Thursday, February 17, 2005

Governmental Activity 

Sort of a news of note post:

In a ray of hope, New Mexico's House of Reps has killed a gay marriage ban bill in committee. This one would not only have banned same sex marriage in Mexico and barred recognition of out of state same-sex unions, but would also have "imposed fines on anyone allowing gays and lesbians to marry including members of the clergy." I wonder if that would have applied only to persons performing "official" marriages, or if it also would have applied to clergy who performed commitment ceremonies or other relationship blessings as allowed in their particular church. And this from the same general group of people who try to claim that if gay marriage were legalized, all churches would be forced to perform the ceremonies (which doesn't happen, by the way. No church is forced to perform marriages - such as the catholic church with divorcees or noncatholics). But apparently they feel it's okay to bar other religions from recognizing relationships if those relationships wouldn't be recognized in the anti-gay denominations. Go figure.

In a smaller ray of hope, but a ray nonetheless, a proposed Virginia bill also died in committee. This one would have required social workers to determine whether or not applicants for adoption were gay. Originally the bill would have then barred gay applicants, but the final version would have "left the final decision" up to the social worker. Sort of "Oh, we won't hold it against you, but we have to know as a matter of law." One state senator said of the bill:
"This thing comes awfully close to being pretty bigoted, so I can't support it," said Sen. Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax).

Bigoted? You think? Anyway, it's gone.

In a ray of incredible darkness, a subset of the Department of Health and Human Services "requested" that the title of a federally funded conference in Newton, MA change its name so as not to use the following words: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or gender identity. Hmm. Sort of problematic, when the conference is on "Suicide Prevention Among Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Individuals." The Suicide Prevention Resource Center received funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which also requested that the conference include information on faith-based suicide prevention.

According to the SPRC's website, their mission is to "support[] suicide prevention with the best of science, skills and practice." I don't see anything about religion in there.

Mark Weber, a SAMHSA employee, responded to the criticism stemming from the requests by stating that "it was only a suggestion." When pressed on the nature of the suggesion, he also stated that the group does "need to consider their funding source."

Yeah, just a little suggestion.
UPDATE (2/18/05 11:53 am): After many complaints and a few phone calls from US Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), the policy has been "clarified" by SAMHSA administrator Charles Curie. The clarification came as a statement that the administration has "no policy" regarding or restricting the use of the terms in question. The original conference name will be used.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:15 PM