The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Municipal Equality Index, rating U.S. cities on how well they protect LGBT residents against discrimination, this year saw a record number of cities with a perfect 100 score — 47, up from 38 last year, 25 in 2013, and 11 in 2012, the first year the index was compiled.
Among those 47 are 19 cities in states that lack comprehensive protections against anti-LGBT discrimination. Their number is up from 15 last year. These 19 cities, along with 12 others with scores greater than 85 in such states, were designated “all-stars,” cities paving the way to LGBT equality, by the HRC Foundation (HRC’s educational arm).
The index, released in partnership with the Equality Federation, rates 408 cities. They include all 50 state capitals, the nation’s 200 most populous cities, the five largest cities in every state, the communities home to each state’s two largest public universities, and an equal mix of 75 of the nation’s large, mid-size, and small municipalities with the highest proportion of same-sex couples.
Cities were rated on 41 criteria that fell into five broad categories: nondiscrimination laws; municipal employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage and nondiscrimination requirements for contractors; inclusiveness of city services; law enforcement, including hate-crimes reporting; and municipal leadership on matters of equality. With the arrival of nationwide marriage equality due to the Supreme Court ruling in June, municipal relationship recognition is no longer among the standard criteria, although the HRC encourages cities to maintain domestic-partnership laws and policies out of respect for family diversity.
Cities also receive bonus points for such things as programs for LGBT youth or homeless people, or city-provided services for people with HIV. No city can receive a score of more than 100, but some reached 100 with the help of bonus points.
Every region in the country had at least one 100-point city. The West, Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, and New England regions had the densest concentration of top-scoring cities, while the Mountain, Plains, Southeast, and Southwest regions fell below the average national score of 56. Half the cities researched scored over 59 points. Eleven percent scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 78 points; 25 percent scored under 31 points; and five percent scored less than 10 points.
Among the findings are gains for the transgender population. Sixty-six cities now offer transgender-inclusive health care options to city employees, up from 42 in 2014 and 16 in 2013. And 32 million people now live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination laws than their state or the federal government.
Click through to see the 19 “all-star” cities with 100-point scores, and to see the full report and related issue briefs, click here.
The Falls is a wonderful film about two missionaries that fall in love while on their mission. RJ travels to a small town in Oregon with Elder Merrill to serve their mission and teach the words of Joseph Smith. Living together and sharing the challenge of leaving home, the two men help each other discover their strengths. They share a passion for their faith and learn to express their feelings, risking the only community they have for a forbidden intimacy.
Watch the trailer
A federal judge says a Kentucky county clerk who won’t issue marriage licenses to gay couples because of her religious beliefs has until close of business Wednesday to respond to the latest motion in the case.
On Tuesday, as Rowan County clerk Kim Davis continued to deny licenses to couples despite a Supreme Court ruling against her, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered her and her six deputy clerks to appear at a federal court hearing Thursday.
Davis has previously testified that of her six employees, four share her beliefs, one is uncertain, and one employee doesn’t have a problem issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her, and U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered her to issue the licenses. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that order. But Davis still refused to issue the licenses Tuesday morning.
The couples named in the lawsuit have asked Bunning to hold Davis in contempt of court and fine her for her continued refusal to grant licenses. They specifically asked that he not send her to jail.
In the Tuesday statement, Davis says she owes her life to Jesus Christ.
She says: “Following the death of my godly mother-in-law over four years ago, I went to church to fulfill her dying wish. There I heard a message of grace and forgiveness and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.”
She also says that “to issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience.”
She calls her decision one of obedience to God and says she won’t resign.
A same-sex couple in Morehead, Ky., went to the county clerk Monday requesting a marriage license — but were met instead by local police after Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue the license.
The couple filmed the encounter with officers and the clerk, who is currently facing a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky for refusing to abide by the recent Supreme Court ruling that brought marriage to all 50 states.
David V. Moore and his fiancé went to the Rowan County Clerk’s office, armed with a copy of that Supreme Court ruling, in addition to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s executive order requiring all county clerks to issue marriage licenses. In the video, employees appear to ignore the legal documents provided, continuing to refuse the couple’s request for a marriage license, while the Clerk Davis hid in the back of the office.
