University Of Tennessee Denies Domestic Partner Benefits |
Administrators at the University of Tennessee announced to faculty this week that they could not support any benefits for the unmarried same-sex partners of employees. The benefits sought included education credits, leave to care for partners and their children, and family health insurance coverage. Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Agriculture Chancellor Larry Arrington claimed that such benefits would be “inconsistent with the public policy of our state outlined in constitutional and statutory provisions.” Tennessee’s marriage inequality amendment, passed in 2006, places limits on which couples can be recognized as married, but places no explicit limits on other partnerships.
A conservative religious group is sending its members a ‘survey’ that compares President Obama’s policies to those of Nazi Germany, and asserts that the President has “communist beliefs.”
The mailer, a product of the Faith and Freedom coalition, is titled the “Voter Registration Confirmation Survey.” But its questions have little to do with registering to vote. Rather, the survey asks a host of leading inquries into how its members view the President’s record.
The options prompt the most extreme answers — with very few moderate or supportive possibilities:
As Mother Jones, who obtained the survey, points out, the Faith and Freedom coalition and particularly its head Ralph Reed are leading the effort to turn out Evangelical voters for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. The group plans to spend over $10 million for this purpose.
Romney has praised Reed for his turnout efforts, saying, “Ralph Reed is doing a great job here with the Faith & Freedom Coalition. This is going to make a big impact across America and I appreciate the work you are doing here.” The Presidential candidate even gave Reed the ultimate honor of sharing a hotel with him during the convention.
In a television ad which began airing on Friday, a mother shares the story of her daughter’s struggle to care for her dying same-sex partner, saying that after her daughter’s domestic partner suffered a seizure, hospital staff refused to telephone her daughter because they were not married. There is only one problem: that is not an accurate depiction of the law, says Preserve Marriage Washington, the statewide grassroots coalition committed to protecting the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. [...]
Calling this a “pants on fire” misrepresentation, Preserve Marriage Washington Communications Director Chip White said, “This claim is a bold-faced lie.”
The anti-equality group makes the case that Washington’s “everything but marriage” law, approved in 2009, created hospital visitation protections for domestic partners, but that doesn’t mean the protections are guaranteed in each situation. What the law says and how a hospital reacts in an emergency will not necessarily be the same, because domestic partnerships are simply not recognized with the same familiarity and respect as marriages.
After New Jersey adopted civil unions, a commission found that those unions were not treated with the same respect as marriages, despite their supposed equality under the law:
Even if, given enough time, civil unions are understood to provide rights and responsibilities equivalent to those provided in marriage, they send a message to the public: same-sex couples are not equal to opposite-sex married couples in the eyes of the law, that they are “not good enough” to warrant true equality.
By attempting to rebut those seeking the approval of marriage equality through Referendum 74, conservatives have helped to illuminate that “separate but equal” can never truly be equal. Watch the ad:
As part of its effort to extend marriage equality to gay and lesbian couples, the government of France is proposing changing all of its legal language to say “parents” instead of “mother and father.” But this slight change of language has fueled conservative religious panic, with Catholic bishops and news outlets alike calling it a “ban” on the words “mother” and “father.”
The Catholic church, a strong institution in France, has used the proposed change in language as an opportunity to espouse its opposition to France’s marriage equality efforts, with even the Pope deeming it a threat on straight couples and two-parent families:
The head of the French Catholic Church Cardinal Philippe Barbarin warned followers last week that gay marriage could lead to legalised incest and polygamy in society. He told the Christian’s RFC radio station: “Gay marriage would herald a complete breakdown in society. This could have innumerable consequences. Afterward they will want to create couples with three or four members. And after that, perhaps one day the taboo of incest will fall.” [...]
And Pope Benedict XVI invited 30 French bishops to Italy to urge them to fight against the new law. He told them: “We have there a true challenge to take on. The family that is the foundation of social life is threatened in many places, following a concept of human nature that has proven defective.”
The move by the French government is not a ban, but a simple effort to promote inclusiveness. It signifies a step toward greater legal protection for gay and lesbian couples — part of French President François Hollande’s broader effort to fight for LGBT equality in his country. The blanket language change is meant to prevent confusion at lower levels of government, so that all government documents are consistent should the marriage equality law take effect, and so that all gay and lesbian couples can expect equal protection throughout the French legal system.
