Appeals court to hear challenge to gay therapy ban

USA Today | April 17, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court is to hear arguments Wednesday on whether a first-of-its-kind law that prohibits licensed mental health professionals in California from offering therapies aimed at making gay and lesbian teenagers straight violates the civil rights of practitioners and parents.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering two legal challenges to the ban on “sexual orientation change efforts” that was passed by the California Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last fall.

The ban, which was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, was put on hold by the 9th Circuit pending resolution of the closely watched cases. It spurred similar legislation still being considered by lawmakers in New Jersey.

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New Mexico Gay Marriage Lawsuit May End Couple’s Decade in Limbo

Amanda J. Crawford & Karen Gullo | Bloomberg | April 17, 2013

When a New Mexico county clerk began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, Mary Houdek and her longtime partner Norma Vasquez were the first in line.

The women, among 64 same-sex couples allowed to wed in Sandoval County before commissioners sued to halt the practice, have been in limbo ever since. New Mexico, whose voters backed a Republican governor in 2010 and President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in the past two presidential elections, is the only U.S. state that has no law related to same-sex marriage or civil unions.

Now, as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs gay marriage for the first time, two lesbian couples recently denied marriage licenses are suing in state court. The case is the first since the 2004 lawsuit, which was dropped, and it may eventually determine whether other gay couples in New Mexico can wed.

“I think the time has come — and it came a long time ago,” Houdek, 64, said in a telephone interview from her home in Rio Rancho.

The case in New Mexico, where legislative proposals to allow and ban gay marriage both failed this year, comes as public opinion nationwide is shifting toward acceptance of same- sex relationships. Support for gay marriage has increased in every state in the U.S. by an average of almost 14 percent since 2004 when it was legalized in the first state, Massachusetts, according to a study released this month by the Williams Institute, a public policy think-tank at the University of California, Los Angeles law school. It found 47 percent support in New Mexico, up from 38 percent.

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Study: Belief in an angry God associated with variety of mental illnesses

Stephen C. Webster | Raw Story | April 17, 2013

People who believe in an angry, punishing God are much more likely to suffer from a variety of mental illnesses, a scientific study published in the April edition of Journal of Religion & Health finds.

The study, conducted by Marymount Manhattan College Assistant Psychology Professor Nava Silton, used data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey of US Adults to examine the links between beliefs and anxiety disorders like social dysfunction, paranoia, obsession and compulsion.

To do this, Silton viewed the data through the lens of what’s called Evolutionary Threat Assessment System Theory, which posits that parts of the brain specifically evolved to detect threats, and suggests that many anxiety disorders may be a result of dysfunction in the brain’s perception of those threats.

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New Zealand Gay Marriage: Lawmakers Approve Marriage Equality Bill

NICK PERRY | Huffington Post | April 17, 2013

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Hundreds of jubilant gay-rights advocates celebrated at New Zealand’s Parliament as the country became the 13th in the world and the first in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage.

Lawmakers voted 77 to 44 in favor of the gay-marriage bill on its third and final reading Wednesday night. People watching from the public gallery and some lawmakers immediately broke into song after the result was announced, singing the New Zealand love song “Pokarekare Ana” in the indigenous Maori language.

“For us, we can now feel equal to everyone else,” said bank teller Tania Penafiel Bermudez, who said she already considers herself married to partner Sonja Fry but now can get a certificate to prove it. “This means we can feel safe and fair and right in calling each other wife and wife.”

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Hitler Baneo Núñez, Peruvian Father, Allegedly Set Fire To Gay, HIV-Positive Son

Huffington Post | April 17, 2013

A Peruvian father faces allegations that he doused his son with gasoline and set him on fire after learning the 22-year-old was gay and HIV-positive.

According to the Peruvian daily newspaper La Región, Hitler Baneo Núñez, 49, allegedly tried to burn the victim (identified in reports only by his initials R.B.P.) alive after becoming tired of neighbor’s jokes about his son’s sexuality.

Though neighbors helped save R.B.P., the young man ended up with his face, arms and parts of his legs burnt, according to the report. Not only is R.B.P. HIV positive, he also reportedly has tuberculosis.

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Patti Davis, Daughter Of Nancy Reagan, Says Her Mother Supports Gay Marriage

 | Huffington Post | April 17, 2013

Patti Davis, the daughter of former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, made headlines two weeks ago when she said her father would have backed same-sex marriage. Now, in a new interview, she says that her mother, who rarely speaks on public policy issues, supports marriage equality.

“She does,” Davis said when asked if the former first lady supports gay marriage, adding that her mother “is not comfortable going out in the public eye and getting in the firing line of anything,” and also noting with a chuckle that “if she had disagreed with what I said publicly about my father, she would have said something publicly.”

Davis also addressed comments by her adopted half-brother, radio talk talk show host Michael Reagan, who’d written an op-ed piece a day before her comments about President Reagan and gay marriage in which he attacked same-sex marriage and said it could lead to acceptance of bestiality, polygamy and even murder. Michael Reagan later also sharply disagreed with Davis’ contention that their father would have supported gay marriage.

