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Heated LGBT rights debate continues in Missouri

Over the last decade, the landscape on LGBT rights has shifted rapidly across the nation. What was once considered unthinkable is becoming increasingly commonplace, from gay men and women being allowed to serve openly in the military to the potential for the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage this year in all 50 states.

Despite that change, 29 states — including Missouri and Kansas — have no statewide law barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. That means a person can be fired from a job, evicted from an apartment or kicked out of a restaurant for being gay or being perceived to be gay.

Lawmakers were discussing a bill making it illegal in Missouri to discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity just weeks after voters in Springfield narrowly voted to repeal a local nondiscrimination ordinance.

Resistance at the Statehouse has forced Missouri gay rights advocates to turn to local government. More than a dozen cities and counties in Missouri, including Kansas City and Jackson County, have passed ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Ron Calzone went to the Missouri Capitol on Wednesday to stand up for his “God-given freedom” to discriminate.

“Everyone’s afraid to say this, so I’m going to say it,” Calzone, a rancher from Maries County in south-central Missouri and director of conservative think tank Missouri First, told a House committee.

“In America, you have a right to discriminate as a private citizen. In America, if you don’t like the color of someone’s eyes or their hair or the way they talk, you have the right to not associate with them.”

 

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LGBT protections repealed in Missouri’s 3rd largest city

Six months after it was enacted, Springfield voters repealed an ordinance to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents from discrimination.

The city council had voted 6-3 in October to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.

Opponents, who voiced concern about religious freedom and the potential effect of the ordinance on the use of bathrooms across the city, gathered enough signatures to force council to either repeal the expansion or send it to the ballot box. The city council tabled the measure, which automatically set up the vote.

Final results of the Tuesday vote were close, 51.4% to repeal vs. 48.6% not.

“Momentum really turned in the last weeks,” said Calvin Morrow, spokesman for the campaign to repeal gay rights in Missouri’s third largest city. He had questioned whether discrimination against gay and lesbian residents actually happened in Springfield and said the fight over the ordinance had left the city divided.

Justin Burnett, who won a council seat Tuesday, supported repeal of the ordinance. He said it was a win for small business and the faith community.

“A lot of people of faith thought this ordinance neglected their constitutional and God-given rights,” he said.

At least 225 cities and counties across the USA prohibit hiring and housing discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBT equal rights.

In Missouri, at least six cities including Kansas City and St. Louis as well as St. Louis County have an ordinance, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

PROMO, the Missouri-based gay-rights advocacy group, puts the number at a dozen cities and two counties, including Jackson County that has Kansas City. All but two of the smaller locales — college towns Columbia and Kirksville — are St. Louis suburbs.

“People have worked so hard on this. We’ll rest tonight and we’ll regroup tomorrow,” Krista Moncado of the GLO Community Center, a gay and transgender organization in Springfield, said after the results were made final.

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Missouri bill would make issuing same-sex marriage licenses a fireable offense

A Missouri legislator has introduced a bill that would make it illegal for the state to enforce a marriage other than between a man and a woman and could lead to the firing of government employees who issue such licenses.

The bill, SB 555, was introduced by Sen. Ed Emery (R-Lamar):

This act provides that the state shall not enforce a marriage other than a marriage between a man and a woman. Additionally, no state or local taxpayer funds or state or local government employee salaries shall be dispersed for an activity that includes the licensing or support of a marriage other than a marriage between a man and a woman.

Any employee of the state or any political subdivision or instrumentality of the state who willfully and knowingly violates the provisions of this act may be terminated and shall no longer receive any salary, employee benefits, or retirement benefits, except that the employee may request a refund of the employee’s retirement contributions plus interest.

Same-sex marriage licenses are currently being issued in St. Louis City, St. Louis County and Jackson County, Mo., following back-to-back state and federal court decisions declaring Missouri’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. In Oct. 2014, a Jackson County decision recognized same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Both the St. Louis Circuit Court and Kansas City U.S. District Court decisions have been appealed by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to the State Supreme Court and 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, respectively.

