Posts Tagged As: Non-discrimination

Texas Leads A Five-State Lawsuit Over Obamacare Transgender Rules

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

From Buzfeed’s Chris Geidner:

Five states, led by Texas, and several nonprofit medical groups, all of which are religiously affiliated, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging the Obama administration’s efforts to ensure health care coverage to transgender people under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“On pain of significant financial liability, the [Health and Human Services Department’s] Regulation forces doctors to perform controversial and sometimes harmful medical procedures ostensibly designed to permanently change an individual’s sex—including the sex of children,” the complaint in the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also contains claims challenging abortion-relation coverage protections in the same regulation, specifically highlighting the lack of a religious exemption in the regulation or underlying ACA provision.

The lawsuit was filed in Northern District of Texas, the same district where Texas filed its thirteen-state lawsuit seeking to block the Obama Administration’s interpretation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act to extend discrimination protections for transgender people under the law’s provisions based on sex. This latest lawsuit was assigned to Federal District Judge Reed O’Connor, the same judge who last week issued a preliminary injunction against the Administration’s Title IX efforts.

The four other states joining Texas are Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska and Wisconsin. The lawsuit also is filed on behalf of several religiously-affiliated nonprofits, which are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Texas Federal Judge Blocks Obama Administration’s Trans Protections

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2016

Responding to a lawsuit filed by Texas and ten other states, Ft. Worth Federal District Judge Reed O’Connor has blocked the Obama Administration’s interpretation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act to extend discrimination protections for transgender people under the law’s provisions based on sex. According to Buzzfeed:

The court found that the Obama administration’s actions likely violate the Administrative Procedure Act for failing to follow proper notice and comment procedures under the law because, the court found, the policies are “legislative and substantive.” Additionally, the court found that, under the text of the law, the Obama administration’s interpretation is incorrect — a ruling that contradicts an earlier decision from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in a related case challenging a Virginia school district’s policies.

“A definition that confuses instead of clarifies is unpersuasive,” O’Connor wrote of the policies, citing the judge who dissented from the 4th Circuit’s decision for support.

O’Connor, in granting the states’ request, issued a nationwide injunction of the guidance, writing that “while this injunction remains in place, [the Obama administration is] enjoined from initiating, continuing, or concluding any investigation based on [its] interpretation that the definition of sex includes gender identity in Title IX’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex.”

While the Fourth Circuit Court’s rulings aren’t binding in Texas, I don’t see how the Texas judge can issue a nationwide injunction. Maybe legal eagles can weigh in here. Others seems to agree:

Other courts have sided with the Obama administration, agreeing that transgender students can be protected by anti-discrimination laws.

“A ruling by a single judge in one circuit cannot and does not undo the years of clear legal precedent nationwide establishing that transgender students have the right to go to school without being singled out for discrimination,” said a statement from five groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), that have filed “friend of the court” briefs on behalf of transgender students.

The injunction does not prevent parents of transgender students from suing school districts for discrimination, nor does it prevent districts from offering bathroom access policies that run according to the guidelines, those group said.

ACLU attorney Joshua Block said the main practical impact of the decision is that it would prevent the Obama administration from carrying out administrative enforcement actions against schools on transgender issues.

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

The thirteen states which are suing the Obama administration under Texas vs. United States are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. That lawsuit is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Eleven states are suing the administration in a separate lawsuit, Nebraska vs. U.S: Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming. That lawsuit is being led by Nebraska Attorney General Douglas Peterson.

Four separate lawsuits have been filed in North Carolina over HB2, which prohibits municipalities from enacting local non-discrimination ordinances based on either sexual orientation or gender identity, and which requires transgender people to use the rest room based on the gender listed on their birth certificates. Two of those lawsuits are challenging the law, and two others are challenging the Obama administration’s transgender policies.

In another lawsuit, a Virginia high school student is suing the Gloucester County school board over the district’s bathroom policy that would force him to use the women’s restroom. After his case was rejected in Federal District Court, the Fourth Court of Appeals issued a preliminary injunction allowing the teen to use the mens’s restrooms and ordered the lower court to re-hear the case, saying that the U.S. Department of Education could interpret Title IX as applying to gender identity. That injunction was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court on August 3.

