NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Signs LGBT Anti-Discrimination Order

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed an executive order that prohibits state entities from doing business with any company that promotes or tolerates discrimination.

Cuomo announced the order at Saturday’s Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Greater New York Gala, where he also promised New York would lead the nation on ending the AIDS epidemic and announced plans to introduce legislation this session that would put an end to the so-called gay panic defense.Cuomo

The Democrat said that his order was a direct response to President Donald Trump’s policies.

“The Trump administration gave the attorney general a license to discriminate by interpreting ‘religious liberty’ protections in the federal law. What that means is a business can refuse to serve LGBTQ individuals because it violates their religious beliefs. They did that. So, today I’m signing an executive order prohibiting New York state government from doing any business with any entity that discriminates against any New Yorker, period,” Cuomo said at Saturday’s event.

by Carlos Santascoy, ontopmag.com February 6, 2018

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Is America Growing Less Tolerant on L.G.B.T.Q. Rights?

When my sister came out, there was an accordion trio on hand to perform the music of Sly and the Family Stone.

Debutantes in white dresses and boys with matching cummberbunds and bowties drank from the waters of a gurgling champagne fountain. The entire affair, staged in my parents’ old house in Devon, Pa., was an anachronism, to be sure — but as wingdings go, it was tons of fun. It was 1975.

When I came out, in 2002, there wasn’t any party. There were tense meetings with the affirmative action/equal opportunity officer at my place of work; there was a carefully worded statement sent to my colleagues explaining exactly what “transgender” was; there was a series of conversations with my friends, and my mother, and the people whom I loved best, many of whom — in spite of their brave pledges to stand by me — ended those conversations in tears.

That was then.

People who “come out” at debutante parties have been off my radar for a long time now, although apparently they’re still going strong in some quarters. As for L.G.B.T.Q. people, “coming out” has gotten safer in fits and starts, not only in the wake of the Obergefell decision but also in other ways: L.G.B.T.Q. people are now visible in a way that was inconceivable half a generation ago. Most of the people that I thought I had lost after my 2002 unveiling have, miraculously, been returned to me, the intervening years having brought not only forgiveness but also understanding. Since my coming out, our family has thrived, and in the wake of that progress, I have believed that just as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. predicted, the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend toward justice.

Until now.

Last week, GLAAD — the media advocacy group for L.G.B.T.Q. people (of which I was a national co-chairwoman from 2013 to 2017) — released the results of its latest “Accelerating Acceptance” survey at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. While the biggest headlines from the forum focused on the fact that the president of the United States managed to get through an event on the world stage without shoving any prime ministers or calling anyone’s country an outhouse, the results of the poll, conducted by Harris, deserve attention as well. They are shocking.

For the first time since the poll began, support for L.G.B.T.Q. people has dropped, in all seven areas that the survey measured. They include “having an L.G.B.T. person at my place of worship” (24 percent of Americans are “very” or “somewhat” uncomfortable), seeing a same-sex couple holding hands (31 percent are uncomfortable) and “learning my child has an L.G.B.T. teacher at school” (37 percent are uncomfortable).

New York Times – by Jennifer Finney Boylan, January 29, 2018

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Australia Makes Same-Sex Marriage Legal

Australia’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly to legalize same-sex marriage on Thursday, overcoming years of conservative resistance to enact change that the public had made clear that it wanted.

The final approval in the House of Representatives, with just four votes against the bill, came three weeks after a national referendum showed strong public support for gay marriage. The Senate passed the legislation last week.Australia gay marriage

“This belongs to us all,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage who had previously failed to get it legalized, said on Thursday. “This is Australia: fair, diverse, loving and filled with respect. For every one of us this is a great day.”

After the vote, spectators in the public gallery began singing “I Am Australian,” a well-known anthem. Lawmakers stood and looked up at the gallery, some wiping tears from their eyes.

The new law expands on earlier legislation that provided equality to same-sex couples in areas like government benefits, employment and taxes, and it changes the definition of marriage from “the union of a man and a woman” to “the union of two people.” It automatically recognizes same-sex marriages from other countries.

