[UPDATED:]Forward Equality Celebrates the Top Progressive Moments of 2013

2013 was a year to remember for progressive issues and values! Nationwide, progressives and progressive values won!

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This was the year that the Hawaii legislature passed equal marriage.  Ho’omaika’i ‘ana (congratulations) Hawaii!  LGBTQIA couples this month are able to legally marry. (USAToday)

1422642_521655981263992_1021131881_nIn the Virginia Governor’s race progressive Democrat Terry McAuliffe won by 1,064,093 48% of the vote against regressive Republican Ken Cuccinelli who is against women’s reproductive rights, workers’ rights, and civil rights. McAuliffe is a pro-choice, pro-equality, and pro-labor candidate and Forward Equality supports him and believe he will be a great Governor! 

In the New York City Mayor’s race progressive Democrat Bill de Blasio won by 677,532 73% of the vote against Republican Joe Lhota. Bringing New York City’s Mayor’s office back in the hands of progressive values! Forward Equality believes that de Blasio will be a much better Mayor then the current Mayor. De Blasio stood against Mayor Bloomberg’s stop and frisk and many of Bloomberg’s additional anti-civil rights stances. 

In the Seattle, Washington Mayoral race Ed Murray won by 56% of the vote making Ed Murray the first openly gay Mayor of Seattle, Washington! Forward Equality is very excited to see more openly LGBTQIA people elected to public offices!

ENDAFinalVoteThe U.S. Senate passed on a vote of 64-32 the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA),which bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill now moves on to the U.S. House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the marriage equality bill into law making Illinois the 16th state to provide equal rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA) couples in regards to civil marriage! Gov. Quinn before signing the bill made this statement,

“We understand in our state that part of our unfinished business is to help other states in the United States of America achieve marriage equality.” (HuffPost)

Scotland Parliament passed a marriage equality bill by a vote of 98-15. This was the first reading which sends the bill to the Equal Opportunities Committee, before final approval in early 2014. Alex Neil, Health Secretary in the Scottish government made these statements on the bill,

“I believe that will allow all people having the same opportunity as each other in Scotland who love each other to have their marriage recognised in the eyes of the law.” “That will create a more tolerant society in Scotland and will mean that, in respect of marriage, there is genuinely equal rights right across the entire community.”

United Kingdom passed marriage equality in July, giving same-sex couples the opportunity to marry in England and Wales beginning in 2014. (BBC)

Houston, Texas, City officials announced that they city will offer healthcare and life insurance benefits to city employee’s same-sex spouses. Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker (Democrat) says the decision is based on the city’s legal department interpretation of the United States Supreme Court ruling striking down section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, giving federal recognition of married same-sex couples. Mayor Parker made this statement,

“This change is not only the legal thing to do, it is the right, just and fair thing to do.” (LGBTQNation)

Douglas CountyThe Douglas County Board voted to change the definition of an eligible spouse from “legally married spouse” to “the person to whom the employee is legally married, regardless of whether that person is of the same gender or opposite gender of the employee.“ This move grants county employee’s same-sex spouses health and dental benefits which is a sharp contrast to Mayor Stothert’s harsh choice to deny healthcare to her City’s employee’s same-sex spouses. 

imagesRecently, the New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously declared that LGBTQIA couples have deserve equal marriage rights, making New Mexico the 17th state to enact marriage equality. The Ruling,

“We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law.”

The decision orders county clerks to issue marriage licenses, and also confirms legal validity of same-sex marriages in the state prior to the decision. (Advocate)

1512687_604080023006180_269315248_nYesterday, Federal District Judge Robert J. Shelby issued a 53-page ruling stating that Utah’s law banning same-sex marriage in the state unconstitutional. Judge Shelby said that the law violated LGBTQIA couples’ rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Jude Shelby wrote,

“In the absence of such evidence, the State’s unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the State’s refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens.”

Judge Shelby wrote that the right to marry is a fundamental right protected by the United States Constitution.

“These rights would be meaningless if the Constitution did not also prevent the government from interfering with the intensely personal choices an individual makes when that person decides to make a solemn commitment to another human being.”

Judge Shelby’s ruling makes Utah the 18th state with marriage equality. (Huffingtonpost)

The November elections in New York City, brought an infusion of progressives to the City Council. 21 members to the 51 member Council. The City Council’s progressive caucus now has some new clout. They along with the labor-backed Working Families Party have won many new seats making the Council’s tiny Republican minority even smaller.