Twelve states, led by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, filed a brief in the Northern District of Texas supporting the Obama administration’s policies. They were: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, as well as Washington, DC.

Tech Companies Team Up Against LGBT Discrimination Measure

Jim Burroway

August 18th, 2016

In May, House Republican Leadership broke their own House rules in order to preserve a provision in the 2016 Defense Authorization Bill which overturns President Obama’s executive order requiring federal contractors to maintain anti-discrimination policies that cover sexual orientation and gender identity. The Senate has also passed a similar version of the defense bill, and those differences now need to be reconciled with the House version. This week, a consortium of tech and telecom companies — with members including Comcast, Apple, Microsoft, and Google, — have issued a statement urging Congress to remove the provision that would allow LGBT discrimination among federal contractors:

“The technology industry is the nation’s most innovative sector precisely because it values and embraces a talented and diverse workforce,” said TechNet president Linda Moore. “Unfortunately, Section 1094 undermines these values by placing prejudice and fear above inclusion and diversity, which is bad for our employees and bad for business.”

“To ensure that our nation’s economy remains robust and innovative, we must support the best and brightest people.

While Section 1094 might intend to promote religious freedom and liberty, in reality it sanctions discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, which has no place in our country.”

…”LGBT Tech supports TechNet in the request to remove any language in the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Chris Wood, executive director of the LGBT Tech Partnership. “While freedom of religious expression is a bedrock of our values in the Untied States, too often, especially recently, it has been used as a cover for sanctioning discrimination. As we witnessed in Indiana, and other state, these efforts are often supported by anti-LGBT groups and result from significant antiLGBT animus. As written, section 1094 of H.R. 4909 opens the door to discrimination, reinforcing a divide with fear and prejudice instead of inclusion and diversity.”

The letter from TechNet was sent to members of the House-Senate conference committee which will hammer out the final bill.

Orlando-Area Republicans Back LGBT Protections

Jim Burroway

July 29th, 2016

A group of twenty LGBT Orlando-area Republicans signed on to a resolution pledging to support legislation that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This was done in conjunction with a commemoration of the Pulse gay night club massacre in which 49 victims lost their lives. According to the Orlando Sentinel:

The resolution supports the creation laws and ordinances that promote fairness by banning anti-gay and gender based discrimination and reads “Now, Therefore, we the undersign do hereby Resolve that all Americans should be treated with equality, dignity and respect, and support efforts of Florida Businesses and individuals to pass legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification”.

“These are what I like to think are the new generation of Republicans.” said (Orlando Mayor Teresa) Jacobs “What we grieved over a few weeks ago wasn’t a loss of gay people or Hispanic people, it was a loss of human beings. Human beings regardless of where they come from or who they love, had dreams and aspirations just like you and I.”

The Sentinel published a complete list of signatories. It included U.S. Congressman John Mica, and state Reps. Mike Miller and Rene Plasencia. Also signing the resolution were seven Orlando-area mayors, one city council president, two Orlando city commissioners, four county commissioners, two school board members, and the Orange County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Lew Oliver.

The inclusion of gender identity in the resolution seems particularly significant, given the hostility towards discrimination protections for transgender people that Republicans have recently shown elsewhere.

It’s hard to gauge how much support exists elsewhere in the state for any kind of LGBT non-discrimination. According to one report, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) met with Miami state Rep. David Richardson (D-Miami/Miami Beach), the state’s only openly gay lawmaker, and signaled that he might be willing to support some kind of unspecified non-discrimination bill. The Governor’s office would only confirm that a meeting took place. Meanwhile U.S. Sen. Mark Rubio (R-FL), who is re-booting his senatorial re-election campaign after his failed run for the GOP presidential nomination, is clearly banking on Florida’s politics being as anti-gay as ever. He is slated to headline an anti-gay event in Orlando in two weeks.