Gay rights advocates praised the landmark vote even as they said it was long overdue. In a country where there had been 22 unsuccessful attempts in Parliament to legalize same-sex marriage since 2004, they said, the law should be seen as the triumph of a democracy learning to live up to its values.

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A Historic Tax Heist

With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost.

The approval of this historic tax heist, a looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy, makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days.

The bill is expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, a debt that will be paid by the poor and middle class in future tax increases and spending cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Its modest tax cuts for the middle class disappear after eight years. And up to 13 million people stand to lose their health insurance because the bill makes a big change to the Affordable Care Act.tax heist

Yet Republicans somehow found a way to give a giant and permanent tax cut to corporations like Apple, General Electric and Goldman Sachs, saving those businesses tens of billions of dollars.

Because the Senate was rewriting its bill till the last minute, only the dealmakers themselves knew what the chamber voted on. There will, no doubt, be many unpleasant surprises as both houses work to pass final legislation for President Trump to sign.

The votes for the bill by Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona were particularly disheartening. Ms. Collins, who helped sink an effort to effectively repeal the A.C.A. in September, blithely voted for a tax bill that will leave a gaping hole in that law by repealing its requirement that most people have insurance or pay a penalty. She traded away her vote for an inadequate deduction for property taxes and empty promises from Mr. Trump and the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that they would help shore up the A.C.A., which they have repeatedly tried to sabotage. Mr. McCain, who previously voted against tax cuts in the Bush era because they were heavily tilted in favor of the rich rather than the middle class, seemed unconcerned that this bill was even worse in that regard. Then there is Mr. Flake, who has spoken powerfully against Mr. Trump and who is not seeking re-election. He folded on the basis of vague assurances about protecting the Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

Republicans offered one fantasy after another to make the case for their budget-busting tax cuts. For example, the White House has said that cutting the corporate tax to 20 percent from 35 percent will lead to a boom in investment and wages — an argument disputed by most credible economists. Almost all of those extra profits will enrich senior executives and shareholders, experts say. This week, The Times reported that despite the repeated claims of the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, his department never produced an analysis that backs up the administration’s assertion that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. It is not hard to see why. The Joint Committee on Taxation, the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and other experts say that the bill would not come close to paying for itself.

New York Times Editorial Board – December 2, 2017

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Australia Senate approves same-sex marriage bill

The Australian Senate has approved a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Lawmakers approved the measure by a 43-12 vote margin. The Australian House of Representatives will now consider the bill.gay cake

The vote took place less than a month after the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced the majority of voters who took part in a non-binding plebiscite on whether same-sex couples should be able to legally marry in the country said “yes.” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has urged lawmakers to pass the marriage bill by Christmas.

WashingtonBlade.com, november 28, 2017 by Mike Lavers

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Who’d Gain From an Estate Tax Rollback: The 0.2 Percenters

Who’d Gain From an Estate Tax Rollback: The 0.2 Percenters

Supporters and critics of the Republican tax bills argue over their effect on middle-class Americans, but there is one group that everyone agrees would come out ahead: the millionaires and billionaires who have to reckon with the estate tax.estate tax

As Steven Mnuchin, President Trump’s Treasury secretary, bluntly declared last month, “Obviously, the estate tax, I will concede, disproportionately helps rich people.”

As it is now, the estate tax affects a small set of wealthy Americans, applying only when someone leaves assets worth more than $5.49 million to heirs. Together, parents can leave $11 million to their children without paying a penny in estate taxes.

Last year, for example, more than 2.6 million people died in the United States. Of the estates filed with the Internal Revenue Service, 5,219 — or 0.2 percent of the total — were large enough to qualify for the tax.

The kind of households that could potentially owe money, however, include Mr. Trump’s, Mr. Mnuchin’s, and those of several cabinet members and advisers, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Housing Secretary Ben Carson and Gary Cohn, chief of the National Economic Council.

(An analysis by the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund concluded that the estate tax repeal could save Mr. Trump’s estate more than $1 billion, and those of his cabinet members $3.5 billion.)

