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‘Historic’ report released on the need to gather critical data on LGBT health

More data is needed to understand the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and one way to gather that necessary information is to have federally funded surveys ask this information on forms, such as they do for race and gender, and collected in electronic health records, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine.

The groundbreaking report, considered "historic" by some, is another step in the federal recognition of LGBT people as a population who has its own specific health needs.

"It's easy to assume that because we are all humans, gender, race, or other characteristics of study participants shouldn't matter in health research, but they certainly do," said IOM committee chair Robert Graham in a statement released today. Graham is professor of family medicine and public health sciences and Robert and Myfanwy Smith Chair, department of family medicine, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati.

"It was only when researchers made deliberate efforts to engage women and racial and ethnic minorities in studies that we discovered differences in how some diseases occur in and affect specific populations,” Graham added. “Routine collection of information on race and ethnicity has expanded our understanding of conditions that are more prevalent among various groups or that affect them differently. We should strive for the same attention to and engagement of sexual and gender minorities in health research."

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House Reps. to introduce ENDA this week

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank

Several members of the U.S. House of Representatives held a press conference this morning to announce the introduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a law that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

ENDA, an important legislative priority for equality advocates, has been introduced each year since 1994. According to LGBT news outlet Metro Weekly, this year's ENDA bill will be identical to the one introduced by Rep. Barney Frank in the previous Congress.

The Human Rights Campaign, which has been pushing for such legislation, said today via its blog that LGBT persons are at greater risk of losing their job in an economy still struggling after a severe recession:

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U.S. House panel votes to defend federal gay marriage ban

Nancy Pelosi

A U.S. House panel voted March 9 along party lines to direct general counsel to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court following President Obama’s announcement that his administration would no longer defend the statute against litigation.

In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which he convened last week after the president’s announcement, had come to the conclusion to direct the House General Counsel to defend DOMA after the Wednesday meeting.

“Today, after consultation with the Bipartisan Leadership Advisory Group, the House General Counsel has been directed to initiate a legal defense of this law,” Boehner said. “This action by the House will ensure that this law’s constitutionality is decided by the courts, rather than by the President unilaterally.”

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Democrats reintroduce ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ to repeal gay marriage ban

Speaker of the House John Boehner

In the continuing wake of President Barack Obama's announcement that the Department of Justice would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court, Democrats have begun the process to repeal the 1996 ban on federal recognition of same-sex marriage by reintroducing the “Respect for Marriage Act.”

The bill, originally introduced in 2009, would legislatively repeal DOMA. Sponsored by more than 100 representatives, including all four openly gay members of Congress, the bill faces an uphill battle to move out of the Republican-controlled House.

"DOMA now is viewed with deep skepticism from all sides,” said Lambda Legal National Marriage Project Director Jennifer C. Pizer in a released statement. “When members of Congress wrote this discrimination into law in 1996, they made a theoretical pronouncement, prompted both by popular anxiety at the thought that same-sex couples might start marrying, and by the personal and religious views of some about family life. But the days of theorizing are behind us.”

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Turning point? Obama won’t defend Defense of Marriage Act

President Obama's administration announced it would no longer defend DOMA in court

President Obama’s administration made a blockbuster announcement Feb. 23, saying it has concluded that one part of the Defense of Marriage Act will not be able to pass constitutional muster in the 2nd Circuit and the Department of Justice would not defend that part of the law in two pending cases in that circuit.

“The president and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny and that, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under state law, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

The decision does not automatically overturn DOMA and does not mean that gay couples will now receive the federal benefits of marriage. The law still has to be repealed by Congress, which is unlikely in the near future, or struck down as unconstitutional by the courts.