Less than halfway through his first term as Ohio State Treasurer, Josh Mandel (R) is his party’s nominee against incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). Unlike Brown, a strong supporter of LGBT equality, Mandel has a consistent record of opposing the LGBT community.
Over his four years as a state representative, two years as State Treasurer, and this Senate campaign:
1. Mandel has opposed marriage equality for same-sex couples. Mandel told a Tea Party rally in July that he would “protect the sanctity of marriage,” adding that “this is a fight that I will never, ever back down.” In May, he told the conservative Human Events that “Ohioans demonstrated in ’04 their support for traditional marriage when they overwhelming voted for an amendment saying just this. That’s my position, and it is an issue in this [Senate] race.”
2. Mandel thinks it should be legal to fire someone just for being gay. In 2009, as a state representative, Mandel voted against Ohio HB 176, the state’s proposed Equal Housing and Employment Act. That law would have made it illegal to discriminate against LGBT Ohioans in hiring, firing, and housing decisions based purely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Ironically, a Mandel spokesman claimed in 2011 that “Josh has always opposed discrimination against any American citizen.”
3. Mandel abandoned his earlier support for domestic partnership benefits. In 2000, as undergraduate student government president at The Ohio State University, he supported a plan to let qualified students buy student health insurance for their domestic partners. At the time, he told the campus newspaper, “The undergraduate student government representatives have been and will continue to advocate for domestic-partner benefits in public and private settings. Students want it, students deserve it, and the university has a responsibility to provide it.” Eleven years later, his spokesman told Politifact Ohio that Mandel now “feels he was wrong in college about domestic partner benefits and feels strongly that they should never be funded with taxpayer dollars.”
Watch Mandel speaking at the anti-LGBT CPAC convention:
In just a few years in politics, Mandel has already made it clear he will oppose equality at every chance. His election to the U.S. Senate would be a huge threat to LGBT people and families.
A new brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that President Obama’s health care reform represents a significant step forward for Americans with HIV, helping to expand health insurance to many HIV-positive individuals who would be “otherwise unable to access affordable and stable health care coverage.” Representing hugely important tactics to continue addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic, several of Obamacare’s provisions will have a directly positive impact on the estimated 1.1 million Americans who live with the HIV virus:
Obamacare will prevent insurance companies from denying HIV-positive Americans coverage simply based on their HIV status. The health care reform law prohibits insurance companies from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions, including HIV. Before Obamacare, Americans living with HIV often struggled to find insurance companies willing to take them on — according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, just 13 percent of HIV-positive individuals were covered under private insurance in 2010.
Obamacare’s expansion of the Medicaid program helps low-income Americans with HIV who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for coverage. Over 40 percent of HIV-positive Americans accessed their health insurance through the Medicaid program in 2010, and expanding Medicaid even further will extend additional coverage to this community. Furthermore, under Obamacare, HIV-positive individuals do not have to have to be diagnosed with AIDS as a precursor to qualifying for Medicaid coverage. Although this was an old eligibility requirement for the program, the health reform law ensures the states that accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion will not have to impose this restriction on Americans living with the HIV virus.
HIV-positive Americans will no longer reach limits on the amount of treatment their insurance companies are willing to cover. Obamacare eliminates lifetime coverage caps and phases out annual limits, which will help all Americans with chronic conditions — including the Americans who rely on treatment for HIV infections — continue to be able to afford the care they need without reaching an arbitrary cut-off set by their insurance companies.
HIV testing will likely be covered under Obamacare. This year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is expected to recommend routine HIV screenings as a part of regular preventative care, similar to a routine blood pressure test. Since the health reform law requires insurers to cover the preventive services recommended by the Preventative Services Task Force, a new standard for HIV testing could ensure that it becomes a standard part of annual check-ups. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 20 percent of the total population of Americans who are infected with HIV don’t know they have the virus, so regular tests that don’t incur an out-of-pocket expense could help encourage more Americans to learn their status.
