HRC’s Corporate Equality Index for 2009
September 2nd, 2008
Annually, HRC grades businesses on their policies regarding LGBT equality. And at least partly as a result of HRC’s public dissemination of this information, each year more companies change their personnel policies to accomodate their gay employees.
Check out this year’s listing and see if you need to be a bit more productive today in appreciation (or, alternately, call in sick tomorrow with a hangnail).
Jindal to Relegalize Anti-Gay Discrimination
August 20th, 2008
If you are a Louisiana State department head that wished to rid your taxpayer funded office of gay people, you only have to wait until after Friday. That’s when an anti-discrimination order put in place by former Governor Kathleen Blanco expires. And current Governor Piyush “Bobby” Jindal has no intention of renewing it. (Forbes)
The order – enacted by Blanco on Dec. 6, 2004 – bars state agencies and contractors from various sorts of harassment and discrimination by race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation or disabilities.
Jindal says that he only wants to protect from discrimination those categories that are protected by Federal or state law. And neither federal nor Louisiana state law protect gay persons from blatant intentional discrimination.
Jindal has a reason for making sure that anti-gay discrimination is perfectly legal in Louisiana. It could cause problems with faith-based organizations’ ability to contract with the state. If anti-discrimination policies are in place then Jindal cannot give taxpayer money to religious groups who practice such discrimination in their state funded activities.
“We’re not going to renew it. That shouldn’t come as a surprise,” he said when questioned about the order’s expiration. “We oppose discrimination. I think we’ve got strong federal and state laws that protect our people.” [emphasis mine]
Jindal is believed to be on John McCain’s short list of potential running mates.
California LGBT Anti-Discrimination Opponents Give Up
June 24th, 2008
California’s “Save Our Kids” Campaign have announced that they have given up on their efforts to overturn California’s Senate Bill 777. Signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last October, SB-777 provides an array of anti-discrimination and anti-bullying protections in California’s schools.
An earlier attempt by opponents to force a referendum fell short, which led them to start a petition drive to put an initiative on the ballot. Now that this effort has failed, the Save Our Kids Campaign has announced that they will instead concentrate on passing a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
This follows similar failures in attempt to roll back anti-discrimination measures in Maine and Oregon.
Lithuania Passes Non-Discrimination Bill
June 19th, 2008
Well knock me down with a feather. Some good news out of the Baltic States.
Pink News is reporting
Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation has been included in a new Law on Equal Treatment passed by the Lithuanian parliament.
The new bill “requires equal treatment in the provision of goods and services” and joins a 2004 law banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Transgender Non-Discrimination Bill Passes New York Assembly
June 4th, 2008
Many people have argued that the state of Transgender advocacy is at about where LGB (without the T) advocacy was ten or twenty years ago. Which makes this development especially important. On June 3, the state assembly voted overwhelmingly (102-33!) to to amend the state’s human rights law to include anti-discrimination protections for gender identity and expression.
The bill’s prospects in the Senate are uncertain, where Republicans hold a slim majority. Gov. Paterson has indicated that he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
Colorado Gets Non-Discrimination
June 2nd, 2008
The Denver Post reports
Gov. Bill Ritter today quietly signed a controversial bill expanding the prohibition of sexual-orientation-based discrimination, over the vocal opposition of conservative Christian groups like Focus on the Family.
The bill bans discrimination based on a person’s religious belief or sexual orientation – including transgender people – in places of public accommodation, housing practices, family planning services and 20 other public spheres. Such prohibitions are already in place with regard to race.
Ah, poor Dr. Dobson. He’s just not as influential as he once was. I guess if you are willing to sell out your integrity for some skirmish in a culture war you lose the reputation necessary to influence public policy.
Opponents said the bill would have serious consequences, such as opening up Colorado public restrooms and locker rooms to all genders and transgender people, exposing children and women to sexual predators.
I guess Coloradans saw that none of these things happened in any of the other states to ban discrimination and figured Dr. Dobson was just lying again.
Colorado Senate Passes Discrimination Law
April 18th, 2008
Today the Colorado Senate expanded anti-gay discrimination protections.
