Wyoming Senate defeats non-discrimination bill
January 31st, 2013
The Wyoming State Senate narrowly defeated a non-discrimination bill. (Trib.com)
The Wyoming Senate rejected a bill today that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The standing vote was 13 for the bill and 15 opposed.
Wyoming Senate committee advances non-discrimination bill
January 30th, 2013
Today the Wyoming Senate Judiciary Committee heard Senate File 0131, a bill which would prohibit discrimination on the basis or sexual orientation and gender identity. The committee approved the bill 4 to 1. (Billings Gazette)
Committee Chairman Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, voted in favor of the bill. A rancher, Schiffer is a veteran legislator and former president of the Senate.
“This is a piece that fits into the process of implementing what’s in our Constitution, that all people are created equal and have equal rights,” Schiffer said. “This is just part of the process of us as a state maybe maturing, maybe broadening our views.”
Voting yes was Sens. Esquibel (D – 8, cosponsor), Burns (R – 21, cosponsor), Schiffer (R – 22, chairman), Christensen (R – 17). Voting no was Sen. Hicks (R – 11).
January 25th, 2013
As Jim informed you, on Monday the the House Corporations Committee will hear testimony on the marriage equality and domestic partnership bills followed on Wednesday by a hearing in Judiciary for the non-discrimination bill.
Equality Wyoming is holding a rally on Monday in support of all three bills.
When: Monday, 9 AM on the front steps of the Capitol Building in Cheyenne.
Come dressed for business because we mean business for Wyoming!
Our rally will be calm, cool, and collected with slick black and white signs. If you’d like to make your own signs (encouraged!), go for simple, clear messages that lend themselves to black and white photography.
Check out the Action Alert for more information.
Grand Island, Nebraska, protects city employees
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.
Missouri pastor tell city counsel about “the plain truth of the Word of God”
October 20th, 2012
A couple of months ago, the Springfield, MO, City Council was considering adding “sexual orientation” to the ordinance banning discrimination. So Rev. Dr. Phil Snider of the Brentwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) trotted down to the City Council meeting to inform them about what the Bible says. His little mini-sermon caught someone’s attention yesterday and has gotten him a bit of attention since then.
The ordinance change has been tabled.
Statistics and Pastor Tom
November 17th, 2011
UPDATE BELOW – IT’S EVEN BETTER THAN I COULD WISH FOR
Here’s a statistic you didn’t know:
Pastor Tom Vineyard of Windsor Hill Baptist Church in Oklahoma City consumes in excess of 423 pies a day, meaning that 52% of all pies baked in Oklahoma City are eaten by Vineyard.
A New York judge told me so.
Actually, I have no idea whether Vineyard even likes pie (though I can guess). All of the above statistics are bogus numbers I made up on the spot.
However, I’m willing to bet that they are more accurate than the bogus numbers that Vineyard made up when he went to speak before the Oklahoma City Council in opposition to an ordinance to ban anti-gay discrimination in employment.
Pastor Tom Vineyard of Windsor Hills Baptist Church cited a New York judge in saying more than half of murders in large cities are committed by gay people.
Well, Vineyard didn’t exactly cite the “New York judge” (mental accent courtesy of Pace Picante Sauce), he just claims him as a source. And, in fact, he can’t recall exactly which New York judge actually told him this fascinating statistic (I guess he knows a lot of them). So far, though, no New York judge has stepped forward to claim authorship.
Oh, but pastor Vineyard didn’t stop there. He also informed the council:
“Many homosexuals openly admit that they are pedophiles because they cannot actually reproduce. They resort to recruiting children. … Folks, you’re making a decision that will bring down God’s judgment on your city if you vote in favor of this.”
Ya see, recruiting is a higher priority than actual attraction. So that’s why gays are pedophiles. To keep the numbers up. Because if homosexuals weren’t all barren, then Jerry Sandusky wouldn’t diddle the kiddies. Logical, huh? Where’s my pie?
Now while such obvious nonsense and blatant stupidity would result in hysterical laughter if stated in a group of, oh say, New York judges, the good people of Oklahoma City who showed up to defend anti-gay discrimination in their city seemed to find nothing peculiar about Vineyard’s creative “statistics”.
Vineyard received the longest standing ovation of the day after his remarks.
