Posts Tagged As: Nebraska

Lots of Trans Legal News: One State Adds, One State Defends, Ten More States Sue

Jim Burroway

July 11th, 2016

NOTES: In states other than Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, local jurisdictions may provide additional anti-discrimination protections beyond those provided by state law. On June 30, a federal judge issued an injunction preventing Mississippi’s so-called “religious freedom” law from going into effect.

NOTES: In states other than Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, local jurisdictions may provide additional anti-discrimination protections beyond those provided by state law. On June 30, a federal judge issued an injunction preventing Mississippi’s so-called “religious freedom” law from going into effect.

First, let’s start with the good news: on Saturday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) signed a transgender rights bill into law. Massachusetts’s anti-discrimination law had previously protected against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in housing and employment, but there was a special carve-out for public accommodations for its gender identity provisions. This new law, which goes into effect October 1, eliminates that carve-out and allows transgender people to use the restrooms and changing facilities consistent with their gender identities rather than their identified gender at birth:

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) will adopt policies to enforce its provisions, a statement from the governor’s office said.

“No one should be discriminated against in Massachusetts because of their gender identity,” Baker said after signing the bill Friday.

“This compromise legislation extends additional protections to the commonwealth’s transgender community, and includes language to address the public safety concerns expressed by some by requiring the attorney general to issue regulations to protect against people abusing the law.”

And there’s more good news: Washington state’s comprehensive anti-discrimination laws have prohibited sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations for more than a decade with nary a problem with any of it. Last December, the state’s Human Rights Commission clarified that law by issuing new regulations ensuring access to restrooms and changing facilities according to an individual’s gender identity. That clarification produced a backlash, which led by some conservative Republicans to roll hack the regulations. When that effort failed in the state Senate, anti-LGBT campaigners filed Initiative 1515 (PDF:19KB/8 pages), which would have restricted access to public school’s “private facilities” to those who are “biologically” male or female. It would also allow people to file lawsuits against school systems that allow access to facilities based on gender identity.

The campaign backing I-1515, Just Want Privacy, had until last week to turn in 246,000 signatures that would be needed to get the initiative on the ballot. Last Thursday, campaign officials notified the Washington Secretary of State Office that they were cancelling their appointment to turn in the petitions.

Map, US, Lawsuits

But it’s not all good news for the pro-T camp. Ten more states, led by Nebraska, filed a federal lawsuit on Friday seeking to halt the Obama Administration’s trans-rights rulings to Title VII and Title IX funding and its recent to schools instructing them to develop anti-discirmination policies protecting transgender students which would include allowing them to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. According to Buzzfeed’s Chris Geidner:

The Nebraska-led lawsuit contains many of the same claims raised in the Texas-led lawsuit, often repeating the same exact language as appeared in the Texas complaint.

Despite naming the same defendants as in the Texas-led lawsuit, however, the Nebraska-led lawsuit appears to focus on protections relating to transgender students — asserting that students have the right under federal law to use a restroom in accordance with their gender identity. Nonetheless, it does name the Education, Justice, and Labor departments, as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as defendants and asks for relief against all of those agencies’ transgender-inclusive policies.

Nebraska’s attorney general, Douglas Peterson, is joined in the suit against the Obama administration by the attorneys general of Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

The lawsuit has been assigned to be heard by U.S. District Court Judge John Gerrard, nominated to the bench by President Obama in 2012. Gerrard previously had served as a justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court.

With this filing, exactly half of all states are involved with federal lawsuits challenging the Obama Administrations pro-trans policies.

Gov. Ricketts in Chicago for a special event

Timothy Kincaid

June 6th, 2015

One of the odder early moments in the 2016 primary season was a week or two in which the presumed GOP candidates were asked whether they would go to the same-sex marriage of a close friend or family member. And in what seemed to be a weird effort to play both sides, several responded that while they oppose the legal recognition of same-sex marriages, they’d happily attend the wedding of someone they love.

But, as it turned out, they weren’t necessarily being cynical. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had already attended a gay wedding reception and Ohio Gov. John Kasich had RSVP’d and had plans to attend.

So maybe it’s a thing.

It does seem a bit hypocritical, but I suppose one can simultaneously hold the position that society is better off restricting marriage to traditional couples while also celebrating your friend’s happiness. Politicians have certainly held stranger positions.

