It’s been a busy week in LGBT rights in the United States this week, with plenty of progress on the marriage equality front but also some worrying developments on the horizon. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Texas Court Sets Precedent for Recognizing Trans-Inclusive Marriage
The 13th District Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi issued a decision on Thursday affirming that a Houston trans widow’s marriage was lawful and as such that she should be entitled to survivorship benefits. The decision reverses a 2011 judgment against Nikki Araguz which at the time barred her from receiving benefits after her husband, Thomas Araguz, was killed in the line of duty in 2010 while working as a volunteer firefighter. Thursday’s ruling overturns the reasoning that was behind the denial of benefits — namely, that Araguz wasn’t a woman at the time she married — and affirms that marriages involving a trans person should be recognized as valid within the state. There will now be further court action to secure Araguz the benefits she should have received.
2. Celebrations as Indiana’s Constitutional Amendment to Ban Gay Marriage Hits 2-Year Set-Back
Despite the very best efforts of many religious conservative lawmakers in the state, Indiana will now have to wait at least another two years before it can move to put a constitutional amendment before voters to enshrine the state’s existing ban on marriage equality.
A constitutional amendment must be passed unchanged by two consecutive legislatures, and when the state senate this week decided to strip the amendment of its overreaching civil unions ban, they effectively reset the clock, meaning that the earliest that ban could be brought forth is now November 2016.
3. Kansas Looks Set to Pass Gay Discrimination is Okay Bill, Other States to Follow
It’s not all good news this week. A bill that would allow religious people to refuse to serve LGB people based on “strongly felt” religious conviction sailed through the Kansas House in a 72-49 vote, with the Republican-controlled Senate also likely to pass the bill. The legislation, known as “House Bill 2453″ is so broad that it technically could allow medical staff to refuse to treat LGBs, and that any business at any time could turn away someone they suspect to be LGB so long as they cited their sincere religious beliefs.
Other states like Tennessee are now looking to introduce similar pieces of legislation in what appears to be a coordinated effort to undermine same-sex marriage rights and the civil rights of LGBT people while helping to maintain religious privilege.
4. Facebook Introduces New Gender Options to Make Site More Trans-Friendly
After sustained lobbying from its users, as Care2 reported, Facebook this week rolled out new gender marker options for those people who do not fit within the gender binary. This has been hailed as a vital step for catering to trans users and those who are gender fluid because it helps to make Facebook more accommodating to how they might choose to identify and what gender markers — and pronouns — they are more comfortable using.
Those using the site are now offered up to 50 different choices of how they might wish to identify. For the moment the change is said to be only for U.S. users, but that feature will be rolled out to other markets within the next few months.
5. Judge Rules Kentucky Must Recognize Out-of-State Same-Sex Marriages
U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn this week ruled that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages that were carried out in other states, citing the 2013 Supreme Court of the United States decision Windsor v. United States. The ruling does not overturn the state’s in-house ban on same-sex marriage but it does put that ban into further doubt, paving the way for future challenges. The decision largely uses the same reasoning as has been used in other similar cases, saying that to deny recognition to out of state gay marriages inflicts harm and impinges on other states’ authority.
There we have it, a busy week with quite a bit to celebrate but one that also shows how much work is still needed to fulfill the equality cause.
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