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Maryland governor introduces marriage-equality bill; L.A. porn stars required to wear condoms
NATIONAL ROUNDUP: Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times.

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Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley introduced a marriage-equality measure with clarification on protections for religious entities, according to . Last year, a similar bill passed the state Senate but failed to receive a vote on the House floor. This year's measure extends legal protections to leaders of religious groups; the 2011 bill only protected institutions. A recent poll said that 51 percent of Marylanders would support same-sex marriage if the issue went to referendum.

In Los Angeles, porn stars will be legally required to wear condoms during film shoots after the city council voted 9-1 to mandate their use, according to . Producers had complained that the sight of a condom in a sex scene turns off consumers of their videos. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation had qualified a voter initiative that would have asked voters in June to mandate condoms; the city would've had to spend more than $4 million to hold the election.

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates will honor Rick Welts, president and chief of operations of the Golden State Warriors, and Houston Mayor Annise Parker at the 2012 Out & Equal Advocacy Awards, according to a press release. The awards will be presented to Welts and Parker at the Out & Equal Leadership Celebration Wed., March 14, at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco. Welts is the first openly gay executive of a professional sports team; Parker is the first openly lesbian mayor of any major U.S. city.

One Iowa and Freedom to Marry—the campaign to win marriage nationwide—unveiled a new public education campaign: Why Marriage Matters Iowa, according to a press release. Why Marriage Matters Iowa aims to increase state support for marriage for gay and lesbian couples by promoting conversations across the state about loving and committed Iowan couples, and how marriage strengthens them, their families and their communities.

The Human Rights Campaign has called on Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Md., to review its policies and practices related to hospital visitation, according to a press release. On Nov. 13, 2011, Kathryn Wilderotter was admitted to the hospital following a car accident. When Linda Cole, her legal spouse and partner of 11 years, arrived, she was reportedly not recognized as a family member and denied the right to visit Kathryn. Such an action would violate federal hospital-visitation regulations and state law.

At its 219th semiannual meeting in Austin, Texas, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) presented a certificate of appreciation commemorating the late gay activist Dr. Frank Kameny's efforts to secure equal-employment rights for all, according to a press release. In 1957 Kameny, a Ph.D. astronomer and member of the AAS, was fired from his position with the U.S. government because he was gay. In 2009, the federal government issued a formal apology to Kameny for the firing.

A new study published by the American Journal of Public Health shows that stress related to aging and being sexual minorities stress jeopardize the mental health of midlife and older gay men, according to a press release. The study also found that legal marriage for same-sex couples may protect against poor mental health. Having a same-sex domestic partner or same-sex spouse boosted the emotional health of the studied men, but having a same-sex legal spouse appeared to be the most beneficial relationship arrangement.

Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide, launched "Mayors for the Freedom to Marry" at a press conference during the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C. Jan. 20, a press release noted. More than 75 Republican, Democrat and Independent mayors from cities across the country have pledged to support same-sex couples' freedom to marry. Among the mayors supporting the initiative were Chicago's Rahm Emanuel, lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker and New York City's Michael Bloomberg.

Following in the footsteps of Maryland and (most recently) Indiana, South Carolina will offer pro—LGBT equality license plates, reported. South Carolina's plates cost $25, with half of the money going to the South Carolina Equality Foundation. Indiana's plates show the logo of Indiana Youth Group, an organization promoting LGBT tolerance in schools; $25 of the $40 license fee go to the group.

The GOP presidential field shrank again as Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Jan. 19 that he was withdrawing from the race, reported. Perry threw his support behind fellow conservative Newt Gingrich, saying, "I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country. We've had our differences, which campaigns will inevitably have, and Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?" In the past few weeks, Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman have also left the race.

Washington state Sen. Jim Kastama became the person in the legislative body to say he will vote for legal recognition of same-sex marriages, reported. Supporters need 25 votes in the Senate and 50 in the House; at least 49 Democrats and two Republicans have committed to voting for it. In addition, several Northwest-based businesses have also endorsed marriage equality, including Microsoft, Vulcan and Nike.