Because sometimes, when all you know about someone is that you don’t like them, you’ll believe anything you hear. Jews kill Christian babies – and praise God that’s just awful. And The Blacks are all on welfare; isn’t it so sad? And did you hear that the Nazis were all homosexual? Oh yes, and many openly admit it!!
Fortunately not everyone is quite so inclined to believe anything negative about gay people – no matter how truly stupid – that they think they once heard from a New York judge. Scott Hamilton, pastor of Church of the Open Arms in Oklahoma City and executive director of Cimarron Alliance, provided a little faith-based context:
“To couch in Christian terms these so-called statistics, I’ll call them what they are. They are lies.”
Well, I’m sure Pastor Tom is embarrassed now that the town is laughing at him. And they are. But I very much doubt that he’s learned any lesson. Folks like Pastor Tom move right on from whatever bizarre heap of churchpoop he’s shoveling out to “well God says”. It doesn’t matter much to the Pastor Toms if what they said is actually true, because praisegodjesusisthewaythetruthandthelife so Pastor Tom doesn’t have to bother himself with facts. Or with even trying to avoid downright lies.
And one last statistic. Pastor Tom Vineyard of Windsor Hill Baptist Church in Oklahoma City is more than 50% a self-satisfied, blow-hard, arrogant, self-righteous idiot. And I don’t even need a New York judge to tell me so.
A new statistic: Pastor Tom Vineyard is 12% more of a raging loon that previously believed.
Here is Pastor Tom in his own words (but with no pie in sight)
[A little side note about Pastor Tom's comments about Jesus. You can read them in Luke 17. There isn't even a sideways hint that maybe possibly Sodom was destroyed cuz of Teh Ghey. In fact, as recorded in that passage Jesus was suggesting that it was indistinguishable from any other day at any other place: "People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building." And while there were Sodomites as far as the eye could see, they don't seem to have been of the homoSEXual variety.]
Ya know, Pastor Tom sounds authoritative, doesn’t he. Just one problem… Pastor Tom is more full of CP (churchpoop) than he is of pie. David Badash of the New Civil Rights Movement compiles some work from Stephanie Zvan with Pastor Tom’s letter and calls CP on all of the mess.
Jackson County, MI, turns human resources over to Crystal Dixon
March 30th, 2011
On April 4, 2008, Michael Miller, the editor of the Toledo Free Press, wrote an editorial in which he declared his affiliation with and affection for the community of gay people in his life. He expressed his difficulty in understanding anti-gay prejudice and the motivations behind those who advocate for discrimination.
Because I have such intense love and respect for the people in my life who are gay, it never makes sense to me when I hear someone preaching anti-gay rights propaganda. I can never understand why they care.
It’s basic Golden Rule territory: don’t judge people for the color of their skin or their physical challenges, and don’t judge them for their sexuality. I know that is a simplified and naïve statement, but for me, the issue really is that simple.
Miller lamented that his home state of Ohio was behind the curve in recognizing the equality of its gay residents. As an illustration on how gay Ohioans can be subjected to casual and careless inequality and indignity, he discussed a local situation.
The frequent denial of health care benefits leads to horror stories. According to the panelists, UT has offered domestic partner benefits since then-president Dan Johnson signed them into effect. The Medical University of Ohio did not offer those benefits. When the institutions merged, UT employees retained the domestic-partner benefits, but MUO employees were not offered them. So, people working for the same employer do not have access to the same benefits. According to the panel, it may be 18 months before the situation is addressed. Eighteen months is a very long time to live (and work at a medical facility) without health benefits.
Miller’s criticism did not sit well with Crystal Dixon, associate vice president for Human Resources at the University of Toledo. So on April 18, the Free Press printed Dixon’s rebuttal and allowed her to set the record straight.
But the Free Press’ implied criticism of the administration was not her concern. No, Dixon was furious that Miller dared to suggest that the struggle for equality for gay people had anything in common with the struggle for equality endured by African-Americans. How dare he compare her to one of them.
As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo’s Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are “civil rights victims.” Here’s why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended. Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle evidenced by the growing population of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex Gays) and Exodus International just to name a few.
Her letter went on to express her belief that Jesus Christ hates homosexuality, to accuse gay people of violating God’s divine order, to complain that “economic data” proved that gay men who have degrees make more money than a non-college educated black male, and to declare that it was “misleading” to note that gay employees were categorically denied benefits when ALL employees of the two schools have “different benefit plans.”
