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Gay rights advocates praise Illinois civil union law

Illinois became the latest state to recognize legal same-sex unions today when Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law the Illinois Religious Freedom and Protection and Civil Union Act, allowing civil unions for the first time in the state. The unions will begin June 1.

"Illinois is taking an historic step forward in embracing fairness and extending basic dignity to all couples in our state. We commend Gov. Quinn for signing this bill," said John Knight, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project of the ACLU of Illinois.

Camilla Taylor, senior staff attorney at the Midwest Regional Office of Lambda Legal, announced the launch of Civil Union Tracker, a resource for Illinois couples and families considering a legal union in the wake of the new law.

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Town hall forum to discuss Atlanta Eagle raid settlement set for Dec. 20

A town hall meeting to discuss the Atlanta Eagle’s settlement with the city of Atlanta in the federal lawsuit following the city’s illegal police raid on the gay bar last year is set for Monday, Dec. 20.

Speaking at the forum will be Dan Grossman, lead attorney for the plaintiffs; Beth Littrell, attorney for Lambda Legal; and Gerry Weber, attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights. Lambda Legal and SCHR also represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

There will also be a representative from Building Locally to Organize Community Safety (BLOCS) at the forum.

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Lambda Legal: Augusta counseling student could hurt LGBT youth

Augusta State University student Jennifer Keeton

Lambda Legal has filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing an Augusta State University graduate student’s claim that her constitutional rights were violated when the school threatened to expel her because of her Christian belief that being gay or transgender is immoral.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court Southern Division in Augusta, argues counseling graduate student Jennifer Keeton’s First Amendment rights were violated by the university because it stated her biblical opposition to homosexuality — that she would state in class and to other students — went against the professional code for being an ethical counselor.

Keeton, who wants to be a secondary school counselor, is represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian organization dedicated to defending “traditional family values.”

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Plaintiffs praise settlement in lawsuit over Atlanta Eagle gay bar raid

The lead attorney and plaintiffs who sued the city of Atlanta over the botched 2009 raid of the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar, praised the settlement agreement signed by a federal judge today. But they continued to stress that their lawsuit should not have been necessary to force Atlanta police to change unconstitutional policies.

"This is a wonderful change for the city of Atlanta — to get the Atlanta Police Department to follow the law," lead attorney Dan Grossman said in an interview this afternoon. "It's really a shame it took a lawsuit to make the APD follow the law."

Richard Ramey, co-owner of the Atlanta Eagle, echoed Grossman's sentiments.

"I feel vindicated and relieved. I feel that everyone in the city, from the mayor to the city council, realized something went wrong," he said.

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Atlanta City Council deliberates $1.025 million settlement over Atlanta Eagle gay bar raid

The Atlanta City Council is in executive session now debating a settlement in the federal lawsuit filed over the Atlanta Police Department's 2009 raid on the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar on Ponce de Leon Avenue.

The council has been in a closed executive session for about 20 minutes to discuss the proposed settlement, which was reached Friday between city attorneys and attorneys for patrons and employees of the Eagle. The council is expected to vote on the settlement after the executive session ends.

The settlement resolution being considered by the council includes a $1.025 million to go into an escrow account with Lambda Legal, one of two nonprofit legal groups that joined attorney Dan Grossman in representing the Eagle plaintiffs. The Southern Center for Human Rights also joined the case.

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Settlement talks underway in lawsuit over Atlanta Eagle gay bar raid

Attorneys for the Atlanta Eagle and the city of Atlanta are in settlement talks today, according to court documents.

A federal judge ordered both sides of a lawsuit stemming from the Atlanta Police Department's botched 2009 raid on the gay bar to meet Nov. 22 in court to attempt to mediate the case.

Court documents show that both sides went into a settlement conference on Nov. 23 that was then continued until Dec. 1. After all day in apparent settlement talks on Dec. 1, the settlement conference was continued until today. On Wednesday, both sides in the case met from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to court documents.

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Eagle attorneys: City ignores destroyed, missing evidence in lawsuit over gay bar raid

Atlanta Eagle staff and patrons rally one the one-year anniversary of the APD raid

A week after the city of Atlanta filed a legal brief defending its handling of documents related to the controversial September 2009 police raid on the Atlanta Eagle, attorneys for plaintiffs in the gay bar the night of the incident fired back, claiming the city makes "no specific or meaningful attempt to explain or rebut the most serious allegations."

Patrons and staff of the Atlanta Eagle are suing the city in federal court after the botched raid, and have recently asserted that the city is not providing the information they have requested in the lawsuit's discovery phase. The Atlanta Police Department's Red Dog unit has been accused of illegally detaining the staff and patrons, searching them without warrants and using anti-gay slurs during the raid. The plaintiffs are represented by attorney Dan Grossman and attorneys with Lambda Legal and the Southern Center for Human Rights.