Since Obamacare helps close the prescription drug coverage gap for Medicare beneficiaries, HIV-positive individuals will be more likely to afford their drug treatments for the virus. By closing the “donut hole,” or the gap in coverage for expensive prescription drugs under the Medicare program, Obamacare will help ensure that older Americans living with HIV aren’t unable to afford any of the 26 antiretroviral drug treatments that can be used to combat HIV infections. Twelve percent of Americans with HIV relied on Medicare for their health coverage in 2010, and that number may rise significantly as the population of HIV-positive Americans continues to age.
Obamacare increases resources for HIV research and prevention. The health care reform law allocates $10 billion over ten years for a new fund that focuses on prevention, wellness, and public health activities. In 2010, $30 million from that fund was awarded to the Centers for Disease Control for HIV prevention activities, including new investments in HIV surveillance and testing among high-risk populations.
Paul Ryan reiterated his opposition to marriage equality, during a town hall in Cincinnati, Ohio on Tuesday. “The things you talk about like traditional marriage and family and entrepreneurship. These aren’t values that are indicative to any one person or creed or color. These are American values, these are universal human values,” he said in response to a question from the audience.
A same-sex penguin couple raising a chick together in a German zoo.
“Heteronormativity” or “heterosexism” are more articulate ways of understanding the concept traditionally referred to as “homophobia.” They refer to attitudes that may not be overtly anti-gay, but which continue to oppress gay people by reinforcing hetero-supremacy, a notion that heterosexuality is superior and preferable to any other sexual orientation. According to Focus on the Family’s resident ex-gay, Jeff Johnston, such attitudes are just a part of nature and a reminder that homosexuality is the equivalent of “sexual brokenness“:
Even in our sexual brokenness, we see glimmers of God’s design. One of those glimmers is that though humans have the capacity for all kinds of sexual behaviors, and despite sin, the world is largely heteronormative – and not arbitrarily so. Most cultures recognize the truth displayed in our bodies, that humanity is divided into two sexes, male and female. And almost all have some form of marriage – mainly to keep children with the husband and wife who procreated them.[...]
Same-sex lusts, fantasies and sexual activity violate God’s male-female design in a unique way. Instead of normalizing brokenness, calling homosexuality “good,” and identifying people by their sexual attractions, those who follow Jesus are called to bring redemption, grace and transformation.
This is a selective viewing of nature that ignores the reality of sexual diversity. Qualifying one sexual orientation as superior or as the only “good” orientation is the true distortion of “God’s design.”
Bob Vander Plaats, Rick Santorum, and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) are touring Iowa to campaign against the retention of Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins in retaliation for his participation in a 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. The Iowa State Bar Association is following close behind to rebut their politicizing effort. And as the bus tour continues, the state’s newspapers are railing against the effort. This weekend, the Sioux City Journal addressed the implications for judicial integrity:
Regardless of their views about gay marriage, Iowans should understand: The independent foundation on which a strong court system is based is at risk of being weakened in our state. The kinds of organized campaigns we have witnessed in 2010 and again this year to drive out judges as political retaliation for a ruling establishes an unsettling precedent for a future in which the infusion of political ideology routinely will force Iowa judges to raise money and wage political campaigns to stay on the bench. [...]
According to Vander Plaats, he’s working to restore integrity to our court system. In our view, he’s doing the opposite – sucking integrity out of it.
Rekha Basu, columnist for the Des Moines Register, similarly said last week that “this campaign is nothing more than blackmail”:
Three honorable justices have already lost retention elections over this. Now a fourth could. That’s outrageous. But the damage goes beyond the individuals involved. If this campaign succeeds, it could subvert Iowa’s system of blind and impartial justice and force judges to wage costly campaigns to keep their seats when they issue unpopular rulings.
If justices must calculate the political fallout each time they rule in a controversial case, we could see rulings that are not based on justice, but on preserving careers.
Indeed, marriage equality was the unanimous ruling of the entire state Supreme Court, not partisan judicial activism. The freedom to marry is guaranteed by Iowa’s constitution, and anyone who respects that document should also uphold an independent judiciary, not a politicized one.
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- According to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), the Maryland marriage equality needs to raise another $2 million before the November 6 referendum.