Federal Appeals Court Reluctantly Rejects Expanding Existing Civil Rights Law To Cover Sexual Orientation

Jim Burroway

July 28th, 2016

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has reluctantly upheld a lower court ruling which held that sex discrimination protections found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 cannot be extended to include sexual orientation.

The case was filed by Kimberly Hively, a former teacher at Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend, Indiana, who filed a grievance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charging that she had been blocked from full time employment because of her sexual orientation. When she exhausted her appeals with the EEOC, she filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court. The college countered that Title VII doesn’t apply to sexual orientation claims, and the court agreed.

The Appeals Court decision, written by Judge Ilana Rovner and joined by Judge William Bauer, shows that the court didn’t like issuing the decision that it did (PDF: 347KB/42 pages). “This panel could make short shrift of its task and affirm the district court opinion by referencing two cases (released two months apart), in which this court held that Title VII offers no protection from nor remedies for sexual orientation discrimination,” wrote Rovner. However, she wrote that the court was not only bound by those two previous decisions, but many others as well. “Our precedent has been unequivocal in holding that Title VII does not redress sexual orientation discrimination. That holding is in line with all other circuit courts to have decided or opined about the matter.”

That was page six. The remainder of the 42-page document continued to defend the ruling against “a paradoxical legal landscape in which a person can be married on Saturday and then fired on Monday for just that act”:

For although federal law now guarantees anyone the right to marry another person of the same gender, Title VII, to the extent it does not reach sexual orientation discrimination, also allows employers to fire that employee for doing so. From an employee’s perspective, the right to marriage might not feel like a real right if she can be fired for exercising it. Many citizens would be surprised to learn that under federal law any private employer can summon an employee into his office and state, “You are a hard‐working employee and have added much value to my company, but I am firing you because you are gay.” And the employee would have no recourse whatsoever — unless she happens to live in a state or locality with an anti‐discrimination statute that includes sexual orientation. More than half of the United States, however, do not have such state protections. …Moreover, the truth of this scenario would also apply to perceived sexual orientation. And so, for example, an employer who merely has a hunch that an employee is gay can terminate that employee for being gay whether or not she actually is. And even if the employer is wrong about the sexual orientation of the non‐gay employee, the employee has no recourse under Title VII as the discharge still would be based on sexual orientation.

…As things stand now, however, our understanding of Title VII leaves us with a somewhat odd body of case law that protects a lesbian who faces discrimination because she fails to meet some superficial gender norms — wearing pants instead of dresses, having short hair, not wearing make up — but not a lesbian who meets cosmetic gender norms, but violates the most essential of gender stereotypes by marrying another woman. We are left with a body of law that values the wearing of pants and earrings over marriage. It seems likely that neither the proponents nor the opponents of protecting employees from sexual orientation discrimination would be satisfied with a body of case law that protects “flamboyant” gay men and “butch” lesbians but not the lesbian or gay employee who act and appear straight. This type of gerrymandering to exclude some forms of gender‐norm discrimination but not others leads to unsatisfying results.

Despite the policy paradox set up by current law, Rovner held that the law, coupled with a large body of previous court decisions, is the law. It also noted that “Congress has time and time again said ‘no,’ to every attempt to add sexual orientation to the list of categories protected from discrimination by Title VII.” Rovner concluded:

Perhaps the writing is on the wall. It seems unlikely that our society can continue to condone a legal structure in which employees can be fired, harassed, demeaned, singled out for undesirable tasks, paid lower wages, demoted, passed over for promotions, and otherwise discriminated against solely based on who they date, love, or marry. The agency tasked with enforcing Title VII does not condone it, (see Baldwin, 2015 WL 4397641 at **5,10); many of the federal courts to consider the matter have stated that they do not condone it (see, e.g., Vickers, 453 F.3d at 764‐65; Bibby, 260 F.3d at 265; Simonton, 232 F.3d at 35; Higgins, 194 F.3d at 259; Rene, 243 F.3d at 1209, (Hug, J., dissenting); Kay, 142 F. Appʹx at 51; Silva, 2000 WL 525573, at *1); and this court undoubtedly does not condone it (see Ulane, 742 F.2d at 1084). But writing on the wall is not enough. Until the writing comes in the form of a Supreme Court opinion or new legislation, we must adhere to the writing of our prior precedent, and therefore, the decision of the district court is AFFIRMED.

