot do more (and neither can Senator Stein, Representative Tom Burch, and others until the Senate changes leadership). (previous story)

In Kentucky, you cannot be fired for being a smoker, but you can be fired for being THAT is cheating (what the Family Foundation of Kentucky called Kentucky Equality Federation’s coordination of the 2009 National Freedom to Marry Day in Kentucky). I'm sure the Family Foundation of Kentucky is biting their nails off since they are close to most Republicans in the Kentucky Senate, and almost always testify at Senate Committee hearings.

Look the the following statements below from your Kentucky elected lawmakers (source 1, source 2):
Homosexuality is aberrant behavior. - Senate President David Williams (R) (January 2008) (story, and argument with Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer)

It's OK to fire someone if they're gay. Historically, homosexuals haven't suffered. - Representative Joseph Fischer (R) (October 2006) (story 1, Kentucky Equality Federation leads protest against Statehouse Rep. Joe Fisher during election debate), and (story 2, Kentucky Equality Federation and Kentucky Fairness Alliance slam a Kentucky Representative)

The University of the Cumberlands stands for what is positive [by expelling a gay student]. - Senate President David Williams (R) (August 2006)

I don't want to entice any of those people [queers] into our state. Those are the wrong kind of people. – Senator Dick Roeding (R) (July 2006)

The Log Cabin Republican Club of Kentucky, a gay GOP group, "are nothing but a bunch of queers." - Senator Dick Roeding (R) (July 2006)

I wouldn't think that there would be a lot of support in the General Assembly for giving benefits to people that were involved in same-sex relationships. Doing so would be bad public policy. - Senate President David Williams (R) (July 2006)

I am committed to protecting traditional marriage. I proudly supported the Same-Sex Marriage Amendment proposal in Kentucky in 2004 and was pleased to see it pass with 74% of the vote. - U.S. Representative Geoff Davis (R) [part of Kentucky's Congressional delegation] (July 2006)

Since 2006, Kentucky Equality Federation, Kentucky Fairness Alliance, and the Louisville Fairness Campaign have trained people to lobby their elected officials in Frankfort for complete LGBTI equality; they have a rally in the Capitol Rotunda yearly in support of this.* (source)

Since pro-gay legislation always passes the Kentucky House of Representatives (the Democratic Party has a huge lead in the Kentucky House), will the same happen if Democrats re-take the Kentucky Senate?

Complete equality and fairness for our community could be closer than anyone thinks.

Support Kentucky's LGBTI organizations that lobby and fight for your rights!

* Special Note: The Lexington Chapter is Kentucky Fairness Alliance separated from the organization at some point in 2007 and is now called Lexington Fairness. Lexington Fairness also participated in the 2007 and 2009 lobbying and rallies.