In a related development, Washington United for Marriage—a broad statewide coalition of organizations, congregations, unions and business associations—praised some of the Northwest's top employers for publicly supporting marriage equality, according to a press release. These companies join more than 70 businesses that signed onto the Washington United for Marriage Business Coalition. "Washington United commends and thanks Microsoft, Group Health, Nike, Vulcan, Concur and Real Networks for supporting loving and committed lesbian and gay couples in the state by making their support for marriage equality known," said Zach Silk, vampaign manager for Washington United for Marriage.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation announced that Devereux Arizona became the first adoption agency in Arizona to earn the All Children—All Families seal of recognition, according to a press release. The Tucson adoption agency earned the honor by meeting the required criteria for fully inclusive policies and practices in working with the LGBT community.

The Dallas VA Medical Center announced the removal of a nurse practitioner accused of harassing a lesbian Marine veteran after nearly 20,000 people joined a popular campaign on, according to a press release. Esther Garatie, a former Marine lance corporal who was wounded and honorably discharged, was seeking treatment for severe depression and possible post-traumatic stress disorder when nurse practitioner Lincy Pandithurai allegedly told her the reason for her depression was because she is a lesbian. Monica Smith, a spokeswoman for the VA Medical Center, confirmed the firing, saying, "The board was able to substantiate material portions of the veteran's claims."

In South Carolina, a transgender activist stormed a Jan. 19 press conference GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum was holding, the Huffington Post reported. Kneena Raheja, 20, yelled, "Mr. Santorum, you have spilled queer blood!" as Santorum finished speaking. Raheja, who was born a boy, later said that "people like Rick Santorum are actively violent towards the queer population." Earlier that day, a group of protestors glitter-bombed Santorum at a rally.

MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts will be master of ceremonies for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's (SLDN's) 20th annual national dinner, to be held at The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., March 3, according to a press release. SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said, "SLDN's annual dinner is a tradition—a time to honor our achievements and those who made them so—but also a clarion call to all who believe in full equality to stay in the fight until the job is done." SLDN was founded in 1993, shortly after the passage of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Speaking of SLDN, Sarvis will leave his post in late spring or early summer, reported. "It's not easy to leave SLDN," Sarvis, a U.S. Army veteran who joined the organization in 2007, said. "But there comes a time to move on, and this feels right. I think the next phase of the battle can be reinvigorated with new blood, new energy. For me, it was certainly a historic time to be here. I was honored to have been here during the fight."

In Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, the city council will find out if the city has to—or even is allowed to—provide family-membership rates at a fitness center to same-sex couples legally married in other states, reported. A gay Akron couple (Shane and Coty May, who married in Washington, D.C.) asked to change their individual memberships at the city-owned Natatorium to a family membership. The staff denied their request, prompting the couple to post a petition on; more than 700 people have signed it.

Openly lesbian U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., announced on Facebook that her campaign for the U.S. Senate raised more than $1 million in the last three months of 2011, according to . Baldwin is the presumptive Democratic candidate running for the retiring Sen. Herb Kohl's seat; she would be the first out LGBT senator in the country's history.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) will honor seven heroes in the LGBT-equality movement at its 2012 anniversary celebration—which marks its 35th year—May 5 at San Francisco's Metreon Cityview, according to a press release. Those being honored include lesbian actress Jane Lynch and Damian, Dylon, Ebonie, Kyle, Lane and Jane Doe—six students in Minnesota who challenged a district policy that prohibits staff from discussing LGBT issues in the classroom.