Judge Kenneth Ripple also joined the ruling, but not the extended discussion beyond page 9.

Twelve States File Brief Supporting Transgender Coverage Under Civil Rights Laws

Jim Burroway

July 28th, 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. (Click to enlarge.)

Twelve states, led by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, have filed a brief in federal court supporting the Obama Administration’s policies to include non-discrimination protections for transgender students and employees under current civil rights laws which prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender. The brief was filed in the Northern District of Texas, where Texas is the lead plaintiff on behalf of thirteen states in a lawsuit seeking to block the Obama Administration’s policies.

According to Dominic Holden at Buzzfeed:

“The bottom line is that the federal guidance at issue here threatens no imminent harm,” reads a draft of the brief provided to BuzzFeed News.

The filing is led by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose brief adds that federal protections for transgender people are “strongly in the public interest.”

Ferguson elaborated on getting involved in the litigation in an interview with BuzzFeed News, explaining, “I think this case could go all the way to the Supreme Court, and I want to make sure the trial court has our perspective and the perspective of like-minded states.”

I haven’t seen a copy of the brief. Buzzfeed reports that the brief argues, “Contrary to Plaintiffs’ claims, our shared experience demonstrates that protecting the civil rights of our transgender friends, relatives, classmates, and colleagues creates no public safety threat and imposes no meaningful financial burden.”

States joining Washington’s brief are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, as well as Washington, DC. All but New Hampshire and New York cover gender identity in addition to sexual orientation under their non-discrimination laws. New York has recently extended gender identity protections under regulations implemented by the state’s Division of Human Rights, which enforces the state’s non-discrimination laws.

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(Click to enlarge.)

Twelve other states have joined Texas in its federal lawsuit, and nine others have joined a a similar lawsuit being led by Nebraska. Two lawsuits in North Carolina seek to enjoin the Obama Administration from implementing its transgender protection policies.

Two others lawsuits have been lodged against North Carolina over HB2, which prohibits municipalities from enacting local non-discrimination ordinances based on either sexual orientation or gender identity, and which requires transgender people to use the rest room based on the gender listed on their birth certificates.

On Tuesdsay, Federal District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder set a November 14 trial date to consider whether the four North Carolina lawsuits should be tried jointly or organized in a different manner. But moments ago, the ACLU, which joined with Lambda Legal to represent plaintiffs in one of those lawsuits challenging HB2 has sent out a press release saying that Judge Schroeder will hear arguments on Monday, August 1, on a motion for a preliminary injunction blocking the state from enforcing its anti-transgender provisions.

NBA Pulls All-Star Game From Charlotte Over Anti-LGBT Law

Jim Burroway

July 21st, 2016

Yahoo News broke the story:

Without any movement by state legislators in North Carolina to change newly enacted laws targeted at the LGBT community, the NBA is pulling the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, league sources told The Vertical.

The NBA is focused on the New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center as the host for All-Star Weekend and the All-Star Game on Feb. 19, league sources told The Vertical.

For now, there are still other cities trying to lure the All-Star Game, sources said.

A formal announcement on the NBA’s withdrawal out of Charlotte is expected as soon as this week, league sources said Thursday./blockquote>

The National Basketball Association has long warned North Carolina legislators that the state risked losing next year’s All-Star Game if it didn’t rescind HB 2, which prohibits local jurisdictions from enacting non-discrimination ordinances covering sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and excludes all workplace discrimination lawsuits from state courts. HB 2, additionally and more controversially, prohibits transgender people from using public facilities which correspond to their gender identity or presentation. A number of businesses have halted relocation and expansion plans in the state, and several conventions and concert performances were cancelled. Figures are hard to pin down, but one tally of known cancellations as of mid-April put the losses at $77 million.