Mr. Trump has stated, incorrectly, that the tax is crushing “millions of small businesses and the American farmer.” In reality, only about 80 small businesses and farms would fall under the estate-tax tent this year, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Republicans want to shrink the numbers further. In the Senate’s proposed tax bill, exempted income would temporarily double to $11 million per person — $22 million for a couple — during the next decade.

If those rules had been imposed last year, the number of estates owing money under the tax would have been no more than 2,204 — fewer than 0.1 percent of the total.

The House bill approved Thursday goes a step further, doubling the exemption through the 2024 tax year (and indexing for inflation), but then eliminating the tax. The result is that other taxpayers would have to make up the $151 billion cost over the next decade.

Opponents of the tax say fairness is at stake. No one — including billionaires — should have their assets taxed twice, once in life and once in death, the argument goes. But the issue is less about double taxation than no taxation.

by Patricia Cohen, NYTimes.com, November 16, 2017

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Irish government to pay for couples to have IVF treatment and outlaw commercial surrogacy

The Government will today commit to funding IVF treatment for couples unable to conceive from 2019.

Minister for Health Simon Harris is to bring a memo to Cabinet this morning outlining proposed regulatory measures for the area of assisted human reproduction.IVF

It is understood Mr Harris will commit to outlawing commercial surrogacy and the payment for egg, sperm or embryo donors.

The memo will provide for an ethical framework with clear rules for the welfare of the child, woman and informed consent.

Speaking on his way into the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Mr Harris said that by the end of the year he wants to clarify for families what financial assistance would be available for IVF from 2019.

“I made it very clear that I want to put in place supports to help subsidise the cost of IVF for families,” Mr Harris said.

“One in six of us could experience infertility challenges at any time and I would like to by the end of the year be in a position to provide clarity to families in terms of what supports we may be able to provide from 2019.”

Mr Harris said the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill will “regulate this whole area”.

“I hope to send it to the Oireachtas Committee subject to Cabinet approval for pre-legislative scrutiny and get it passed into law in 2018 with the idea of having public subsidies for IVF for 2019,” he said.

The Irish Times, October 3, 2017

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Mississippi anti-LGBT ‘religious freedom’ law takes effect

A Mississippi law enabling sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom” took effect Tuesday as a result of a federal appeals court decision throwing out a legal challenge to the statute.

The law, House Bill 1523, was signed by Gov. Phil Bryant last year in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide. The purported intent of the law is to protect individuals who have religious beliefs contrary to the ruling, but the measure approaches that in a way that would allow anti-LGBT discrimination.anti-lgbt

The law prohibits the state from taking action against religious organizations that decline employment, housing or services to same-sex couples; families who’ve adopted a foster child and wish to act in opposition to same-sex marriage and individuals who offer wedding services and decline to facilitate a same-sex wedding.

Additionally, the bill allows individuals working in medical services to decline a transgender person’s request for gender reassignment surgery. The bill also allows state government employees who facilitate marriages the option to opt out of issuing licenses to same-sex couples, but the person must issue prior written notice to the state government and a clerk’s office must not delay the issuance of licenses.

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, spelled out the potential consequences of the law in a statement on the day it went into effect.

“The insidious power of a law like this is that it casts a long shadow over public life, forcing someone to assess whether they will be treated fairly and respectfully in situations from the crisis of an emergency room to an anniversary dinner at a restaurant to a child’s classroom,” Beach-Ferrara said. “Now we face the cruel reality of the law going into effect and the imminent threat it poses to the dignity, health and well-being of LGBT Mississippians.”

Last month, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider “en banc” before the full court an earlier decision by a three-judge panel to throw out legal challenges to the law — one filed by the Campaign for Southern Equality, the other by the Joshua Generation Metropolitan Community Church and 13 Mississippi ministers,

The three-judge panel determined plaintiffs in the lawsuit lacked standing to challenge the law, reversing the trial court ruling that found HB 1523 violated the Establishment Clause by allowing state-sanctioned discrimination under one particular religious view.

GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement the fight against the law continues despite its harmful effects on LGBT people.

By Chris Johnson, Washington Blade – October 10, 2017

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Same-Sex Couples Wed in Germany as Marriage Law Takes Effect

Cheers rang out in the City Hall of Berlin’s Schöneberg district on Sunday as two men, who met 38 years ago, when the German capital was a divided city, became the country’s first same-sex couple to legally marry.