Koster, a Democrat who supports marriage equality but says it is his job to defend state laws, did not appeal the earlier decision recognizing out of state same-sex marriages.

“I was disappointed that a bill like this has been introduced this year,” said Kyle Piccola, Senior Field Organizer for PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization. “Even after three judges in Missouri ruled in favor of marriage equality, some members of the legislature are grasping to stop the inevitable from happening.”

Emery’s bill comes on the heels of a Senate Education Committee’s hearing of twin bills (SB-248 and SB-311) on Wednesday, which would make it legal for Christian college groups to discriminate against LGBT students on Missouri campuses. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Missouri House.

The bill is similar to measures introduced in Texas and in Oklahoma that also target local officials with job loss for issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

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LGBT Myths as addressed by an Arab organization

We don’t hear a lot of news from the Middle East about LGBT issues. We know there is rampant homophobia and transphobia from the few stories that make it to U.S. media. Gay men are being rounded up and thrown off buildings in front of gathered crowds. Trans women are arrested for “debauchery” in sting operations with police posing as interested suitors on dating websites. Where do people in the Arab world get their information about the LGBT community? Here’s a partial list of myths that are common on the Middle East (and most are common here, too!) published by Arabs4Tolerance.org.

Most people in the Arab world attain information about LGBT folks through word-of-mouth and the media (movies, TV series, newspapers, etc.). Unfortunately, the information communicated is generally inaccurate and extremely negative.

Myth: You can spot a person who happens to be LGBT by the way they act and dress.

Reality: Most people believe all gay men are effeminate, and all lesbians are butch or tomboys. While there are some people who happen to be LGBT who fit these stereotypes, they are not representative of all LGBT folks. People who happen to be LGBT generally look and act like everyone else, especially in the Arabic speaking world due to fear of ridicule, harassment and/or verbal / physical assault. Most LGBT folks in the Arab world learn early on to “hide” their sexual orientation. They certainly do not want to attract attention to themselves.

Myth: Men who act in a feminine manner must be gay. Masculine women with short haircuts and deeper voices must be lesbians

Reality: These stereotypes only apply to about 15% of men who happen to be gay and 5% of women who happen to be lesbians. These stereotypes confuse the concept of sexual orientation (whether you are sexually and emotionally attracted to the same or the opposite sex) with gender roles (exhibiting “masculine” or “feminine” behavior).There is no accurate way to judge someone’s sexual orientation.

Myth: Being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender – it’s just a “phase”.

Reality: Many people believe that being LGBT is just a phase that will eventually “go away”. This is a large misconception. Thousands of gay men have sought therapy, “reverse gay counseling” and even heterosexual relationships to suppress or attempt to “change” their sexual orientation. Most of these attempts at living as a heterosexual man or woman only further suppress homosexual feelings. These feelings can later surface, sometimes leading to divorce, custody battles or adultery.

Myth: All gay men have AIDS.

Reality: Needless to say, this is simply not true. Many rumors about AIDS still linger from the 1980’s. Those misconceptions were based on lack of understanding and fear. Though the source of the disease hasn’t been traced to it’s root, AIDS is not just a “gay disease”. Learning the facts about AIDS will help eliminate such an inaccurate statement: http://www.thebody.com/content/art32981.html

Myth: Someone made him gay or people “choose” to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Reality: Studies have shown that being gay is not directly related to one’s environment. For instance, many mothers in retrospect regret being too close to their sons, thinking that is what “made” them gay. However, their relationship with their child had little to do with them being gay. You are either homosexual, bisexual or transgender. Or heterosexual. LGBT folks are not “made”. They just are LGBT. Furthermore, heterosexual folks don’t “become” emotionally and sexually attracted to the opposite sex, they just are. They do not “choose” to be heterosexual, they just are. In the Arab world, LGBT folks face extreme hardship: shame, self-hate, rejection from family and friends, emotional, physical and in some cases sexual assault, discrimination, suicide, imprisonment in some countries, imprisonment and torture in police stations and prison in others and some countries execute LGBT folks by hanging. Some are even killed by their own family members to avoid public humiliation. Think about it, why would a person “choose” to be LGBT?

