October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Louisiana consistently leads the U.S. in domestic homicides. Louisiana ranked No. 1 for the rate of women killed by men in 2009 with a rate of 2.53 per 100,000, according to the Violence Policy Center. The state ranked at No. 4 in 2010, and No. 9 in 2011. According to the Louisiana Coalition on Domestic Violence, 81 percent of female homicides are committed by a partner or an ex-partner.
At New Orleans City Council's health, education and social services committee meeting this afternoon, members of local domestic violence prevention and aid organizations presented their efforts to curb the epidemic in the New Orleans area.
"Louisiana is one of the most dangerous, violent places to be a wife, a mother, a girlfriend," said Kati Bambrick Rodriguez, director of the New Orleans Health Department's Domestic Violence Program. According to Rodriguez, Orleans Parish has issued 3,420 personal protective orders (compared to Baton Rouge, which issued 2,088), though only 24 percent of people seeking protection actually get it, she said. Rodriguez added that no LGBT victims of domestic violence have received a protective order.
Following this morning's Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8, conservative advocacy group Louisiana Family Forum is both "pleased" with and disturbed and perplexed by the court's decisions.
“The key message for Louisiana from the U.S. Supreme Court today is this: Your right to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman is preserved,” said president Gene Mills in a statement. “It is important to note that the Court did not find a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage."
LFF "is pleased" that the court "refused to completely undermine traditional marriage throughout all 50 states, including Louisiana," adding, "However, it is disturbing and perplexing that the court has ruled that the federal government has no right to affirm natural marriage."
"Marriage remains a religious and civil institution stewarded by the people," the statement continued. "LFF, since inception, has provided a voice for traditional marriage. LFF represents those who embrace the orthodox view that marriage and the family are instituted by God and affirmed by the sacred Scripture as the union of one man and one woman. As a civil institution, societies for centuries have recognized that the union of a man and a woman are the optimal environment for the care and nurture of children. It is upon this bedrock that all other societal institutions exist."
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning that same-sex couples cannot be denied federal benefits given to other couples. The ruling strikes down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which prevents married same-sex couples from receiving health, tax and other federal benefits.
"DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment," wrote justice Anthony Kennedy in the court's 5-4 decision. In the majority rule were justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were in the minority.
The court also dismissed Proposition 8, the California law banning same-sex marriage there. The decision paves the way for California to reinstate same-sex marriages. (Twelve states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages.) The DOMA ruling means the federal government must recognize marriages in those states.
At 5:30 p.m. today, the Forum for Equality and several other organizations host a "Day of Decision" rally in Jackson Square:
Forum For Equality will rally in New Orleans with ACLU Louisiana, Human Rights Campaign, LGBT Community Center and PFLAG-New Orleans to explain the decision, what it means for Louisiana couples and to support the freedom to marry.
Come with your partners, wives and husbands! Bring the entire family! Invite along your friends, neighbors, allies and co-workers! Don’t forget your signs, banners, and flags! And wear RED! Press, organizations, and individual community members are all encouraged to attend.
Following a federal class action lawsuit filed last year by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and others, a settlement was reached with the state of Louisiana to remove hundreds of people from sex offender registries because of "crimes against nature" by solicitation (CANS) convictions.
Among the defendants in Doe v. Caldwell: Louisiana attorney general Buddy Caldwell, Department of Public Safety and Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc, and Louisiana State Police Superintendent Michael Edmonson.
People convicted under Louisiana's centuries-old law against solicitation of "crimes against nature" no longer have to register as sex offenders, thanks to a law passed in 2011 that equalizes the penalties for prostitution and solicitation of "crimes against nature" (oral and anal sex) — but the law was not retroactive.
Louisiana's House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs failed to pass a bill which would "prohibit discrimination in state employment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression."
Authored by State Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, who in 2011 introduced a bill to protect gay students from bullying, House Bill 85 would allow gay state employees who were discriminated against to appeal to the state Civil Service Commission. Current law allows discrimination appeals based on discrimination of political beliefs, sex or race and, provides for hearings and decisions in those cases. Current law does not include provisions for gay employees.
The Louisiana Family Forum argued the bill would create "a target-rich environment for lawsuits" and afford "special" rights to gay employees.
The committee voted 6-3 against the bill.
