Rex Wockner

Rex Wockner

Defense Personnel Enter Boat in Amsterdam Pride Canal Parade

For the first time, around 80 defense personnel—military and civilian—took part in Amsterdam’s gay pride canal parade with their own boat Aug. 6. Joining them was U.S. gays-in-the-military activist Dan Choi. Defense personnel participated in the previous two years’ parades, in uniform, but onboard other groups’ boats. This year’s contingent was organized by the Dutch Foundation for Homosexuality and the Armed Forces. It also included a British Royal Navy lieutenant commander and Dutch generals.

“After years of trying to realize our aim of participating, we are extremely pleased, because visibility, particularly in the case of LGBT defense personnel, is so important,” said Peter Kees Hamstra, chairman of the foundation that organized the contingent. “By increasing this visibility, we aim to be an example to other defense organizations,” he said. “Although social acceptance has improved in the Netherlands too, there is still a great deal of work that must be done to strengthen the position of LGBT defense personnel.”

10 Years of Same-Sex Marriage in the Netherlands

It was 10 years ago April 1 that the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to let same-sex couples marry. Now same-sex marriage is legal in 12 nations, including in five U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and the Netherlands has seen  nearly 15,000 same-sex marriages.

Dutch University Gives Transgender Man New Diploma

The president of the executive board of the University of Amsterdam, Karel van der Toorn, presented transgender activist and alumnus Justus Eisfeld with a new diploma reflecting his correct gender April 6 in New York City. Van der Toorn was in New York, where Eisfeld works for Global Action for Trans Equality, on a business trip. Eisfeld underwent gender transition after graduation from the university. Approval to issue the revised diploma came in November via a ruling from the Dutch Equal Treatment Commission. The decision also applies to other Dutch transgender people.

Maryland Trans Rights Bill Dies

A transgender nondiscrimination bill that had passed the Maryland House of Delegates died in the Senate on April 11. Senators voted 27-20 to return it to committee. The development took state LGBT activists by surprise, as they believed they had lined up the needed votes for passage. In the end, 16 Democrats voted with the majority.

“Senators ... took a walk on justice and fairness today and turned their backs on the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Equality Maryland Executive Director Morgan Meneses-Sheets.

National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey added, “Without legal protections, transgender people are made particularly vulnerable to ... neglect, bias and abuse.”

Gay Activists Rally for Royal Wedding

Same-sex marriage activists presented a giant wedding card for Prince William and Kate Middleton outside the gates of Buckingham Palace on April 25. The card congratulated the royal couple on their wedding, which took place four days later, and urged them to support legalization of same-sex marriage. The United Kingdom currently offers same-sex couples civil partnerships that carry the same rights as marriage.The card said: “We wish you a happy life together. You can get married, gay people can’t. We are banned by law. We ask you to support marriage equality.” Organizer Peter Tatchell said the action was well-received.

“Everyone outside the palace expressed support for marriage equality. We didn’t get a single negative reaction,” he said.

Proponents Seek to Erase Prop 8 Strikedown because Judge did not Disclose Same-Sex Relationship

The proponents of California’s Proposition 8 on April 25 asked the federal District Court in San Francisco to nullify last year’s decision that struck down Prop 8 because now-retired Judge Vaughn Walker did not disclose at the time that he was in a same-sex relationship.

“Given that Chief Judge Walker was in a committed, long-term, same-sex relationship throughout this case (and for many years before the case commenced), it is clear that his ‘impartiality might reasonably [have been] questioned’ from the outset,” the Prop 8 proponents wrote in their motion to vacate judgment. Walker had an obligation either to recuse himself from the case, the filing says, or to disclose the relationship so that the parties in the case could have decided whether to request his recusal. Gay rights lawyers derided the motion.

Australian Census to Count Married Same-Sex Couples

The next Australian census will count same-sex couples who have gotten married abroad. “Census night” is Aug. 9.

“It is an important sign of respect that the Australian Bureau of Statistics will allow same-sex partners to indicate if they are married on the census,” said Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Peter Furness. “It also highlights how nonsensical the federal government’s failure to recognize same-sex marriage has become. We urge all same-sex partners who want to indicate they are married to take advantage of the fact that now they can.”

ABA Honors Olson, Boies

The American Bar Association will honor Ted Olson and David Boies, the famous odd-couple lawyers who got Proposition 8 declared unconstitutional last year. The two star attorneys, who represented George W. Bush and Al Gore respectively before the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2000 “hanging chad” election debacle, teamed up with the American Foundation for Equal Rights to fight the voter-passed constitutional amendment that re-banned same-sex marriage in California in 2008. A federal district judge in San Francisco agreed with their arguments and struck down the amendment, which has remained in force as the ruling is appealed.

On Aug. 8, Olson and Boies will receive the American Bar Association Medal, a rare honor that isn’t bestowed at all in some years. Last year, Time magazine declared Olson and Boies two of the 100 most influential people in the world.

DADT Dies for Good on Sept. 20

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the military gay ban, will be fully and permanently dead on Sept. 20. It already can’t be enforced against active-duty troops, courtesy of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But on July 22, the military’s readiness to implement Congress’ repeal of DADT was certified by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta; Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and President Barack Obama, setting in motion a 60-day waiting period until the policy is history. The certification confirms that the armed forces’ implementation of the repeal and the transition to open service will not affect “military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the armed forces,” Panetta said.

“The final countdown to repeal begins today,” said Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis, who urged Obama to now issue an executive order banning anti-gay discrimination and harassment in the military.

ILGA Achieves UN Status

Following a 17-year battle, the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council on July 25 restored the consultative status of ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. ILGA had ECOSOC status from 1993 to 1994 but was stripped of it following a scandal, orchestrated by the U.S. right wing, in which a small number of ILGA’s 700 member organizations were accused of not taking a strong enough position on age of consent. The group later expelled those members and made the wording of its constitution stronger on the issue.

“ILGA has applied to regain the status ever since ... but a small group of countries sponsoring homophobia had been able to influence the votes in the ... committee examining the applications for a long time,” ILGA said in a statement.

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