To say that this was an embarrassment for the University of Toledo would be an understatement. Not only did her actions threaten her department’s employment negotiation possibilities, but it put the entire university in a disadvantage. When considering their options, few prospective college students consider anti-gay advocacy to be a selling point.
So on May 2, Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, the president of the University of Toledo, wrote an op-ed to assure the public that the school does not engage in anti-gay hiring practices, that Dixon’s comments “do not accord with the values of the University of Toledo”, and that he had personally lobbied the legislature in favor of domestic-partner recognition. He also corrected the impression that Dixon gave about the university’s position on the denial of benefits.
As regards the continued asymmetry of benefits packages across the campuses of this university, do understand that we are fully aware that asymmetry that Michael S. Miller spoke of does exist and are working as rapidly as we can to correct this asymmetry. When this asymmetry is corrected, the solution will be reflective of the university value statements above.
And with a cryptic reference to taking action to “more fully align our utterances and actions” with the values he expressed, Dr. Jacobs hinted that Dixon might best update her resume. And, indeed, on the 8th, noting that “personnel actions or decisions taken in your capacity as associate vice president for human resources could be challenged or placed at risk”, the University notified her that she had been terminated.
Naturally, letters flooded in to the editor. Those offended by Dixon’s views tended towards relatively polite exclamations of consternation and little lectures on equality and civil rights. Those angry at Dixon’s discontinued employment included accusations of fascism combined with a healthy dose of religious entitlement and no small amount of homophobia.
Dixon retained the Catholic advocacy law firm, Thomas Moore Law Center, and announced her intention to sue the university for violating her First Amendment rights. And World Net Daily, never one to let a loon go unchampioned, took up her causeRush Limbaugh and Focus on the Family presented Dixon as a martyr, a victim of liberal godlessness
and soon Crystal Dixon was the darling of the anti-gay industry.
Even wackadoodlery’s favorite theologian, Dr. Robert Gagnon, rushed to get a little attention from the controversy. In an open letter to the university full of axiomatic declarations about the obviousness of heterosexuality and amusing assumptions about gay relationships (lesbians have “markedly shorter durations of sexual unions on average, even relative to homosexual males”), he declared that “the closest parallels to adult-committed homosexual relations is not ethnicity or gender but rather adult-committed incestuous unions and adult-committed polysexual unions”.
Gagnon decried the school’s “full affirmation of homosexual activity” and bemoaned the “environment that provides increased opportunities for and fewer negative sanctions against same-gender sexuality”. To not sing Dixon’s praises for her honesty and her courage of conviction was, Gagnon declared, a sign of their intolerance. (One thing you have to say about Robert Gagnon, he never lets logic or consistency dissuade him from the certainty of his presumptions.)
In December 2008, Dixon made good on her threat to sue. But after that her trail goes a bit cold. Thomas Moore Law Center waved her flag a bit in their rundraising efforts, but I’m not sure whether her case was heard or if the school settled.
But, meanwhile, Crystal made good use of her down time. She wrote a book, Destiny’s Time, which is either “A New Novel!” or a guide to turning your “God-given talents and passions” into “viable businesses as well as enhancing job readiness skills!” Or perhaps both.
And she also started a company to sell shoe laces (with the catchy slogan “keeps shoes tied”) and a consulting frim which offers not only business advice but opportunities such as
$$ THREE GREAT WAYS FOR YOU TO EARN EXTRA INCOME! $$
1.You pre-buy paper-back books directly from the author at a discounted rate of $7.50 each and then you sell each book for $11 (includes tax) to your customers. And/or you can pre-buy audio books on CD at the discounted rate of $12.50 each and then you sell each audio book for $20. YOU KEEP all monies from books you sell and you have books to sell on the spot! (Minimum of 5 books for consultant purchases).
2. With your sales, you automatically recoup your $7.50 investment and also earn a 47% ($3.50) profit on each paper-back book you sell! For audio books, you earn at 66% ($7.50) profit on each book you sell. Share the books at your convenience!
(The third great way to earn extra income appears to be a secret.)
However, it looks like Ms. Dixon may now be returning from private enterprise to the governmental sector work force. The county and city of Jackson, Michigan, have decided to consolidate their human relations departments and place them under one director’s control. And they have decided that Crystal Dixon, at a salary of $87,030, is the right person for this role.
