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LGBT Developments Around the Country

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Every week at state and local levels, there are numerous developments on key issues that deeply affect our community—marriage, hate crimes and employment discrimination,  to name a few. GLAAD is ensuring the media is paying attention.

Here is a brief summary:

District of Columbia: Court rules down marriage referendum

A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that same-sex marriage opponents do not have a right to call for a referendum to determine whether such unions should be legal in the District.

The Washington Post reports:

The decision, a major victory for gay rights activists, makes it more likely that the District will begin allowing same-sex couples to marry in March.

In the 23-page ruling, Judge Judith N. Macaluso affirmed a D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics decision that city law disallows the ballot proposal because it would promote discrimination against gay men and lesbians. Macaluso also concluded that previous court decisions outlawing same-sex marriage in the District are no longer valid.

Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), the sponsor of the D.C. Council same-sex marriage bill signed last month by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), called the decision "thorough and far-reaching."

"The ruling, which addressed the substantive legal issues before the court, sustains the District's tradition of treating all citizens equally under the law," Catania said.

The election board has twice ruled that a referendum on same-sex marriage would violate a city election law prohibiting such a vote on a matter covered by the Human Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination against gays and other minority groups.


California: Mitrice Richardson’s family files million dollar claim against L.A. police department

The family of Mitrice Richardson, an African-American lesbian who has been   missing since she was released from the Malibu/Lost Hills sheriff’s station in September of 2009, has filed a multimillion-dollar claim against Los Angeles County. The family claims that that the Sheriff’s Department personnel acted negligently.

The Los Angeles Times wrote:

The claim mentions a number of officers who interacted with Richardson, 24, from the time she was arrested at Geoffrey’s, a Malibu restaurant, for not paying her $89 dinner bill, until her release into the night without her car, cellphone or purse.

“We feel they had a duty to keep her there,” said attorney Leo Terrell, who filed the claim on behalf of Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton; her father, Michael Richardson; the missing woman; and her estate. “If they felt she had a mental issue, they had an obligation to hold her.”

The deputies could have held her for a mental evaluation. But the Sheriff’s Department has steadfastly maintained that in the hours it did detain her, she appeared and talked rationally. A department spokesman has said the department felt, if anything, that it had a legal obligation to release her in a timely manner.

The claim, which was filed last week, alleges negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful death, according to Terrell.

LAPD Homicide Det. Chuck Knolls, who has been investigating the disappearance of the Cal State Fullerton graduate for months, expressed surprise that wrongful death was included.

“As far as we know, she’s a missing person,” said Knolls, who was part of an extensive search of the Malibu Canyon area Saturday. No sign of Richardson turned up, nor is there any evidence she was a victim of a crime.

Terrell acknowledged the possibility that she could turn up alive — in which case, he said, he would remove the wrongful death portion of the claim as well as the reference to Richardson’s estate. But he filed the claim as he did, he said, to make the six-month window after the alleged negligence occurred.


Maryland: Equality Maryland ED writes letter to The Baltimore Sun

In the January 11th, edition of The Baltimore Sun, Executive Director of Equality Maryland,  Morgan Meneses-Sheets wrote a letter to the editor addressing her concerns about recent comments about quality of life crimes made by radio Radio host Ed Norris, a former Baltimore police commissioner and superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

Meneses-Sheets wrote:

I am writing in response to Ed Norris' recent comments on the priority list that mayor-in-waiting Stephanie Rawlings-Blake should commit to (Jan. 10). I was appalled to see that of all of the criminal justice issues that plague this city, he chose to point a finger and suggest additional prosecution of some of the poorest and most disenfranchised people -- the homeless and sex workers. The fact that he had the nerve to label panhandling and prostitution as "quality of life" crimes demonstrates just how out of touch many people continue to be.


Those who would stand out on Light Street or MLK on a frigid January day do not do so to drive people away. It is a cry for help -- a cry that should truly be a priority of our incoming mayor. Furthermore, this commentary included yet another person pointing their finger at sex workers and blaming them for the ills of our society rather than considering what would put someone in a position where they would risk their lives on the streets everyday.


It is a fact that a large number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth who are ejected from their homes feel they have no other option than to participate in survival sex. Our city's shelters and transitional homes are not only under-funded but are also largely segregated in rigid gender categories that do not meet the needs of transgender individuals. There is a dearth of beds available to young people who find themselves on the streets. Additionally, many members of the LGBT community are fired for no reason or forced into low wage positions that make it nearly impossible to get by.

Instead of focusing on punitive measures that simply address the symptoms, let's talk about the real problems, such as discrimination. Don't put another marginalized person in jail when we should be creating and maintaining job training, fully accessible public programs and affordable, equitable housing. Let's be a community that honors the dignity and respect of all people. Now, that is truly a quality of life issue.


Michigan: Police Make Arrest in Benton Harbor Attack

Police  have made an arrest in a possible hate crime that occurred in December at a Benton Harbor, MI gas station. Calvin Wright, 23,  is accused of repeatedly punching a gay man. Wright is being held on suspicion of aggravated assault.

South Bend's NBC affiliate WNDU reported:

23-year-old Calvin Wright of Benton Harbor is accused of attacking another man outside a gas station on December 12th.

He was arrested over the weekend at an area restaurant. That's according to our Read It/Watch It partners at the Herald Palladium. The victim claims he was beaten because he is gay.

We interviewed the victim last month, but out of fear, he asked us to hide his name, face and voice.

"Get to know a gay person before you judge them because you don't know who they are,” said the victim. “They're all around you. They're your uncle, your aunt, your brother, your sister."

Police have not confirmed that the attack was because of sexual orientation.

GLAAD will continue keeping up with the latest developments on LGBT issues around the country.