In any case, Walker and Kasich are not alone. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is staunchly defending the state’s ban on marriage equality, insisting that the only a vote of the constituents should bring about equal protection under the law. But while he’s holding firm against gay marriage in Nebraska, he’s attending one in Illinois. (Omaha.com)

Ricketts will attend the wedding of his sister, Laura Ricketts. She is marrying Brooke Skinner, a brand strategist for Twitter.
Laura Ricketts was one of the leaders in the gay-rights movement in Chicago and was active in pushing for the legalization of gay marriage in Illinois, which took effect last year.

It would be reasonable to object to the idea of a politician opposing equality and then showing up for the ceremony. But I can’t help but think that this is positive. It’s hard to hold a continued objection once you’ve been a part of a lovely and touching and beautiful ceremony.

And who knows, maybe this is the tool that is needed not only for them to confront this issue on a personal level, but also to explain an eventual change of heart.

Eighth Circuit stays Nebraska ruling

Timothy Kincaid

March 5th, 2015

Washington Blade

Without explanation, the court announces in a two-page order it has stayed pending appeal a decision by U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon against Nebraska’s prohibition on same-sex marriage, which was set to take effect at the start of next week.

The court has included Nebraska into the joint hearing they are having for rulings lifting bans in Arkansas, South Dakota and Missouri.

Directing the clerk to expedite briefing in the case, the court announces that oral arguments for all three lawsuits will take place in Omaha on May 12.

Which is between the time that the US Supreme Court will hear arguments (April 28) and the time that the high court issues its ruling in June.

And Nebraska falls

Timothy Kincaid

March 2nd, 2015

US District Judge Joseph Bataillon has ruled that Nebraska’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the US Constitution.

Nebraska’s “Defense of Marriage” Constitutional Amendment, Section 29, is an unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens. The State primarily offers as its rational basis for this gender-specific discrimination the encouragement of biological family units. The essence of this rationale has been rejected by most courts and by no less than the Supreme Court. With the advent of modern science and modern adoption laws, same sex couples can and do responsibly raise children. Unfortunately, this law inhibits their commendable efforts.

For the majority of married couples, those without children in the home, marriage is a legal and emotional commitment to the welfare of their partner. The State clearly has the right to encourage couples to marry and provide support for one another. However, those laws must be enforced equally and without respect to gender.

It’s interesting that Judge Bataillon noted that the majority of married couples do not presently have children in the home. I hadn’t really thought of that.

The judge has given the state a week to appeal.

IT IS ORDERED that all relevant state officials are ordered to treat same-sex couples the same as different sex couples in the context of processing a marriage license or determining the rights, protections, obligations or benefits of marriage.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this order will be effective on Monday, March 9, 2015, at 8:00 a.m. CDT

It is uncertain whether the Eighth Circuit will stay the ruling pending appeal. However, should they fail to do so, it is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court will issue a stay.

This leaves only North Dakota and Georgia without a federal ruling on the unconstitutionality of anti-gay marriage bans.

Grand Island, Nebraska, protects city employees

Timothy Kincaid

November 14th, 2012

It is no longer news when a city or county adds sexual orientation to the list of items from which employment discrimination is disallowed. But as a reminder of just how mainstream and ordinary it is for a city to commit to this inclusion, this week Grand Island, NE, joined the list.

Grand Island is part of Nebraska’s Third Congressional District which was last under Democratic control in 1961. Nearly 60% consider themselves religious, a third of which are Catholic. This ain’t no bastion of godless liberal hollywood types.

The council voted 6-4 to add the protections. But the Mayor vetoed the ordinance.

Then two of the no votes (including one who was worried that Grand Island might be seen as “gay friendly”) felt the Mayor wasn’t respecting the decision of the Board. So they joined the supporters in overturning the Mayor’s veto.

It’s not a big deal. Grand Island has less than 50,000 residents and the change only impact city employees.

But as a symbol of the significant shift in public opinion just in the past decade, Grand Island tells us where rural conservative America is today. They may pass constitutional amendments denying our rights, but they are coming around.

Nebraska Drag Queen vs. Itinerant Campus Preacher

Jim Burroway

September 28th, 2011

Get some popcorn and enjoy the show.