“The City Council will have a Progressive Caucus that is bigger and more muscular than ever,” said Bill Lipton, Working Families Party’s state director.

The progressives’ agenda includes requiring affordable housing, expanding a living wage, and paid sick days. Which, puts the progressives on the same page as Mayor Bill de Blasio. (NYDailynews)

SeaTac, Washington (pop. 27,000) on election day this year, voters approved Proposition 1. Prop. 1 raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour for travel-related industries in the airport city. This is a huge strike against the Republican anti-labor right. Now, more than 6,000 workers will get a raise. Many will be able to access full-time jobs with more benefits, including being able to stay home with pay when their children are sick. 

seatac-good-jobs-initiativeA study estimates that the wage increase will generate $54 million in economic activity and more than 400 new jobs. And Businesses will see a more productive and stable workforce because of this increase. Voters seem to continue to pass with healthy margins ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage nearly every time. That is exactly what happened in New Jersey when the voters approved an increase in the state minimum wage.

Nevertheless, because of Congress failing to act on the most common sense bipartisan bills, workers are taking their needs to the voters and local lawmakers. This idea of a living wage is “catching fire” at almost every level from state to city. Even in Seattle, Wash. both Mayoral candidates supported a living wage. (MSNBC)

downloadIn Takoma Park, Maryland, 16-year-old Ben Miller stepped into a both and cast his first vote in an election. The City Council in May, granted 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in local elections making it the nation’s first city to allow voting for 16 and 17 year olds. 350 16 and 17 year olds were allowed to vote in the municipal elections. Some additional changes include, same-day registration, allowing paroled felons to vote.

“It’s a valuable privilege,” said Miller.

City Council Member Tim Male, got the idea to lower the age from Rob Richie, director of FairVote and resident of Takoma Park. Richie spoke with Male about reports from Denmark that suggest young teens are more likely to vote then older teens.

“Voting is this communitarian act, it is about a connection to a broader community,” said Richie.

It is the City’s hope that offering the connection to younger teens could get them into a habit of voting.  16 and 17 year olds in Maryland are already allowed to pre-register to vote. (WashingtonPost)

In Houston Texas, during the November elections, the voters reelected Mayor Annise Parker. Mayor Annise Parker is one of the first openly gay Mayors of a major United States Cities. Mayor Parker won with a 57% majority. Another big with for progressives and the LGBTQIA community. (KVUEnews)

dt.common.streams.StreamServerMore locally, in Coralville, Iowa, during the election season billionaire Koch brothers group, American’s for Prosperity eyed the local City elections. They became very involved in the election with an aggressive campaign mailing flier, advertising in the newspapers, calling voters, and knocking on doors. One of their mailings compared Coralville to becoming Detroit. However, Coralville has fewer than 20,000 residents and the group hasn’t been given a big welcome.

The Koch brother’s group, even forced the candidates who they endorsed to support the organization’s beliefs or suffer financial punishment. The organization has even been criticized because it is unclear who their members are and because group gets much of its funds from corporations. (dispatch)

fortunately, the Koch Brothers were denied any victories in Coralville. Their Mayoral candidate lost, and their Council candidates lost. Despite all of their efforts they lost.

John Lundell was elected Mayor, Tom Gill and Bill Hoeft incumbent were elected, and Laurie Goodrich new-candidate was elected, and all by strong majorities. John Lundell even received a surprise call from United States Vice President Joe Biden after the election. 

“He indicated that he was very proud of our city, that we took on the Koch brothers and successfully beat them by such a huge margin,” Lundell said.