Noting that Dixon has spent the past three years “working as a human resources and business consultant”, the Interim County Administrator praised her ability to “wear many hats and switch her leadership style based on where she is.” (Mlive.com)
Interim county Administrator Adam Brown said Dixon’s level of experience and professionalism put her “head and shoulders” above other candidates.
It’s tempting to think that if the County representatives are that stupid then they deserve what they get. But there is a bigger issue at stake; Crystal Dixon has been given authority over the livelihood of any gay people that work for the county and city of Jackson.
And while Dixon is certainly entitled to her views about matters of faith, homosexuality, choice, and civil rights, if she is incapable or unwilling to set aside those views, this will undoubtedly result in a culture – and perhaps even policy – of anti-gay discrimination.
And, even before three years of receiving accolades for her anti-gay advocacy, Dixon left little doubt as to whether she considers employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to be objectionable. She does not. She considers it a divine mandate.
Looking back to where it started, before Dixon was the champion of God, family, and decency, she was a woman responding to a newspaper editor’s call for equal compensation for gay employees. And it was in the context of this right that Dixon countered:
There is a divine order. God created human kind male and female (Genesis 1:27). God created humans with an inalienable right to choose. There are consequences for each of our choices, including those who violate God’s divine order. It is base human nature to revolt and become indignant when the world or even God Himself, disagrees with our choice that violates His divine order. Jesus Christ loves the sinner but hates the sin (John 8:1-11.) Daily, Jesus Christ is radically transforming the lives of both straight and gay folks and bringing them into a life of wholeness: spiritually, psychologically, physically and even economically. That is the ultimate right.
In April 2008, Crystal Dixon endorsed anti-gay discrimination, saying, “one’s personal choices lead to outcomes either positive or negative.” Having now been confirmed in her beliefs by the city and county of Jackson, there is little doubt that she will see this as God anointing her to mete out those outcomes.
Catholic priest champions non-discrimination ordinance
March 15th, 2011
It isn’t that often that I have anything complimentary to say about the current state of the Catholic Church and its practices, so I’m not letting this opportunity pass by. (Gay Socialites)
Rev. Joseph Breen of the St. Edward Church in Nashville, Tennessee is standing up for the LGBT community.
Breen penned a letter to the Metro Council that also ran in the Tennessean this week encouraging the elected officials to get behind a bill meant to eliminate anti-gay bias when it comes to contracts with the city.
“I ask you to approve this bill banning discrimination by city contractors against gay, lesbian and transgender people,” Breen wrote in a letter sent to each member of Nashville’s Metro Council (and also published in the Tennessean). “I fully support the spirit of inclusion rather than exclusion in our great city and ask you to do the same with your vote of approval,” he added.
Clearly Father Breen has given up on any hope of ever becoming bishop and is now just seeking to better the lives of those in his parish, his city, and his community. I wonder if the Diocese will retaliate.
The problem with constitutional originalism
January 5th, 2011
I am not a constitutional scholar. I’m not even an attorney. But I am a fairly logical person who has great respect for the intents and purposes of the US Constitution and who is troubled by efforts on both the right and the left to read into – or extract out of – the language that protects my status as a citizen.
It is my – perhaps naive – belief that the constitution differs from law in that it sets forth principles, ideals, that apply broadly and which are drafted in language that seeks to be applicable to unanticipated specific instances. It speaks to a people who communicate using computers, travel using airplanes, and associate by means of facebook as easily as it did to those who road their horse to the village pub to debate the issues of the day.
I am, I admit, uncomfortable with Supreme Court rulings that seem to create out of whole-cloth rights, privileges, or entitlements that exist outside of the document. While I treasure a right to privacy, I am perplexed that the innumerated rights to privacy that are included in the Bill of Rights have given birth to a generic right that simply is not written there. I think that the courts have in some instances erred in finding not what is written, but what they wish were written.
And in that concern, I am often accompanied by conservatives who, for example, find that the right to privacy limits their ability to restrict the freedoms of their neighbors. But I think that some conservatives, especially those most revered by the hard-core right, are even more guilty in their distortion of the Constitution. Rather than discover rights that are not clearly articulated, they seek to overlook or dismiss those which are clearly in black and white.
Constitutional Originalism is the name they give to this erasing of right, though naturally they do not articulated it as such. Rather it is phrased as though those seeking original intent are preserving the language of the Constitution. They argue that a written constitution is limited to what was meant by those who drafted and ratified it and interpretation should be based on what reasonable persons living at the time of its adoption would have declared the ordinary meaning of the text to be.