Cleveland Rolls Out the Red Carpet for the Republican Convention

Jim Burroway

July 13th, 2016


…by voting on an expanded trans anti-discrimination ordinance:

Cleveland City Council is expected tonight to pass legislation empowering transgender people to choose whichever restroom, shower or locker room aligns with their gender identity, without fear of discrimination.

The measure was introduced in 2013 as part of a package of ordinances that update the city’s existing anti-discrimination laws to include the transgender community. Council’s Committee of the Whole passed the legislation this morning, sending it on to a full council vote.

The legislation removes a passage from the existing nondiscrimination ordinance that allowed for owners of private business with “public accommodations” to discriminate based on a person’s gender identity or expression and dictate which bathroom a person should use, “provided reasonable access to adequate facilities is available.”

Ordinance supporters testified in 2014 that some transgender people avoid using public restrooms out of fear of being attacked, harassed or assaulted.

GOP Draft Platform Includes Call for Watered-Down Marriage Amendment, Support for Anti-Trans Lawuits

Jim Burroway

July 11th, 2016

This seems confusing, since CNN is reporting that the draft Republican Platform no longer language calling for a constitutional amendment to declare marriage as between “one man and one woman.” But the report then goes on the misread the platform’s draft language. Fortunately, the New York Times has reprinted the draft language in full:

The data and the facts lead to an inescapable conclusion: that every child deserves a married mom and dad. The reality remains that millions of American families do not have the advantages that come with that structure. We honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the burdens of parenting alone and embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with dignity and respect. But respect is not enough. Our laws and our government’s regulations should recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman and actively promote married family life as the basis of a stable and prosperous society. For that reason, as explained elsewhere in the platform, we do not accept the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage and we urge its reversal, whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning control over marriage to states.”

This does represent a change of sorts. Prior Republican platforms called for the adoption of the Federal Marriage Amendment which would have had the effect of outlawing same-sex marriage throughout the country. This draft platform is calling for a different sort of constitutional amendment “returning control over marriage to the states.” That is, if a Republican President is unable to pack the court with enough anti-marriage conservatives to overturn the Windsor and Obergefell decisions. It also, indirectly, appears to call for the establishment of a “defense of marriage act” of some sort in saying that governmental regulations should only recognize opposite-sex marriages.

The draft platform also includes language opposing the Obama Administration’s efforts to eliminate anti-transgender discrimination in the nation’s public schools via Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972:

That same provision of the law is now being used by bureaucrats — and by the current president of the United States — to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people. Their agenda has nothing to do with individual rights; it has everything to do with power. They are determined to reshape our schools — and our entire society — to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions. Their edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities is at once illegal, ominous, and ignores privacy issues. We salute the several states which have filed suits against it.”

The draft platform is still undergoing amendments and revisions today as various platform subcommittees continue their work.

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.

NC Lawmakers End Session By Making A Tiny Change to HB 2 — To Limit Its Impact To Straight People

Jim Burroway

July 2nd, 2016

For months, North Carolina Gov Pat McCrory (R) has been  promising change to HB 2, the state law that blocks all anti-LGBT discrimination ordinances in the state, and which criminalize transgender people’s ability to use public restrooms according to their gender identity. National outcry over the discriminatory legislation has resulted in millions of dollars in lost business and high-profile cancellations of events and concerts in the state. The National Basketball Association has threatened to pull its planned 2017 All Star Game from Charlotte if the law weren’t changed.

And so the legislature changed the law, just before ending its session yesterday:

Gov. Pat McCrory had been seeking the action for months. HB2, best known for requiring transgender people in government facilities to use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates, also blocked a path that North Carolinians had to file state-court discrimination claims.

Though lawmakers’ action Friday restores that path, it comes with a statute of limitations shorter than before — one year instead of three years.

“As we said from the beginning, there was never an intent to limit the right of anybody to seek redress in state court,” House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters.

The House passed the change 85-15, and the Senate passed it 26-14 to send it to the governor.

House speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland Co.) actually said with an straight face: “I certainly hope that the NBA will keep the All-Star Game here. The process I don’t think lends itself to (passing) legislation perhaps that they might want to see. I hope that they – and frankly every business that had concerns about discrimination arguments – see fixing this issue with access to state courts as fixing that.”

Yup. All fixed.

The House also voted 89-32 to raid the state’s disaster relief fund to the tune of %500,000 to defend HB 2 in court. The bill passed the Senate on Thursday and is headed to McCrory for his signature. State Attorney General Roy Cooper (D), who is running against McCrory for Governor, has said he will not defend the law in court.

Two Days After Orlando, House GOP Leaders Block LGBT Nondiscrimination Amendment

Jim Burroway

June 15th, 2016

Late yesterday, the House Roles committee, dominated by members handpicked by House Speaker He-Who-Cannot-Say-Our-Name (R-WI) blocked an amendment filed by Rep, Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) to restore President Barack Obama’s Executive Order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT employees among federal contractors. That Executive Order is threatened by a clause inserted by Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) into a VA spending bill passed by the House last month that would overturn it. As The Hill reports:

Maloney argued that allowing a vote to prohibit discrimination in the workplace after the targeted attack on the gay nightclub would send a message of solidarity with the LGBT community.

“It’s hard to imagine that any act that is so horrific could lead to anything positive. But if we were going to do anything, it would be a very positive step to say that discrimination has no place in our law and to reaffirm the president’s actions in this area,” Maloney told The Hill. “Seems to me a pretty basic thing to do.”

…Two centrist Republicans, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) and Richard Hanna (N.Y.), signed onto Maloney’s amendment as co-sponsors.

…In an appearance before the House Rules Committee to make the case for his amendment, Maloney compared his proposal to last year’s racially motivated shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., that led to restrictions on displaying the Confederate flag.

“They also responded by acting and by recognizing that symbols and language matter,” Maloney said. “Because hate has no place in our flags, in our workplace, or in our country. And it should have no place in federal law.”

On the ascendancy of He-Who-Cannot-Say-Our-Name to the Speakership, he promised to usher in a new era of following the House Rules and Regular Order. But after Russell’s  amendment was attached to the VA spending bill, Maloney proposed an amendment to that same spending bill to countermand Russell’s amendment. It passed, 217-206 during the two-minute voting period in accordance with House Rules, but GOP leaders held voting open for another five and a half minutes while  Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) worked the Republican caucus to flip the seven votes needed to kill Patrick’s amendment.

The following week, the House approved Maloney’s amendment, this time to an appropriations bill for the Energy Department, Army Corps of Engineers and several other agencies. But after approving other poison pill amendments unacceptable to Democrats — and after Rep. Rick W. Allen (R-GA) led the GOP caucus in an opening prayer quoting Bible passages saying homosexuals were “worthy of death” — lawmakers on both sides of the aisle lined up to defeat that bill 112-305. Soon after, He-Who-Cannot-Say-Our-Name instituted a new rule requiring all amendments to spending bills be cleared first through his hand-chosen Rules Committee.

Massachusetts To Add Gender Identity to Public Accommodations Law

Jim Burroway

June 2nd, 2016

As other parts of the country wring their hands over which (if any) bathroom transgender people should use, the Massachusetts House has approved a bill to add gender identity to its public accommodations anti-discirmination law. After seven hours of acrimonious debate, the House passed the measure with a bipartisan 116-36 vote after rejecting 22 amendments. There is a slight difference between the House version and the Senate version passed last month:

The House version tasks the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and the attorney general with determining how to determine gender identity and how to enforce laws against anyone “who asserts gender identity for an improper purpose.

The bill now goes to the Senate for its re-approval or, barring that, reconciliation in conference. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has said he would sign the House version.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia offer some form of anti-discrimination protection based on gender identity. Massachusetts law currently includes gender identity as part of its housing, education and employment anti-discrimination laws. This measure adds gender identity protections for public accommodations, including hotels, restaurants, theaters, and other public facilities, including the right to use the changing room and bathroom corresponding to one’s gender identity rather than anatomical sex.