Westboro Baptists Flee Student Counter Protest

Jim Burroway

November 25th, 2008

The Westboro Baptist clan was at it again, this time near Omaha Central High School last Friday. A counter protest by students turned, well, theatrical — in a rotten-tomatoes sort of way:

Students threw hamburgers and bottles of lemonade and milk at several members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., students said after the protest. A video of the protest — recorded by 16-year-old student Mason Hartwell — showed one counterprotester on the ground, seated with his hands behind his back and flanked by two law enforcement officers.

Students also chanted several slogans — including the Pledge of Allegiance, where they yelled “Liberty and justice for all.” Police persuaded the Westboro clan to leave once the situation threatened to get out of hand. Police said no one was injured and no one was arrested.

One State Reverses Position on CA Marriage Decision Stay

Timothy Kincaid

June 2nd, 2008

Last week the Attorneys General of ten states united to request that the Supreme Court of California stay its decision to treat all citizens equal under the law until November: Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah. They claimed that if California allowed gay couples to marry that this would create havoc and confusion for the court systems in their own states.

Immediately one state stood out from the others.

Although not all of these states have anti-gay marriage clauses in their constitution, only one state, New Hampshire, has taken efforts to offer recognition to same-sex relationships. And New Hampshire already had taken legislative steps to direct how out-of-state gay marriages would be treated – as civil unions.

Now it seems that the havoc and confusion caused by gay marriage in New Hampshire has been cleared up. Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, has now been apprised of the law in her state.

The Boston Globe reports

[O]n Saturday, Attorney General Kelly Ayotte announced that New Hampshire was withdrawing from the request because the state addresses the recognition issue in its civil union law.

She said under the law, New Hampshire will recognize a legal gay marriage from California as a civil union.

Ten State Attorney Generals ask California Supreme Court to Stay Marriage Decision

Timothy Kincaid

May 30th, 2008

The Attorneys General for the states of Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah have petitioned the Supreme Court of California to stay their marriage equality decision (place it on hold) until November. They argue that citizens of other states will marry in California and come home to sue their own state for recognition.

“We reasonably believe an inevitable result of such ‘marriage tourism’ will be a steep increase in litigation of the recognition issue in our courts,” Utah Attorney General Mark L. Shurtleff wrote in the brief submitted on behalf of the 10 states.

However their argument fails on three fronts.

First, they assume that voters in November will reverse this decision. That result is not a foregone conclusion. And there is no reason to believe that these Attorneys General would be any more prepared for ‘marriage tourism’ in November than they are today; it’s hardly been a secret that the Supreme Court was considering this case. And if they aren’t prepared, then they have no right to punish gay couples for their own ineptitude.

Second, the federal DOMA provides states protection from just such a challenge. If there is any challenge, it would be to federal law, and federal law is not going to change between now and November.

Third, the California decision has not raised any new risk to their states’ entrenched discrimination. There is nothing to stop a legally married Massachusetts couple from moving to New Hampshire today and suing for recognition.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California, and Jerry Brown, the Attorney General of California, agree that this issue has been resolved and oppose a stay. Marriage equality is supported by the California Lieutenant Governor, the California Senate, the California House, and a majority of the California voters.

So to you outsiders I say: Go home. You are not Californians. Your constitution is not our constitution. Your laws are not our laws. Your values are not our values. Your biases are not our biases. Stop being meddlesome busy-bodies and leave the citizens of the State of California alone.

Student Senate Says No To Funding Mike Haley’s Speech

Timothy Kincaid

March 1st, 2008

haley.jpgMike Haley is the manager of community education/mobilization for Focus on the Family’s Community Impact Outreach division, aka political activist.

Haley has a testimony about how he was once a gay prostitute but now he’s a husband and a father. And though that endears him to some, those who know and like gay folk are less likely to want to listen to his gay-cure tale.

The student senate at Hastings College, a private liberal arts school in Nebraska affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), is one such group. The Campus Crusade sought to bring Haley on campus to speak and asked the senate for funding. The association emailed the student body and from the responses determined that about 70% did not want their student fees spent for that purpose. So the student group is denying funding.

Campus Crusade will now ask local churches to sponsor Mike Haley’s speech.

    

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