But that is neither the application they employ nor the intent of their efforts. Take, for example, this conversation between UC Hasting professor Calvin Massey and Supreme Court Justice Anonin Scalia:
Massey: In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we’ve gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?
Scalia: Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box.
To understand the context of this appeal to originalism, look at the language of the 14th Amendment:
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The amendment goes on with four additional clauses which address representative government, but this is the heart of the issue, the language which Scalia and those who share his views wish to remove from the protections granted by the Constitution.
And the language which they seek to wish away, specifically, is “any person.” Scalia argues that “any person” as understood by members of the the 39th Congress in 1868 did not include either women or gay people (or anyone else to whom we could apply it) and so thus these classes of persons are not protected by the amendment.
But to do so, Scalia has to make three broad assumptions:
1. That the Constitution is not a document of guiding principles, but a law text which applies only to the specific intentions designed to address specific issues.
Depending on how literal this is taken, you can run into some rather tricky interpretations. By a strict adherence to the original intent, references to “states” would only apply to the original thirteen, the regulation of commerce among the several states would be limited to goods and services in existence in the 1780′s, and citizens would be white male landholders. But, in a manner similar to scriptural literalism, originalism picks and chooses that which is bound by principle and that which is bound by “intent.”
2. That the drafters of the 14th Amendment were careless.
The term “any person” seems to be rather broad. Scalia would have us believe that the intent of this phrase is “any heterosexual male person” and that the drafters simply assumed that no one would read “any” to be more broad than they intended.
But in the second clause of the 14th Amendment, these same drafters were capable of the much more specific phrase “any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States.” One must either believe that they were forgetful, downright stupid, or that it was not entirely by accident that the phrase “any person” is not termed “any male person.”
3. That the men who wrote and voted for the 14th Amendment could not espouse principles grander than they personally could aspire.
History, especially the founding of our nation, is full of examples of men whose beliefs exceeded their abilities. Washington, for example, was troubled by slavery, yet owned slaves for many years. His slaveholder status is not an indication that he revered the institution, but that he was limited and flawed, unable to live to the standards that his conscience told him were right.
And while Scalia would pretend that the notion of women’s rights was foreign to the thinking of congressmen in 1868, the battle for women’s rights was alive and well at the time. In 1848, Gerrit Smith ran for president as the Liberty Party’s candidate on a suffrage platform. And indeed, it was from among the suffrage leaders that much of the support for African-American rights was championed.
It requires a willful disregard of history to declare that “I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination.” That was what Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony were fighting for in that very year, one of the principle years of suffrage activism. They rightly saw the battle for equal rights to be the battle for all equal rights.
That suffrage was not achieved for another half century is a sad reflection on the face of humanity’s inability to let go of privilege. But I think it at least likely that in selecting “any person” the Congress was laying out principles to which it could not yet live, but which it knew were right.
As for sexual orientation, the matter is less clear. Few, if any, at the time recognized orientation as such. But surely as important to “what did they intend” would be “what would they have intended.” If those who protected “any person” were aware of the intrinsic and immutable nature of sexual orientation, would they have found that gay persons can and should be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law? Would they have carved out an exception and stated that gay people should indeed be denied the equal protection of the laws?
Scalia would say that this is immaterial, that they didn’t intend it at the time and the principles they applied in laying down such protections should be ignored. That they addressed the rights of the often despised, uneducated, recently-enslaved negro says nothing to their attitude towards other minorities and the decency that underlies this provision has no bearing on its interpretation and all that matters is that the writers of the language were not specifically thinking at that moment of gay men and women.
To Scalia’s thinking, the broad language of the constitution should be thought not in terms of principle, not in terms of even the words selected, but in terms of what Scalia’s stereotype of the mindset of a mid-eighteenth century congressman might be.
Scalia simply wishes to find in the Constitution that, and only that, which confirms his own biases and sense of entitlement. Originalism is just a tool for finding it there.
Incoming FL Gov. Scott limits non-discrimination
January 5th, 2011
Incoming Governor Scott of Florida has issued an executive order limiting those whom will be free from discrimination.
It shall be the policy of my administration to prohibit discrimination in employment based on race, gender, creed, color, or national origin, and to ensure equal opportunity for all individuals currently employed in, and individuals seeking employment in, my administration.
