Thursday, September 12, 2013

Around The Nation

Minnesota Catholic school fires second LGBT employee this year
FRIDLEY -- Another employee in a suburban Minneapolis private high school was fired after it was disclosed that the individual was in a same-sex relationship. Kristen Ostendorf, an English and religion teacher, was terminated by the Totino-Grace Catholic High School after she came out during a teacher's workshop session last month.
Speaking with local television station KARE, Ostendorf said that as she was participating in the workshop along with 120 of her colleagues:
“I tried to figure out how I could encourage others to ‘make their mark’ if I was willing to be part of a community where I was required to hide and compromise and deny who I am,” she explained. “How could I ask others to give themselves entirely to the work God calls them to when I couldn’t do this myself?” Ostendorf said adding, 
“It wasn’t planned. It was a very surreal moment when I heard myself saying the things I tried not to say. And I was at once terrified and really glad and proud. I didn’t just say, ‘I’m gay, I’m in a relationship with a woman, and I’m happy,’ and sit down. That really wasn’t the point of what I was saying. It was, ‘This is my prayer for all of us: That we mean what we do.’”
Ostendorf said that the day after the workshop, Totino-Grace interim president and Principal Julie Michels called her in for a meeting and instructed her to not attend the next set of workshops. In an interview with the Minnesota Post Ostendorf said, 
"The next day I met with the administration and they asked what I thought their options were and I said, “I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer.” But I’d never been asked not to attend workshops, so I said, “I presume your options are to fire me or ask me to resign.” 
The conversation ensued from there about resigning she said noting that after 18 years at Grace, she was being asked to resign.  
“I told them I would not be resigning and they gave me what my lawyer says amounts to a letter of termination,” she recalled.
In a statement released to the media Wednesday, the school's administration said that it was “thankful” for Ostendorf’s service, but called the termination “a private matter between an employer and employee.”
The last president of Totino-Grace, William (Bill) Hudson, was forced to resign in July after he revealed that he was in a committed same sex relationship.

Topeka City Council to consider proposal on LGBT rights
TOPEKA -- Topeka City Councilman Chad Manspeaker confirmed Friday that the Kansas capital city's council has scheduled a September 17th vote for an anti-discrimination proposal he introduced earlier this year, that would amend the responsibility of the city's Human Relations Commission, (HRC) to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
During a phone interview Friday with LGBTQ Nation, the councilman said that the changes in the language to the HRC's charter was a necessary first step in efforts to expand protections for the LGBTQ residents of the city.
"It's baby steps towards ensuring that gay and lesbian and Transgender folk are not discriminated against. 
Look- The job of the HRC is to educate the community in the hopes of helping to prevent prejudice. My generation, actually the younger generations are already there in most cases agreeing that LGBTQ people are deserving of full equality." Manspeaker said. 
"I also have an absolute responsibility to protect everyone's rights, including those who disagree with equality. But I believe firmly that there needs to be an absolute line between government and religion. This allows the HRC to educate and also to to prevent prejudice."
Manspeaker's city council district includes the home of the infamous anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church which is based in Topeka. He told LGBTQ Nation that he has received an abnormally high number of e-mails regarding this proposed change to the HRC's mission, some negative and against the change.
"This proposed change will do nothing to limit that speech. It will not affect businesses or religious practices. It will however acknowledge that people are being ostracized, denied work, and receiving threats of violence, and even death for simply being who they are and hopefully with expanded outreach and education, this work by the HRC will diminish the negative effects of discriminatory practices. 
People have an absolute right to believe whatever they want and I will fight hard to preserve that right, but at the same time we cannot have a class of citizens marginalised. 
This is the first step toward a larger protection for the LGBT community,” Manspeaker said adding, “We want people to live freely in our community and we can’t do that without these protections.”
Current state laws have made it impossible for same-sex couples to file joint taxes, receive married benefits or adopt children together.
Kansas has a ban of same-sex marriage under a constitutional amendment passed in 2005 that defines marriage as “a civil contract between one man and one woman only.”
The HRC had itself approved the proposed language change in June in a 7-0 vote. However, it cannot be adopted as an official city law without the approval of the City Council.
Should the proposal pass, Topeka will be one of only two cities in Kansas with anti-discrimination regulations that include sexual orientation and gender identity. Currently, Lawrence is the only city to have an anti-discrimination ordinance.

California Bill to penalize Boy Scouts tax exempt status shelved
SACRAMENTO -- A bill that would eliminate the tax-exempt status of nonprofit groups such as the Boy Scouts of America that do not allow gay members has been shelved. State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens, principal sponsor of SB 323, told the Los Angeles Times that he had approved the bill's transfer to the Legislature’s inactive file, which would allow Lara to bring the bill back up next year if he so chooses.
“Let me be very clear, SB 323 is alive and well,” Lara told the Times in a statement. “As this is the first year to a two-year legislative session, we will be taking the next few months to work closely with all parties involved to address and refine this legislation." 
He added: "As session reconvenes in January, the passage of this bill and fighting against the discrimination of California’s LGBT community continues to be of paramount importance."
The measure which had gained Senate approval and which was waiting on an Assembly vote, only affected California state taxes.
Lara had pursued the measure after the BSA voted to allow gay scouts but continued an existing ban on any adult over the age of 18 from serving as a scouting leader.
In an email, Deron Smith, a spokesman for the BSA said;
"More than ever, California’s youth need scouting and we are focused on the goals that unite us. Scouting remains undeterred in its belief that together we can accomplish incredible things for the youth we serve.”