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Lesbian U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin to keynote HRC Atlanta Dinner

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

The Human Rights Campaign has announced its keynote speaker for the upcoming HRC Atlanta Dinner and Awards Gala.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wi.), who represents the state's 2nd Congressional District, will be the dinner's featured keynote speaker. Baldwin, a candidate for one of Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate seats, is the founder and co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and one of only four openly gay members to serve in the U.S. Congress. She was the first person to be openly gay when elected to Congress (others had come out while in office) and if successful in her current campaign, would be the first openly gay U.S. senator.

The HRC says of Baldwin:

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Obama mentions gay soldiers in State of the Union, but was it enough?

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President Barack Obama briefly mentioned gay soldiers in his third State of the Union address last night.

Sitting in attendance with First Lady Michelle Obama were Loreliei Kilker and Cononel Ginger Wallace, two out and proud lesbian women. Kilker was awarded a monetary settlement after an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation found systemic sex discrimination at her previous employment. Wallace and her partner, Kathy Knoph, participated together in Wallace's recent promotion ceremony, the first promotion ceremony featuring a same-sex couple after the repeal of the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy.

The president didn't mention either Kilker or Wallace in his address. His only mention of anything close to acknowledging the gay rights struggle came just four paragraphs from the end of his speech.

Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind.

Reaction to the speech was mixed among gay rights groups.

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White House invites lesbians to State of the Union address

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Loreliei Kilker, an analytical chemist from Brighton, Co., and Colonel Ginger Wallace, an Air Force intelligence officer, will join First Lady Michelle Obama tonight during President Barack Obama's annual State of the Union address as guests of the First Family, according to the White House.

Presidents often highlight the personal stories from guests sitting with the first lady.

Kilker was awarded a monetary settlement after an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation found systemic sex discrimination at her previous employment.

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President Obama responds to Frank’s retirement

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank

Openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced today that he would not seek reelection in 2012 after more than 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Frank, perhaps the country's most prominent gay politician, was instrumental in advocating pro-LGBT legislation in Congress during his tenure and led financial reforms efforts after the economic collapse of 2008 as the chairman of the Financial Services Committee.

Multiple reports suggest that Frank's decision to retire from Congress was based partly on the new layout of his current congressional district.

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Out congresswoman enters Wisconsin senate race

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the first openly lesbian woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, joined the race to become a Wisconsin senator in 2012, her campaign announced today.

If Baldwin were to win the election next year, she would be the first openly out member of the United States Senate. Baldwin, along with Colorado Congressman Jared Polis and Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, both democrats, are the currently the only out members of the U.S. House.

Baldwin was first elected to Congress in 1998 and began serving her term in 1999.

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White House: President Obama supports bill to repeal DOMA

President Barack Obama supports DOMA repeal efforts

White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters during a White House briefing on July 19 that President Obama supports the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

The 1996 law defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. Carney said that the president was “proud” to support the repeal effort. Obama has stated his desire to see that law repealed in the past but had not yet publicly endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act, according to DC-based LGBT news outlet MetroWeekly.

The bill, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), would repeal DOMA and allow the federal government to provide benefits to couples in same-sex marriages. The first hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act will take place tomorrow.

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Georgia’s AIDS drug program funds ‘in the balance’ as legislature comes to a close

More than 1,000 people are currently on Georgia’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting list and funding for the program is threatened with cuts, according to Georgia Equality.

In an email today titled "ADAP funds in the balance," Georgia Equality said that as of April 1, there were 1,278 people waiting to receive life-saving drugs to treat HIV and AIDS. ADAP provides the medication to low-income people who have no other options for receiving medical care.

When the state House passed its version of a budget, members cut $600,000 from ADAP. However, that money was restored by the Senate but now the funding issue sits in committee to see if the program will retain this money or not. The Georgia legislature is set to finish up April 14.

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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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Human Rights Campaign mobilizing new effort against Defense of Marriage Act

The Human Rights Campaign is calling on supporters to contact their representatives in Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Respect for Marriage Act, introduced this week by Rep. Jerrold Nadler and sponsored by more than 100 House members, will repeal DOMA, the 1996 law that restricts federal recognition of marriage to one man and one woman.

According to the HRC:

“The Defense of Marriage Act is denying tens of thousands of legally married lesbian and gay couples across the country more than 1,000 federal protections they deserve. These federal protections of marriage include Social Security survivors' benefits, family and medical leave, equal compensation as federal employees, and immigration rights, among others.”

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Gay activists watchful as Obama delivers State of the Union address tonight

President Barack Obama calls for DADT repeal

Though the central focus of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address will likely be the economy, gay rights advocates hope the president mentions LGBT issues when he speaks to the nation tonight.

Obama is expected to highlight the recent repeal of the military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in tonight’s address, but advocates hope the president will also issue calls for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act or the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

During last year's State of the Union speech, Obama called for DADT to be repealed: "This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do," Obama said at the time.

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President Obama calls ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal ‘historic step’

Over the weekend, President Barack Obama responded to the Senate’s passage of a stand-alone repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

The Senate passed repeal 65 to 31 on Saturday. The House passed an identical measure last week 250 to 175.

The bill will now make its way to the president to be signed into law.