These sort of orders are not truly necessary. State and Federal law prohibit employment discrimination on these bases, and executive orders only have any purpose to the extent that discrimination will be prohibited to those not overtly protected by law.
Scott’s executive order is symbolic. His administration wishes to make it perfectly clear that they do not consider sexual orientation or gender identity to be worthy of protection from discrimination.
Another Utah county passes non-discrimination ordinance
December 22nd, 2010
Grand County, Utah, home to Moab and the Arches National Park, has now passed an ordinance that protects its 9,000 or so residents from sexual orientation and sexual identity discrimination in housing and employment. (SL Tribune)
That means one in four Utahns, living in 10 communities from Moab to Logan, are protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Advocates for the statutes hope that groundswell of support will push the Utah Legislature to protect all Utahns.
With this decision, Equality Utah has reached its goal of ten new municipalities banning discrimination.
Salt Lake County followed Salt Lake City’s lead, and Equality Utah launched an effort, dubbed “Ten in 2010,” to increase the list to 10 by the end of this year. Grand County expedited the ordinances to ensure passage before the new year.
They are hoping to capitalize on the momentum and encourage the state legislature to ban discrimination state wide. As yet, this seems to be more of a grand hope than an achievable goal. However, much depends on the public stances of the Mormon Church, whose support secured the bill in Salt Lake City
Nondiscrimination bill introduced in Philippines
December 11th, 2010
A bill to ban anti-gay discrimination has been introduced into the Philippines House. I’m not particularly optimistic about its chances, but even introducing the idea for discussion is beneficial. (Manila Times)
Rep. Kaka Bag-ao of Akbayan party-list, the principal author of House Bill 515, or the Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and providing penalties, noted that such homophobia is stirred by the fact that the country has no standing policy on human rights abuses against lesbians, gays bisexual and transgenders (LGBT).
“Here in the Philippines, you can fire a gay or lesbian employee simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and get away with it. You can expel lesbian and gay students arbitrarily or impose arbitrary rules against them and you won’t face any charges. It’s wrong,” Bag-ao said.
Tulsa passes protections
June 18th, 2010
From Tulsa World
Champagne corks popped at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center on Thursday night after the City Council voted to add sexual orientation to Tulsa’s nondiscrimination policy.
Oklahomans for Equality members cheered and jeered at a rally as they watched councilors discuss the issue and their votes on a large-screen TV at the center.
“As a gay, black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma, it’s a monumental night,” said Tracy Allen, incoming volunteer coordinator at the center.
Yes. The Tulsa in Oklahoma. And the vote was 6 to 3.
Which means that it’s official. The Great American Culture War is over and we’ve won; now it’s all just a matter of time.
Summit County makes six
June 18th, 2010
Utah’s on quite a roll. (SL Tribune)
Summit County has snagged the No. 6 spot on a growing list of Utah cities and counties that protect gay and transgender residents from discrimination.
This week, the Summit County Council voted unanimously, with two members absent but supportive, to pass two ordinances that forbid housing and employment discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Another Utah City enacts non-discrimination policy
June 3rd, 2010
Following in the footsteps of Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County (unincorporated areas), Park City, and Logan, Utah’s second largest city, West Valley, has now voted to ban discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation. (SL Trib)
The West Valley City Council, in a 5-1 vote, approved Tuesday an anti-discrimination ordinance similar to those recently passed in other Utah cities.
About 60 people attended the meeting at City Hall. Rep. Janice Fisher, D-West Valley City, and about seven others spoke in favor of the proposal to protect gay and transgender residents from housing and employment discrimination. No one spoke publicly against it.
It does appear that opposition to employment and housing discrimination against LGBT people may be becoming part of Mormon values.
ExxonMobil endorses anti-gay discrimination, again
May 26th, 2010
Before 1999, Mobil Corporation had a non-discrimination policy which included sexual orientation. They also provided benefits to domestic partners of employees. But that all changed on November 30, 1999 when Mobil merged with Exxon Corporation to become the world’s largest oil company.
Generally, merging companies adopt the more progressive and customer/employee friendly of corporate policies. But though Mobil had reported no problems with their non-discrimination policies nor any concern that employee benefits were cost prohibitive, the merged company did not choose to continue Mobil’s policies.
Instead, ExxonMobil removed “sexual orientation” from their non-discrimination list, earning the dubious distinction of being the only major corporation ever to reauthorize discrimination against gay people. And lest there be any confusion about their intent or attitude, they restricted partner benefits to those already in the policy, refusing to allow new employees to register their partners.