House GOP Caucus Heard “Homosexuals Worthy Of Death” Verse Before Spending Bill Vote

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2016

I mentioned this earlier, but Roll Call has just come out with more details:

Georgia Rep. Rick W. Allen led the opening prayer by reading from Romans 1:18-32, and Revelations 22:18-19. An aide to Allen told CQ that Allen did not mention the upcoming vote on the Energy-Water spending bill or an amendment it included from Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York that would prevent federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Passages in the verses refer to homosexuality and the penalty for homosexual behavior. “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet,” reads Romans 1:27, which Allen read, according to his office.

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them,” read lines 28-32, which Allen also read, according to his office.

The night before, the full House — with the help of 43 Republicans — approved an amendment offered by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) Malone to restore President Obama’s LGBT non-discrimnation Executive Order. The order is threatened by a clause inserted by Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) into a VA spending bill passed by the House last week that would overturn it.

Following the prayer/sermon/caucus meeting this morning, 130 of the 246 House Republicans– well more than half the caucus — defeated the energy spending bill, with many of those voting against it citing specifically citing Maloney’s amendment. When Maloney heard about the GOP conference prayer/sermon, he declared, “To suggest that protecting people from being fired because of who they are means eternal damnation, then I think they are starting to show their true colors.”

Only 106 Republicans joined six Democrats to support the bill. Democratic opposition centered around a another amendment added to the spending bill after Maloney’s amendment was approved that would prevent the Obama administration from reducing Title IX and other funding to North Carolina over that state’s discriminatory anti-trans legislation. Exchanging one form of discrimination for another made the prospect of voting for the larger spending bill anathema to all but six Democrats.

What Went Wrong Today: Same As Before, But With A Twist

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2016

Emmarie Huetteman at the New York Times has an interesting analysis of what went wrong today when House Republicans derailed their own spending bill due to the inclusion of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s (D-NY) amendment restoring Obama’s Executive Order requiring federal contractors to provide anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That Executive Order is threatened by a clause inserted by Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) into a VA spending bill passed by the House last week that would overturn it. After Maloney’s amendment to the Energy spending bill restoring Obama’s order was approved late yesterday, the House turned around and voted down the entire bill today.

So what happened?

During the revolt that drove out Speaker John A. Boehner last fall, Republicans demanded a more rule-abiding House, where members would be allowed to introduce amendments and there would be votes on appropriations bills. (House Speaker Paul Ryan), so dedicated to procedure that in January he cut off a key vote to rebuke tardy lawmakers, agreed.

Now, with bipartisan majorities forming around amendments like anti-discrimination legislation for gay men and lesbians, some House Republicans are having second thoughts.

…After the amendment’s passage, several Republicans told Mr. Ryan during a private meeting Thursday that they were not so keen on regular order, as the process of parliamentary rule-following is called, after all, according to members present.

Mr. Ryan said the collapse was to be expected. When he agreed to more amendments, he said, he understood “that some bills might fail, because we’re not going to tightly control the process and predetermine the outcome of everything around here. Well, that’s what happened here today.”

It might be tempting to say that the Tea Party wing of the GOP was hoisted on its own petard, but in the end it’s hard to know exactly whose petard got hoisted. Ryan blamed the Democrats for the bill’s failure. Only six voted for the measure. But the thing is, 130 Republicans — more than half of the GOP caucus, joined the Democrats to defeat the bill, against only 106 Republicans supporting it. That same infighting is also why House Republicans haven’t been able to produce a budget this year. So House Republicans continue to demonstrate their ongoing inability to govern their own caucus, let alone the House.

Ryan’s ascendency to the Speakership was supposed to usher in a new era, with the House getting things done and following the rules. The past two weeks have demonstrated that this new era, lasting not quite five months, now lies in shambles. In the end, the new era — the new ways of doing things — fell victim to the same forces that brought down the old era under Boehner. So how do they fix that? Well, it looks like there’s even more  talk today about dropping “regular order” and going back to the way things were done when Boehner was Speaker. We know how that worked out.

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