Myth: People who happen to be LGBT are EVIL, devil worshipers, immoral and inherently BAD.

Reality: Your sexual orientation and/or gender identity has NOTHING to do with the content of a persons character – it does not determine whether someone is or will be a “good” person or a “bad” person.  Being heterosexual or LGBT does not increase or decrease the likelihood that a person will do something “bad” or “good”. Furthermore, your sexual orientation and/or gender identity does not determine whether or not you believe or will believe in God and/or a particular religion. Think about it: Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Ariel Sharon, Idi Amin, Mubarak, Assad, Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Taliban leaders, and many others – from what we know, were / are they homosexual and/or bisexual? In fact most if not all figures or perpetrators of the most heinous crimes are known or to be heterosexual. Think of somebody you know who you think or know is LGBT – famous or not – have they been accused of or have committed a crime? Ricky Martin, Ellen Degeneres, Sir Elton John, Oscar Wilde, Harvey Milk, Jane Lynch (Glee), Sir Ian McKellen, George Michael among many, many others are homosexual – are they “evil”, “bad” or “criminal”? Think about it.

Myth: Gay men are only concerned with sex.

Myth: You are only gay if you engage in anal sex.

Myth: Homosexuality is a disease; a disorder.

Myth:< Gay men are pedophiles (persons sexually aroused by and attracted to children)  / child molesters (persons who sexually harass, violate or assault children).

Myth: LGBT orientations are a direct result of modern “Western” influences, access to “Western” satellite channels, Israel and the internet.

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Same-sex married couples, Kansas, and taxes

Are you a legally married same-sex couple that lives in the state of Kansas? If you are, you probably have questions about how you can file your income taxes this year. Read on, but remember, this is only general information and should not be considered tax advice. Please consult a tax professional for that.

If you have legally been married, no matter where that marriage was performed, you are legally married for Federal tax purposes. Whether you were married in Iowa, California, Massachusetts, or even in Kansas (yes, it has happened!), the IRS expects married people to file their taxes as married.

Unfortunately, the State of Kansas – specifically the Kansas Department of Revenue – is still refusing to recognize legal marriages legally performed. According to the Department, same-sex couples cannot file Kansas tax returns as married. Under Kansas law, the marital status under which you file your Federal taxes is the marital status under which you file your state taxes. HOWEVER: The Kansas Department of Revenue is requiring same-sex married couples to complete an extra worksheet that re-calculates your income tax as though you were never married in the first place. How sweet.

Equality Kansas has done some research with tax pros and offers these options:

  • Some same-sex couples have filed their Kansas taxes as married, even with the ban in place. Some couples have had their tax returns accepted without question, while others have not.  This is probably a very risky option that could cause problems down the road.
  • If you need your Federal and state refunds immediately, with a minimum of hassle, you’re going to have to “bite the bullet” and file your Federal taxes as married, do the Kansas worksheet, and file your Kansas taxes as single. You might be able to file amended returns once/if marriage equality is recognized nationally.
  • If you are not desperate for a refund, file a Federal request for an extension. Extensions are granted automatically, and automatically reset the due date for your return to October 15. We expect the question of marriage equality to be answered, once and for all, before the end of June.  WARNING: An extension does not put off the due date for your tax payments! To avoid penalties and interest, you must pay any estimated taxes due by April 15, even if you have filed for an extension!

If you want to file your Federal return right now, and put off the State, it can be done, but the process is a bit tricky. The steps must be followed in order. Follow the instructions listed on the Equality Kansas website.

For even more information, check out the FAQs published by the IRS.

 

 

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