ExxonMobil claims that it doesn’t need to protect gay employees from discrimination because it bans discrimination against “everyone”. In fact, on their website they claim:
Any form of discrimination by or toward employees, contractors, suppliers, and customers in any ExxonMobil workplace is strictly prohibited. Our global, zero-tolerance policy applies to all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
But that simply doesn’t ring true. And, in fact, their very next statement clarifies that this is nothing but nonsense and word games.
We provide all employees with a competitive package of benefits and programs, which varies based on the legal requirements and culture of countries. Benefit coverage for spouses is based on legally recognized spousal relationships in the individual countries where we operate. In the United States, we have adopted the definition of spouse used in federal law, which provides benefits to heterosexual couples. Employees in countries where national law recognizes same-sex relationships are provided spousal benefits under the ExxonMobil programs.
Ah. I see. In the US you “provide provide benefits to heterosexual couples based on legally recognized spousal relationships”, but you oppose “any form of discrimination”. Un-huh. Did you have Mat Staver write that up for you?
And the “we cover everyone” excuse does not seem to extend to other groups historically subject to employment discrimination. Their Standards of Business Conduct (which serve as their non-discrimination policies) state:
It is the policy of Exxon Mobil Corporation to provide equal employment opportunity in conformance with all applicable laws and regulations to individuals who are qualified to perform job requirements regardless of their race, color, sex, religion, national origin, citizenship status, age, physical or mental disability, veteran or other legally protected status.
But gay folk… well, they don’t need inclusive language. Sorry, but that just sounds like nastiness wrapped up in pretty shiny paper.
Now, it’s not like I’m picking out ExxonMobil for special criticism and ignoring other major corporation. Because most other major corporations do provide real and legitimate non-discrimination policies. All of the other major oil companies, along with 93% of Fortune 100 and 84% of Fortune 500 have not found any reason to tell their gay employees that they are not valued. And the vast majority also offer partner benefits.
But ExxonMobil is determined. Year after year the shareholders (mostly by management-controlled proxy) vote to deny dignity to gay employees. This year, the vote was 78% against equality.
Logan, UT (and Mormon Church?) support non-discrimination laws
May 19th, 2010
Congratulations to residents of Logan, Utah, whose city council on Tuesday night banned employers and landlords from discriminating against gays, lesbians or transgender people (SL Tribune)
Modeled after anti-discrimination laws recently adopted in Salt Lake City, Logan’s housing and employment ordinances passed with four votes and one abstention, by Councilman Dean Quayle. A crowd, which filled the City Council Chambers halls and an overflow room, was mostly subdued throughout a one-hour public hearing. Following the tally though, the crowd erupted in applause and rewarded the council with a standing ovation.
On Tuesday night, Monson defended his support of the ordinances and clarified the stance of the area’s largest church after calling the LDS headquarters in Salt Lake City on Monday.
“The [LDS] church supports nondiscrimination ordinances, period. Certainly, I was told that this applies to Logan as much as any other place in the world,” Monson said Tuesday before calling for the vote. “They do and I do and I agree that this is not the answer for everything … But it is a step in the right direction and it is long overdue in my thinking.”
It looks like the church may be on a “see, we don’t hate you” campaign. And if so… I welcome it.
VA Gov Issues Non-Reversing “Reversal” on Anti-Discrimination Ban
March 11th, 2010
One week after Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) ordered state universities to drop sexual orientation from their nondiscrimination policies, and nearly a month after Gov. Robert F. McDonnell signed an executive order dropping sexual orientation from the state’s anti-discrimination policies, Gov. McDonnell has now reversed his position, but not his executive order.
Gov. McDonnell’s new directive states:
We will not tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation or any other basis that’s outlawed under state or federal law or the Constitution, and if it is reported, then I will take action, from reprimand to termination, to make sure that does not occur. I believe this properly takes care of it and assures the good people of Virginia that we will absolutely not have discrimination in this state.”
Gov. McDonnell’s executive order last month dropping sexual orientation from the state’s nondiscrimination policies has the effect of law among state employees, including state universities. But Gov. McDonnell’s new directive does not. It merely states the formal position of the governor himself. This gives the Attorney General all the legal maneuvering room he needs to issue this statement “applauding” the governor’s directive:
“I will remain in contact with the Governor and continue to work with him on issues important to Virginians,” Cuccinelli’s statement continued. “I expect Virginia’s state employees to follow all state and federal anti-discrimination laws and will enforce Virginia’s laws to the fullest extent.”
