News Round Up – Easton, Pa., Delaware, DADT, Uganda

Easton City Council Advances Domestic Partner Benefits
Easton City Council last night advanced their proposed ordinance to provide domestic partner benefits to same-sex partners of City staff members. The proposal has been reviewed in committee since April and is now being considered by the full council with a final vote expected on May 25.

If passed, Easton will join Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, and Lancaster in providing partner benefits to same sex couples. “Easton is moving forward to protect families of its Gay and Lesbian employees who risk their lives for the safety of its citizens” says Liz Bradbury, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Diversity Network.

The ordinance, introduced by Councilman Michael Fleck, has bipartisan support and is expected to pass unanimously according to Adrian Shanker, Vice President of Pennsylvania Diversity Network, who has worked to build support for the ordinance. “It is clear that in 2011, this is not a Democrat issue, this is a human issue, and I am pleased to see strong support for this important proposal from Democrats and Republicans alike.”

Delaware Governor Signs Civil Union Legislation
Saying “In Delaware – justice and equality move one way – and that is forward,” Gov. Jack Markell signed landmark legislation last evening. His action makes Delaware one of only a handful of states to allow same-sex civil unions and fully recognize same-sex relationships.

Couple who enter into a civil union will enjoy the same rights, protections and obligations that exist for married spouses.

“This bill is about a new energy and excitement,” said Markell. “The greater good is served when we speak out and fight hard when we see that bias, prejudice or even outdated laws attempt to lessen any one of us.”

“Tonight is a wonderful night for lgbt equality in Delaware,” said Lisa Goodman, president of Equality Delaware and host of the night’s festivities.” Rep. Melanie L. George, lead sponsor in the House, she believes “with every fiber of my being that this is the right thing to do.”

Also under the bill, Delaware would recognize legal relationships that same-sex couples enter into in another jurisdiction – whether it is a civil union or marriage – and treat the relationship as a civil union.

DADT Snag?
Congressman Duncan Hunter (CA) wants to pass an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to potentially delay certification of open service by gay and lesbian members of the United States military.

“There is no appetite for the Hunter amendment, which would only distract from the comprehensive and on-going repeal implementation process,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper.

Also, the Department of the Navy’s reversed it’s previous decision of allowing same-sex marriages to take place in Navy facilities located in states in which same-sex marriage is legally recognized.

“At a time when the economy still needs attention, Osama Bin Laden was just killed, and revolution and conflict continue to rage across a fragile Middle East, having policy makers spend valuable and limited time on whether a few gay couples may or may not use a Navy facility for a private ceremony at some point in the future is just plain silly,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former Army Interrogator who was discharged under DADT.

Is Ugandan “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” Killed?

The Associated Press is reporting that Ugandan Parliamentarians have scrapped plans to debate the so-called “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” after an international outcry. Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) had threatened to cut off aid to the East African country, while members of GetEQUAL protested outside the Ugandan embassy in Washington, D.C., yesterday afternoon. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also criticized the measure that had once called for the death penalty for anyone convicted of repeated same-sex sex acts.

“If adopted, a bill further criminalizing homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda,” said Hilary Fuller Renner, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs. “Respect for human rights is key to Uganda’s long-term political stability and democratic development, as well as its public health and economic prosperity.”

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