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National News
National News
by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

U.S. Senate votes to repeal HIV travel/immigration ban
The U.S. Senate voted 80-16 on July 16 to repeal the nation's ban on HIV-positive foreign visitors and immigrants.

Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., secured a provision to repeal the ban in the Senate's legislation to reauthorize PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

The measure now moves to a House-Senate conference committee, then goes to President George W. Bush, who is eager to see PEPFAR re-funded.

"We applaud the Senate for rejecting this unjust and sweeping policy that deems HIV-positive individuals inadmissible to the United States," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "We call on the leaders of the House and Senate to retain the Kerry-Smith provision in conference and ensure it is included in the final legislation sent to the president's desk."

"The HIV ban is ineffective, unnecessary, and simply bad public health policy," said Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. "It is especially harmful to Gay and Lesbian families, who do not benefit from the waiver available to opposite-sex couples. The Senate's change is welcome, and long overdue."

PEPFAR will send $48 billion to Africa over the next five years to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., called the bill "the single most significant thing the president has done."

Census won't count married Gays
The U.S. government will not count married Gay couples in the 2010 census, the San Jose Mercury News reported July 12.

Instead, same-sex couples who accurately report that they are married will have their response tabulated by the Census Bureau as if they had checked "unmarried partners."

Same-sex marriage is legal in California and Massachusetts. In addition, New Yorkers who marry in those states or abroad are recognized as married in New York State.

The Mercury News said the Census Bureau's decision was based on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) "and other mandates."

DOMA, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, states, in part: "In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

Gary Gates of the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California Los Angeles law school, told the newspaper that the bureau's decision "goes against everything the census stands for."

"It's a systematic hiding not only of married Gay couples, but Gay couples as families, which I would argue is a fundamentally political decision," Gates said.

McCain doesn't 'believe' in Gay adoption
Republican presidential candidate John McCain told The New York Times that he opposes gay adoption July 13.

"I think that we've proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no, I don't believe in Gay adoption," he said.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have no restrictions on Gay adoption, according to the Family Equality Council.

Florida prohibits "homosexual" individuals from adopting, Michigan bans same-sex couples married in other jurisdictions from adopting, Mississippi prohibits same-sex couples from adopting, Nebraska bans Gay individuals and unmarried couples from adopting, and Utah blocks unmarried, cohabiting individuals from adopting.

Six states - California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey and New York - have laws or policies prohibiting discrimination against Gay people in the adoption process.

Contrary to McCain's suggestion, there are no studies showing that adopted children of Gay couples find themselves in less successful families.

In fact, "30 years of scientifically valid research universally demonstrates that LGBT families are just as nurturing for children's growth and development as heterosexual families," said the Family Equality Council.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association and the National Association of Social Workers all have issued statements supporting same-sex parents.

"Gay and Lesbian parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide healthy and supportive environments for their children," the APA has said.

The AAP has said "scientific literature demonstrates" that kids with Gay parents "fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. [They] seem to develop normally in every way."

"In fact," the group has said, "growing up with parents who are Lesbian or Gay may confer some advantages to children. They have been described as more tolerant of diversity and more nurturing toward younger children than children whose parents are heterosexual."

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) accused McCain of having "an outdated prejudice about what a family may look like."

"Sen. McCain's position is out of sync with the research and science and out of step with what is in the best interests of children waiting for a home and a family," said Executive Director Jody Huckaby.

"We are disappointed and saddened that a public leader who is himself an adoptive father would deny the children in America's foster care system the opportunity to thrive as part of a welcoming family."

On July 15, McCain's communications director, Jill Hazelbaker, attempted to backpedal on McCain's statement to the Times.

"McCain could have been clearer in the interview in stating that his position on Gay adoption is that it is a state issue, just as he made it clear in the interview that marriage is a state issue," she said. "He was not endorsing any federal legislation. McCain's expressed his personal preference for children to be raised by a mother and a father wherever possible. However, as an adoptive father himself, McCain believes children deserve loving and caring home environments, and he recognizes that there are many abandoned children who have yet to find homes. McCain believes that in those situations that caring parental figures are better for the child than the alternative."

Attempt to block California vote on marriage fails
The California Supreme Court denied a petition July 16 to remove from the November ballot the voter initiative to amend the state constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage.

Lawyers for Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the American Civil Liberties Union had argued that the proposed amendment, if passed, would actually amount to a "revision" of the constitution.

While the California Constitution can be amended via a ballot initiative, it cannot be "revised." A revision of the document requires a proposal by the Legislature or by a constitutional convention, followed by popular ratification.

The groups also argued that the initiative should be stricken from the ballot because people who signed petitions to put it there were not given accurate information on the proposed amendment's impact.

Those petitions claimed the amendment would not change California law on marriage - which was true when the petitions were being circulated but is false now that same-sex marriage is legal.

The petitions also claimed the amendment would have no fiscal impact, but it will, because marrying Gay couples from across the country brings money into California - both for counties and for businesses that cater to visitors.

While the court rejected removing the initiative from the ballot, it is possible the court would give renewed consideration to the groups' arguments should voters actually approve the amendment.

Polling suggests Californians do not support writing marriage discrimination into the state constitution, though that's no guarantee they won't do so in the privacy of the voting booth.

ABC, FX get high marks from GLAAD
ABC and the FX cable network do the best job of representing Gay Americans, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said July 14.

GLAAD's Network Responsibility Index tracks the quantity, quality and diversity of images of GLBT people on television.

ABC, with shows like Brothers & Sisters, Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty, received the highest marks of the five broadcast networks. NBC and Fox scored lowest.

Among 10 of the highest-rated cable channels, FX aired the largest number of GLBT-inclusive hours of original programming, while TNT offered the fewest.

GLAAD examined all primetime programming - 4,911 hours - on the five major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW) from June 1, 2007, to May 31, 2008. The group also reviewed all original primetime programming - 1,240 hours - on the 10 cable networks.

"Time and again we see that what people watch on TV shapes how they view and treat the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people around them," said GLAAD President Neil Giuliano. "ABC and FX are ... showing other networks that including images of our community can go hand in hand with critical and commercial success."

Each of the 6,151 hours of TV was reviewed for any on-screen GLBT representations, and networks were assigned a grade of excellent, good, adequate or failing.

ABC and The CW rated good, with 24 percent and 21 percent of their primetime programming hours inclusive of GLBT representations. CBS rated adequate, with 9 percent. NBC and Fox received failing grades for their 6 percent and 4 percent of programming hours with GLBT images.

Of the 10 cable networks evaluated, FX, HBO and Showtime each received a grade of good, with FX leading with 45 percent of programming hours featuring GLBT representations. Lifetime and MTV ranked adequate. A&E, Spike, TBS, TNT and USA received failing grades.

The full report is at glaad.org/media/nri/NRI_2008.pdf.

With assistance from Bill Kelley
pictures: top - Neil Giuliano
bottom: -Desperate Housewives gay couple
 

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