In other words, Cuccinelli recognizes that the governor’s latest statement does not have the force of law, but merely “sets the tone.” As Delegate Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) said, McDonnell’s directive carries no force and is no more than a “press release with fluff around it.”
There is some speculation that this fig leaf was put in place to try to impress the defense giant Northrop Grumman, which is considering moving its headquarters from Los Angeles to the Washington, D.C. area. Maryland, Virginia and the District are actively competing to win the company’s favor. Northrop Grumman enjoys a 100% rating in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. Among the many considerations that Northrop is facing is that Maryland’s policies are more in line with the company’s own policies. Says Maryland State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery):
Here in Maryland, we value our gay and lesbian citizens as part of a diverse population that makes the state strong. Virginia is doing the opposite and letting its LGBT citizens — and those considering whether to move and work there — know that they and their families are unwelcome second-class citizens. And they are counting on corporations like yours not to care.
Indeed, while there are efforts in Virginia’s legislature to pass a nonbinding resolution expressing the opinion that Virginia “maintains an ecumenical atmosphere in its sexual orientation hiring policies in the private and public workforce,” that resolution would not have an effect on Virginia’s nondiscrimination law. And even that nonbinding statement, which passed in Virginia’s Senate as part of a package of incentives intended to lure Northrop and other employers, is being stymied in Virginia’s lower House.
Utah’s second largest city may enact employment and housing protections
March 9th, 2010
Tonight the West Valley City Council will discuss (and likely pass) employment and housing protections for their gay and lesbian residents. (Salt Lake Tribune)
Freshman Mayor Mike Winder urged the council, during a planning retreat in January, to take up the issue in 2010. On Monday, he said, residents have shared with him their experiences of being “evicted or fired” because of their sexual orientations.
“I’m a proud Republican and a proud American,” Winder said. “When I recite the Pledge of Allegiance and say ‘with liberty and justice for all,’ I mean what I say.”
Let’s hope that Winder continues to listen closely, and is joined by many more Christian Republicans who will listen closely to the words they pledge with their hand over their heart.
VA AG Cuccinelli to universities: “you must allow discrimination against gays”
March 5th, 2010
Several colleges and universities in Virginia have policies against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has a unique interpretation of law: unless you are specifically instructed by the legislature to avoid discrimination against a group, you cannot voluntarily choose to do so (Washington Post):
“It is my advice that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit a college or university from including ‘sexual orientation,’ ‘gender identity,’ ‘gender expression,’ or like classification as a protected class within its non-discrimination policy absent specific authorization from the General Assembly,” he wrote.
But is this the same as, “you must allow discrimination against gays?” In Virginia, yes.
Currently the political and cultural attitude of this state are extremely hostile to gay residents and visitors. And even in the most encouraging of states, there will be administrators or teachers who believe that their own personal religious beliefs entitle them to mistreat others.
There is no question whatsoever that there will either be deans who make or deny promotions based on sexual orientation, teachers who will assign work that is intended to advance an anti-gay viewpoint, or other school based preferences and punishments that are doled out based on anti-gay animus. It is almost a certainty that administrators will deny housing, funded organizations will deny membership, and fraternal organizations will throw parties with themes that mock gay students.
And this will increase. Because statements like those of Cuccinelli not only give permission for anti-gay discrimination, they encourage such behavior and provide it with the imprimatur of the state. And the educational institutions will be powerless to oppose such actions.
This decision of Cuccinelli does not stand alone.
Last month, newly elected Governor Bob McDonnell (R) signed an executive order that removed non-discrimination policies for gay state employees. He argued, similarly to Cuccinelli, that unless gay folk were specifically protected by the legislature then he had no “authority” to include them.
These arguments are specious. Protections are not always limited to those itemized, but can be (and have been for decades) administered where they were needed.
These acts are not based on principle, but prejudice. I have little hesitation in asserting that McDonnell and Cuccinelli oppose non-discrimination policies against gay people primarily because their sympathies lie with those who wish to to discriminate.
Virginia is a very hostile state, at present. Gay people, and their friends, family, coworkers, and those who love them, should avoid setting foot in the state whenever possible.