Writing on his Facebook wall, Moore says, “We were denied a marriage license on Monday, July 6 at the Rowan County Clerk’s office. Kim Davis is at the end of the video, but we turned it off at her request.”
The recording shows the men entering the clerk’s office and waiting patiently while other residents — including people who came in after the couple — are served. Staff at the counter refuse the men’s request and tell them that Clerk Davis is “busy right now.” Then employees called the police, insisting that the couple’s supporters stop filming the anticipated rejection.
A police officer arrives at the office toward the end of the video and speaks with employees. When Clerk Davis finally emerges from her office (around the 11 minute mark), she tells the supporter to “Put your phone away.” The two continue to bicker for a moment before the video ends.
Kentucky law does not forbid filming any interactions with public officials in a public place.
Davis was sued by the ACLU last week for refusing to issue marriage licences to any couples — gay or straight — citing “religious concerns.” She is one of two clerks in Kentucky who are still refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
In a press release issued after the group filed suit, ACLU of Kentucky’s cooperating attorney Laura Landenwich stated, “Ms. Davis has the absolute right to believe whatever she wants about God, faith, and religion, but as a government official who swore an oath to uphold the law, she cannot pick and choose who she is going to serve, or which duties her office will perform based on her religious beliefs.”
The video of the encounter has more than 240,000 views at press time.
” I personally think Kim Davis should be terminated from her position immediately for not complying with the Supreme Court’s Ruling on June 26th 2015, Kim is involving her religious beliefs and is discriminating against same-sex couples, she simply is not doing her job. ” – Brooke A McKinney @Thinkqueermedia
The bill would prohibit local government from “substantially burdening” a person’s free expression of religion with few exemptions, the Indianapolis Star reports. Opponents of the bill say it could give business owners a free pass to refuse service to customers in same-sex relationships. Supporters, however, say it protects citizens from government intrusion on their beliefs.
The bill is based on the decades-old federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act law, which played a major part in the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision that allowed companies to opt out of a requirement to cover contraceptives to female employees under the Affordable Care Act for religious reasons.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence has voiced his support for the bill, which was approved in a different form by the Indiana Senate in February. Some 19 other states have similar laws in place.
Dial (317) 232-4567 now and tell Governor Pence to use his veto power to block this dangerous bill from becoming law!
Urban Outfitters Under Fire For Selling Tapestry Reminiscent Of Uniforms Worn By Gay Nazi Prisoners #UrbanOutfitters
Urban Outfitters is under fire for a product resembling the uniform forced on gay prisoners in Nazi concentration camps.
The Anti-Defamation League called on Urban Outfitters to remove a gray-and-white striped tapestry with a pink triangle from its shelves, saying it too closely resembles the uniforms gay men were forced to wear during the Holocaust.
“Whether intentional or not, this gray and white stripped pattern and pink triangle combination is deeply offensive and should not be mainstreamed into popular culture,” Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor, said in a press release. “We urge Urban Outfitters to immediately remove the product eerily reminiscent of clothing forced upon the victims of the Holocaust from their stores and online.”
The item in question is not currently listed among tapestries on urbanoutfitters.com, though Bloomberg reports an Urban Outfitters store in New York was still selling the tapestry as of Tuesday morning, on sale for $69.
Prisoners in Nazi camps were identified by color-coded inverted triangles called badges. Gay men in Germany, who were considered a hindrance to the growth of the German population and sent to concentration camps, had to wear striped uniforms emblazoned with pink triangles, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
This is not the first time Urban Outfitters has faced outcry over an item resembling Nazi camp uniforms. In 2012, the company sold a yellow T-shirt with a star on the left breast pocket. Critics said the shirt was similar to those forced upon Jewish prisoners in the camps.
At the time, the company said the online image that caused the outcry was a prototype. They had acknowledged the resemblance and decided against including the star on the final product.
A rep for Urban Outfitters was not immediately available for comment.
Our favorite song on Sleater-Kinney’s new album No Cities to love:
January 16, the United States Supreme Court announced that this year, they will hear arguments in a case on the question of whether same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry and if anti-marriage laws nationwide should be struck down as unconstitutional. The Court granted review of an out-of-step ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which ruled in November against the freedom to marry in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. In each of these cases, federal judges had ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for all, and the 6th Circuit reversed each decision.