“In his rant, in that op-ed, he didn’t talk about our father once, and I thought that was very telling, because he always talks about our father,” Davis said in an interview on my SiriusXM OutQ radio program, which she appeared on to discuss her novel, which is centered around a lesbian romance, Till Human Voices Wake Us. “That op-ed, that written thing equating gay people with murderers and people who engage in bestiality or whatever, it’s all such ugly stuff and if Michael were the only person saying that, you can say, ‘OK, whatever.’ But there are other people who feel this way and who lump gay people in with people who have sex with donkeys and farm animals. This is just horrific. Our father would in no way tolerate that kind of ugly talk and that kind of hateful speech.”

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The Mormon Church Hasn’t Stopped Fighting Marriage Equality

John M. Becker | Bilerico | April 17, 2013

Late last week, a Mother Jones article with the headline “Mormon Church Abandons Its Crusade Against Gay Marriage,” accompanied by a graphic depicting the Salt Lake Temple with a rainbow behind it, caught fire on social media. It’s easy to see why: the Mormon Church has spent nearly two decades and untold millions of dollars fighting same-sex marriage across the United States. A decision by church leaders to stop fighting civil marriage equality would indeed be huge news.

But beyond the headline, the article uses qualifiers and weasel words to tell a different story. For example, the author says that the Mormon Church was not present “in any official capacity” in the demonstrations outside the Supreme Court last month when the justices heard arguments challenging California’s Proposition 8, despite being the religious group perhaps most responsible for its passage. While this is true, the Mormon Church was most certainly not absent that day, as it had filed briefs with the Court urging the Justices to uphold Prop 8 and DOMA. (This information is buried much further down in the article itself.)

Furthermore, as Zack Ford at ThinkProgress notes, the Mormons’ brief cites the widely discredited Regnerus study as supposed evidence that marriage equality harms children.

Were Mormon officials standing outside the Supreme Court that day holding protest signs a la Westboro Baptist? Nope. But were they actively arguing for the preservation of marriage discrimination? You bet they were.

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A Tax System Stacked Against the 99 Percent

Joseph E. Stiglitz | The New York Times | Reader Supported News | April 16, 2013

EONA HELMSLEY, the hotel chain executive who was convicted of federal tax evasion in 1989, was notorious for, among other things, reportedly having said that “only the little people pay taxes.”

As a statement of principle, the quotation may well have earned Mrs. Helmsley, who died in 2007, the title Queen of Mean. But as a prediction about the fairness of American tax policy, Mrs. Helmsley’s remark might actually have been prescient.

Today, the deadline for filing individual income-tax returns, is a day when Americans would do well to pause and reflect on our tax system and the society it creates. No one enjoys paying taxes, and yet all but the extreme libertarians agree, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, that taxes are the price we pay for civilized society. But in recent decades, the burden for paying that price has been distributed in increasingly unfair ways.

About 6 in 10 of us believe that the tax system is unfair – and they’re right: put simply, the very rich don’t pay their fair share. The richest 400 individual taxpayers, with an average income of more than $200 million, pay less than 20 percent of their income in taxes – far lower than mere millionaires, who pay about 25 percent of their income in taxes, and about the same as those earning a mere $200,000 to $500,000. And in 2009, 116 of the top 400 earners – almost a third – paid less than 15 percent of their income in taxes.

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Federal: Bipartisan Coalition of Lawmakers Introduce ‘Respect State Marijuana Laws Act’

United States Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with a bipartisan coalition of three Republicans (Reps. Rohrabacher, Rep. Justin Amash [R-MI], and Don Young [R-AK]) and three Democrats (Reps. Earl Blumenauer [D-OR], Steve Cohen [D-TN] and Jared Polis [D-CO]) are sponsoring  House Bill 1523: the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act.

This measure seeks to amend the federal Controlled Substances Act to exempt from federal prosecution individuals and businesses, including marijuana dispensaries and/or retail outlets, who comply with state marijuana laws.

“This bipartisan bill represents a common-sense approach that establishes federal government respect for all states’ marijuana laws,” Rohrabacher said in a prepared statement, “It does so by keeping the federal government out of the business of criminalizing marijuana activities in states that don’t want it to be criminal.”

You can write to Congress in support of HR 1523  using a pre-written letter when you visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here:

Sincerely,   The NORML Team.

Inside the immigration bill: Gay-rights groups disappointed

David Nakamura | Washington Post | April 17, 2013

A bipartisan Senate group has agreed on a sweeping legislative proposal that would represent the most ambitious overhaul of the U.S. immigration system in three decades. The Washington Post will be examining portions of the bill on Post Politics in a series of blog entries.

Gay-rights advocates expressed disappointment Tuesday that the Senate group proposal did not include a new category of visas for same-sex foreign national spouses of U.S. citizens, who are not able to apply for such visas under current laws.

An estimated 40,000 foreign nationals are caught in limbo because federal law does not provide spousal benefits to same-sex couples under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Advocates had lobbied the bipartisan Senate group to include a new provision, modeled on the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow U.S. citizens to petition to bring their same-sex spouses to the country under the family visa program.

But on Sunday, Democratic Senate aides told gay-rights advocates on a conference call that the provision would not be in the legislative proposal to be released Tuesday from the eight-member group because of objections from the four Republicans, people familiar with the discussion said.

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