Making its debut tonight, along with seven brand new bands, is Not Enough Fest, a production of No More Fiction. Since 2009, the group has supported and produced LGBTQ and feminist punk rock and DIY bands with shows typically benefiting local nonprofits.
With Not Enough Fest, inspired by the Portland, Ore. music and art festival, bands must meet a few requirements: they must be brand new and be composed of at least half women-identified and/or queer-identified people. Event organizers encouraged novice musicians to meet, learn, and play together as a group. The end result is the debut of seven bands — Spring Break-Up, Pregnant, Mans, Goat, Arabella Arabella, Osedax, and If So, Uh-Oh.
Over the last several months, No More Fiction hosted mixers where musicians or soon-to-be musicians could meet like-minded players, share ideas and music interests and start putting together groups. Organizers also hosted workshops, where budding musicians could learn guitar, bass, drums and vocal skills. The event is meant to "encourage the participation of women and queers in DIY music making in our town."
The event also features a screenprinting demonstration, and all proceeds from Not Enough benefit Ashley Volion, a Lafitte woman with cerebral palsy who was denied by the state to live and work in Chicago while pursuing a PhD at the University of Illinois for disability studies, the only program of its kind in the country.
The all-ages event begins at 7 p.m. at 3 Ring Circus' The Big Top Gallery (1638 Clio St.). Admission is $5-$25.
Last month, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu addressed her position on same sex marriage as the U.S Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. U.S. Senate Democrats had only a handful of marriage equality opponents — Landrieu among them. Today, Indiana's Joe Donnelly and North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp came forward in support.
Donnelly wrote the following on Facebook: "With the recent Supreme Court arguments and accompanying public discussion of same-sex marriage, I have been thinking about my past positions and votes. In doing so, I have concluded that the right thing to do is to support marriage equality for all."
"After speaking with North Dakotans from every corner of our great state, and much personal reflection, I have concluded the federal government should no longer discriminate against people who want to make lifelong, loving commitments to each other or interfere in personal, private, and intimate relationships," Heitkamp wrote. "The makeup of families is changing, but the importance of family is enduring."
Landrieu has not outright opposed the concept — she even has acknowledged the "progression" of public opinion and its influence. Last month, Landrieu told Buzzfeed that she feels "very strongly that people should be allowed to love who they love," but added, "unfortunately my state has a very strong ban against gay marriage constitutionally."
Playwright and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black's work 8 will be given a staged reading at the Civic Theatre Sunday, April 21 at 7 p.m. The reading is presented by Southern Rep and the Forum For Equality.
8 is about the debate over gay marriage surrounding California's Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot proposition and state constitutional amendment that declared the state would only recognize marriages between a man and a woman. It was passed, and appeals of its constitutionality reached the Supreme Court in recent weeks, along with another case about the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Black won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 2009 for Milk, the film about murdered gay San Francisco councilman Harvey Milk. He authored the screen play for J. Edgar, starring Leo DiCaprio as FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. He also was a writer for HBO's Big Love.
Black will attend the reading and a reception for VIP ticket holders. Tickets are $15-$100.
Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe and Baltimore Raven Brendon Ayanbadejo announced a long list of supporters co-signing a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting marriage equality and challenging California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage.
In a statement, former New Orleans Saint Scott Fujita said, "Football is a macho sport, but we've found many players to be accepting. We hope to create an environment where a player who is gay will be treated like any other teammate."
Among the co-signing supporters for the "Athletes' Brief" are Saints linebacker Scott Shanle, as well as former Saints players Steve Gleason, David Kopay and Kawika Mitchell. Other supporters include Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, WNBA coaches and players, university athletic directors and others. Kluwe, Ayanbadejo and Fujita are Ambassadors for Athlete Ally, an organization aiming to end homophobia in sports — you can read the organization's brief in full here.
The brief's introduction includes the following:
The NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA, at the league level, team level, and individual level, are finally speaking out against homophobia and intolerance of LBGTQ individuals. More and more of us realize that using demeaning slur words like “faggot,” “queer,” and “gay” can have serious, negative consequences. ... Not necessarily consequences for us. Instead, consequences for the children and adults who look up to us as role models and leaders. Consequences for children and adults who mimic our behavior when they interact with others. And consequences that can be severe, long-lasting, and not infrequently lead to suicide and other serious harm.
Read the brief's full introduction below the jump.
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