“That was another aspect of this election that was unanticipated, that after the polls closed that I’d be speaking to the vice president of the United States,” Lundell said. (DailyKos)

Another big win for the LGBTQIA community was in Royal Oak, Michigan. Where the voters approved a local ordinance banning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Royal Oak is the 30th town in Michigan to adopt a LGBTQIA antidiscrimination law. The ordinance passed the City Council but anti-equality anti-LGBTQIA opponents put it on the ballot in an effort to block it. (MichiganRadio)

In Missoula, Montana progressives won decisive victories. Two incumbents kept their seats and Bryan Von Lossber, Jordan Hess, Emily Bently, and Annelise Hedahl all new-candidates with join the City Council. Bryan Von Lossber won with 75% of the vote. Jordan Hess won with 81%. Emily Bently won with 80%.  Annelise Hedahl won with 62%.  All are strong progressives. (Missoulian)

 

 

[UPDATE:] Nebraska Hospitals & Blue Cross Provides Same-Sex Spousal Benefits

maxresdefaultLast month, hospitals in Nebraska will offer health insurance benefits to all couples equally regardless of their gender. These hospitals include Alegent Creighton Health/Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) of Nebraska, the Methodist Health system and the Omaha VA Medical Center starting this year! 

Alegent Creighton/CHI said,

“Because access to decent and affordable health care is a basic human right.” “CHI reviewed the IRS definition of individuals eligible to be claimed as a dependent on a federal tax return and used that definition as the basis for a new dependent classification, an adult dependent, to be eligible for CHI medical, dental and vision plans.”

images (2)Methodist Health System’s vice president of human resources said,

“Our benefit plans look to a number of federal statutes for plan administration and definitions.” In addition, said, “We decided to continue to follow the federal law, and that allowed for same-sex benefits.”

imageThe VA Medical Center must follow the rules put forth by the federal Office of Personnel Management. Cheri DeWispelare, chief of human resources for the VA Nebraska Western Iowa Health Care System said,

“Whether they’re same-sex couples or opposite-sex couples, the rules are the same for them.”

Unfortunately, some hospitals in Nebraska will not be treating all couples equally. The Nebraska Medical Center and Bryan Health both said they don’t offer health coverage benefits for same-sex couples.(Omaha.com)

Also last month, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska will begin offering health coverage for same-sex couples in 2014! A representative for the insurance company said that,

“It’s a Department of Labor policy we’re following.”

photo-5Blue Cross is the insurance carrier for 246 Nebraska school districts and their plan includes more than 70,000 education employees, early retirees and dependents.  Most districts in Nebraska are covered through Blue Cross except Millard, Wayne and York. Millard’s director of administrative affairs claims that he wasn’t aware of officials in his district considering coverage for same-sex spouses. This would fall in line with Millard’s history of being anti-LGBTQIA. (Omaha.com)

This means that the majority of Nebraska school districts will offer same-sex spousal benefits. Major victory right there!

 

*Currently, there are 18 states and the District of Columbia that provides equal marriage rights. Those states include Massachusetts (2004), California (2008 [repealed by prop-8][prop-8 struck down] 2013), Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), New Hampshire (2009), New York (2011), Washington (2012), Maryland (2012), Maine (2012), Rhode Island (2013), Delaware (2013), Minnesota (2013), New Jersey (2013), Illinois (2013), Hawaii (2013), New Mexico (2013), and Utah (2013).

 

 

All of these victories are worth celebrating. 2013 was a great year for progressives. We didn’t get everything we wanted done but, we really did make a difference. You can tell that Regressive Republicans are losing and so ar their ideals. 2014 is coming fast and we will have a lot of work to do to continue to make progressive ideals a reality, especially with the 2014 midterm elections.

Nevertheless, there is plenty left to do. Which is why Forward Equality supports the following to fix some of our nation’s problems.

  • Forward Equality supports H.R. 1010 the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would increase the minimum wage to $10.10. (There are proposals to raise the mimimum wage for different amounts)

  • Forward Equality supports H.R. 676 the Healthcare for All bill, which would improve and expand Medicare for All.

  • Forward Equality supports H.R. 1199 the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would improve current anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies to maker our nation’s schools safer.

  • Forward Equality supports H.R. 1755 the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would finally ban discrimination in the workplace based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

  • Forward Equality supports H.R. 924 the incentivizing offshore wind power act, which would provide tax incentives for wind energy.
  • Forward Equality supports H.R. 766 the paying a fair share act, which would require millionaires and billionaires to pay a fair share of income taxes.
  • H.R. 137 the universal background checks bill, which would require background checks for every gun purchase.
  • Forward Equality supports S. 150 the assault weapons ban, which would ban military-style assault weapons for civilians.

Forward Equality supports these common sense measures to help improve, revitalize and strengthen the United States. It is past time that progressives unite and work together to pass all of these progressive bills.

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