The Court also set a briefing schedule in the cases, with the plaintiffs’ opening brief due February 27, the states’ response briefs due March 27, and final reply briefs April 17. That likely puts an oral argument in the case on track for late April, with a decision expected by late June 2015. SCOTUSBlog has reported the argument will likely be April 29.Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson applauded the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the cases today. He said:
The Supreme Court’s decision today begins what we hope will be the last chapter in our campaign to win marriage nationwide – and it’s time. Freedom to Marry’s national strategy has been to build a critical mass of marriage states and critical mass of support for ending marriage discrimination, and after a long journey and much debate, America is ready for the freedom to marry. But couples are still discriminated against in 14 states, and the patchwork of discrimination harms families and businesses throughout the country. We will keep working hard to underscore the urgency of the Supreme Court’s bringing the country to national resolution, so that by June, all Americans share in the freedom to marry and our country stands on the right side of history.
You can meet many of the plaintiffs whose cases will be heard by the nation’s highest court.
Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal, one of the legal teams in the Ohio case, said:
We are ready to make our case before the Supreme Court to end these discriminatory bans once and for all. The state of Ohio shouldn’t be allowed to disrespect lawful marriages of same-sex couples within its state borders and certainly shouldn’t be allowed to meddle with family matters in states that do respect the marriages of same-sex couples. In fact, no state in the country should continue this disgraceful discrimination.
Shannon Minter, Legal Director of National Center for Lesbian Rights, counsel in the Tennessee case, said:
Currently, same-sex couples in many states face a constitutionally intolerable situation because their home states treat them as legal strangers. Even legally married couples can instantly lose the protections of marriage if they travel or move to a state that does not recognize their marriages. We hope the Supreme Court will finally bring an end to the harms that same-sex couples and their children face when they are treated unequally and excluded from marriage.
James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project, a legal team member in the Ohio and Kentucky cases, added:
We are thrilled the Court will finally decide this issue. The country is ready for a national solution that treats lesbian and gay couples fairly. Every single day we wait means more Americans are harmed by the denial of full marriage rights – more people die before they have a chance to marry, more children are born without proper protections, more people face medical emergencies without being able to count on recognition of their spouses. It is time for the American values of freedom and equality to apply to all couples.
Daniel Canon of Clay Daniel Walton & Adams, counsel in the Kentucky case, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and Fauver Law Office, said:
We appreciate the opportunity to present the stories of our clients, some of whom have been in loving, committed relationships for decades. They, like other couples in Kentucky and elsewhere, have been denied their fundamental rights for far too long. We are hopeful the Court will fully and finally invalidate the discriminatory anti-marriage laws of Kentucky and other states.
Dana Nessel, counsel in the Michigan case, along with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said:
By choosing to hear the DeBoer case, the Court now has the opportunity to end the injustices facing gay families in Michigan and so many other states, and to ensure that same-sex couples nationwide are free to move for work, school, or to care for elderly parents without jeopardizing their family’s security.
Earlier this year, in October, the Supreme Court denied review in five other marriage cases, which all had pro-marriage decisions from federal appellate courts. With the 6th Circuit’s out-of-step ruling causing a split in the circuits, the Supreme Court’s decision to grant review today could at last bring the country to national resolution.
Since June 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the core of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, a momentous chorus of nearly 60 rulings in state and federal court have held that denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. Read all about the rulings here. In just five decisions – the 6th Circuit ruling, federal decisions from Louisiana and Puerto Rico, and state court divorce cases from Tennessee and Florida – have anti-marriage laws been upheld.
Today’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court is a signal that many members of the Court understand that it’s time for national resolution on this fundamental question of fairness.
In the coming months, supporters of the freedom to marry must continue to raise their voices in support of ending the denial of marriage to same-sex couples. By amplifying the voices of a bipartisan, multigenerational, geographically diverse array of messengers, we can make the case that America – all of America – is ready for the freedom to marry, and that every day of denial is a day of indignity and injustice for real American families.