The couple, Bodo Mende, 60, and Karl Kreile, 59, were wed in a civil ceremony, surrounded by a crush of photographers and television cameras eager to capture the historic moment.

Not even the crying of a child among the relatives and friends who attended the event interrupted their joy as the couple exchanged a long kiss after they were pronounced husband and husband.

“This is an emotional moment with great symbolism,” Mr. Kreile told reporters before the event. “The transition to the term ‘marriage’ shows that the German state recognizes us as real equals.”

In June, Germany became the 15th European country to grant same-sex couples the right to marry, after a swift vote in Parliament that followed a brief but emotional debate. A previous German law had allowed civil unions between same-sex couples since 2001, but those unions did not offer couples the same legal rights and were considered by many to be a second-class form of marriage.

Across the country, city halls that are normally closed on the weekend opened their doors to allow marriages on the first day the law took effect. Dozens of couples were expected to exchange vows in Berlin, as well as in Cologne, Hamburg, Hanover and Kiel on Sunday and the days beyond.

by Mellisa Eddy – New York Times, October 1, 2017

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As Surrogacy Surges, New Parents Seek Legal Protections

As more couples turn to surrogates to carry their child, some states are considering further protections for the intended parents, many of whom are gay, by handling custody issues before a child is born.

When Brad Hoylman and his husband wanted to start a family, they looked to a woman nearly 3,000 miles away to carry their child.Hoylman

The two Manhattanites turned to a surrogate in California, a state with a robust commercial surrogacy industry, because the practice is banned in New York.

The advent of gay marriage, advances in reproductive technology, and the fact that more people are waiting longer to start families have fueled a surge in the surrogacy industry.

In 2015, 2,807 babies were born through surrogacy in the U.S., up from 738 in 2004, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Women are often paid at least $30,000 to carry a baby created from the egg and sperm of others.

But in many places, once the baby arrives, outdated state laws fail to answer an important question: Who are the parents?

In many states the law is murky or even silent on surrogacy. The industry is free to operate but the contracts signed between surrogates and intended parents may not be legally binding. The baby may be born in a state that views the woman who gave birth as its mother, even if she has no genetic connection to the child.

The legal uncertainty is particularly concerning to the intended parents, who usually spend about $100,000 (including payments to a surrogate and the company she works with as well as doctors and lawyers) and risk ending up without the child they counted on. Gay male couples have an additional fear: that they might be discriminated against if they are embroiled in a legal fight over custody.

In states that ban commercial surrogacy and those with no laws at all, legislators are pushing bills that would legalize the practice, determine parentage before a child arrives, and ensure that contracts are enforceable and followed by all parties. In many cases, they would require surrogates to be at least 21, to have already given birth to their own children, and to undergo medical and psychiatric evaluations before signing a contract.

Hoylman, a state senator from New York, introduced a bill this year that would legalize surrogacy in his state and establish the legal framework of intended parentage.

Surrogacy became legal in Washington, D.C., in April, and lawmakers in Minnesota and Massachusetts debated bills this year but didn’t approve them. In New Jersey, state lawmakers passed similar bills in 2012 and in 2015, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed them. The Senate passed another bill this week.

Women and Babies as Commodities?

Critics of surrogacy, including both religious conservatives and some feminists, object to what they view as the commodification of both women and children. Opponents point to numerous European countries that have banned the practice and say states should be wary of letting American women be used by others, including foreigners searching for surrogates beyond their borders.

For many, the financial aspect of surrogacy is most troubling.

“Women will be exploited by wealthy people,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of Minnesota’s Catholic Conference. “We see all kinds of Hollywood stars contracting with surrogates, but we don’t see any Hollywood stars serving as surrogates for their nannies and maids.”

Surrogacy companies prefer to work with women they consider financially stable in order to avoid women who may be acting out of financial desperation. Medicaid does not cover surrogacy costs, and women who are enrolled in the program would risk losing coverage for themselves and their families if they carry a surrogate baby.

By Rebecca Beitsch, Huffingtonpost.com, june 29, 2017

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