A new Williams Institute report estimates that extending marriage to same-sex couples in Washington state would boost the economy by $88 million, according to a press release. According to Census 2010, there are 19,003 resident same-sex couples inthe state—and the report estimates that 50 percent of those couples will choose to marry in the three years following the legalization of marriage equality in Washington. The figures in the report draw upon data on average wedding expenditures in Washington and tourism reports from 2010, along with data regarding marriage expenses by same-sex couples in other states.

Jim Bob Duggar—known for fathering 19 children with wife, Michelle—is siding with a boycott of the Girl Scouts' cookie sale because a Colorado troop allowed a 7-year-old transgender girl to become a scout, according to . Duggar said, "Our family loves Girl Scout cookies, and I don't think allowing a boy in the Girl Scouts is a good thing." He added that the organization's late founders "would be truly upset to hear" about the inclusion of a transgender scout.

For the first time ever, all 100 firms on Fortune's Best Companies To Work For list this year have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, according to CNN Money. Four years ago, 95 of the top 100 Best Companies to Work For had such policies in place, and by 2011 that number was up to 99. "It's been gathering strength over the 15 years that we've done the survey," said Milton Moskowitz, a co-author of the list. Similar progress has been made in benefits for same-sex domestic partners, which are now offered by 89 of the 100 companies listed.

Former Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno has died at age 85, according to . Paterno had been in the hospital since Jan. 13. He was diagnosed with cancer in November, just days after being ousted as head coach in the wake of child sex-abuse charges against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. He had been hospitalized in December after breaking his pelvis in a fall at his home and again in January for what his son said were minor complications from cancer treatments.

The Center for American Progress has launched the Fighting Injustice to Reach Equality (FIRE) Initiative, which works to eliminate the social, health and economic disparities faced by African-American gay and transgender people, according to a press release. The launch included a conversation about the center's new report, "Jumping Beyond the Broom: Why Black Gay and Transgender Americans Need More than Marriage Equality." This 49-page report reveals the broad range of issues faced by this community and as well as various policy and advocacy solutions that can address them.

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released a new toolkit, "Ready, Set, Respect!," to help elementary educators ensure that all students feel safe and respected and develop respectful attitudes and behaviors, according to a press release. "Our latest research on bias-based remarks and bullying in America's elementary schools provides new understanding of the experiences facing our youngest students," said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. "Ready, Set, Respect! is a new instructional resource informed by our findings to address homophobia, gender expression and LGBT-inclusive family diversity at the elementary school level."

In another GLSEN-related development, the organization released a new report on school climate, biased remarks and bullying, "Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States," a press release noted. The report is based on national surveys of 1,065 elementary school students in third to sixth grade, and 1,099 teachers of kindergarten through sixth-grade pupils. Among the findings is that 75 percent reported that students at their school are called names, made fun of or bullied with at least some regularity. The full report is at

The weekend of Jan. 20, more than 20 congregations around New York took part in the Shelter of Peace Weekend of Prayer and Learning, three days of coordinated sermons calling for new shelter beds for LGBT homeless youth, according to a press release. Shelter of Peace, organized by the Koleinu LGBT Rights Action Team of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), is an initiative of more than 170 clergy supporting the Campaign for Youth Shelter. The Ali Forney Center—the nation's largest organization working on behalf of LGBT homeless youth—launched that campaign, calling for additional funding to end youth homelessness in the city.

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie has nominated gay GOP mayor Bruce Harris to the state supreme court, according to . Harris, an African American, is the mayor of Chatham, N.J. "[Harris] will become the first openly LGBT person in history, and the third African-American person in history, to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court," Garden State Equality Executive Director Goldstein said in a statement. "Most importantly, Bruce is eminently qualified to be a Supreme Court justice."

More than 2,500 LGBT-rights advocates from across the country will meet in Baltimore, Md., Jan. 25-29 for the 24th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change—the largest convening of LGBT activists and allies in the country, according to a press release. Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, will deliver the opening plenary keynote speech Jan. 26. The event will also feature a presidential memorandum from President Obama and a speech from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the importance of international LGBT human rights.

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