The measure (Senate Bill 200) takes the state’s current anti-discrimination laws and adds sexual orientation to the list of things, such as race or national origin, that can’t be considered. It would be illegal to deny gays and lesbians everything from apartment rentals and a seat in a restaurant to burial plots.
This is a preliminary vote and a second vote is required before it goes to the House.
Opponents argued that they saw no evidence of discrimination against gay people. Un-huh. Guess you ain’t been lookin’.
Bi-Partisan Support for Non-Discrimination Bill in Florida
April 9th, 2008
In March of this year, Sen. Ted Deutch (D – Boca Raton) proposed a bill that would amend the the Florida Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation. Although the bill had 37 co-signers, it lacked Republican support and was not considered to be viable.
That has changed. According to Edge Magazine, the bill has passed the Senate Commerce Committee.
Republican state lawmaker Jeff Atwater, who is the President-designate of the Senate, joined the ranks of lawmakers pressing for the expanded law and has been credited with helping the measure clear a Senate committee on Apr. 8, with a vote of 7-1. Four Republicans and three Democrats gave their vote to the measure
A sister bill has been presented in the House, but according to the Orlando Sentinel, that body may be more difficult.
The group conceded, though, that the concept faced a harder sell in the House, where it hasn’t been heard, and that “in reality, we are looking toward 2009” to get it passed into law.
Our thanks go to Sen. Deutch and the 37 Democratic lawmakers that presented the bill. Our thanks go to Sen. Atwater for rallying Republican support. And our best wishes continue with this bill and its House version and hope that soon discrimination against gay Floridians will be a matter of history.
ADDENDUM: Out in Orlando also has a good article on the vote.
Anti-Discrimination or Anti-Information?
April 4th, 2008
Living expenses in Southern California can be very expensive. Finding a two bedroom apartment in the West Hollywood area will run you at least $2,000 per month. So often young single men and women have roommates.
One common way to find a roommate is to register with a service that allows you screen for an ideal roommate. This way those needing someone to share the rent could find someone needing a place to stay.
In the past, members could choose various attributes of the person they wanted to room with: smoker or non-smoker, male or female, gay or straight, and within age ranges as well as where they wanted to live and how much they wanted to pay.
However that may all change. One such service, Roommate.com, had been operating happily along when in 2003 they were sued by the Fair Housing Councils of the San Fernando Valley and San Diego. They claimed that allowing member to search and filter by such things as sex or orientation was facilitated them in discrimination.
Today the 9th Circuit decided 8-3 that Federal protections do not shield roommate services from being liable to anti-discrimination laws.
The judges said a site called Roommates.com may be brought to trial for possibly violating anti-discrimination laws because it requires users to provide information about gender, sexual orientation and whether they have children, and then uses the information to screen people for matches.
“A real estate broker may not inquire as to the race of a prospective buyer, and an employer may not inquire as to the religion of a prospective employee,” Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the majority. “If such questions are unlawful when posed face-to-face by telephone, they don’t magically become lawful when asked electronically online.”
Some will find this to be a fair application of law reasonably determined to shield minorities for discrimination. Others, namely gay persons looking for a roommate that isn’t going to hassle them or straight women who don’t want to live alone with a straight man, may find it to be counterproductive. And others are concerned as to how this decision might impact other online services that allow members to search by attributes.
Roommates.com may appeal to the US Supreme Court.
Ohio to Consider Non-Discrimination
March 11th, 2008
According to the Dayton Daily News:
A bipartisan trio of legislators have unveiled legislation to make it illegal in Ohio to discriminate against a person in housing, employment or public accommodations because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
Although the bill does have bi-partisan support, Republicans outnumber Democrats in the House by 53 to 45 and in the Senate by 21 to 12. While these are not necessarily insurmountable odds, we should not start celebrating just yet. Or as sponsor Rep. Jon Peterson, R-Delaware, said at a news conference,
I have my work cut out for me
Yes you do, Rep. Peterson, and I wish you much success with it.
Justice Department to Treat Gay Employee Group Equally
February 5th, 2008
Under Attorney General Janet Reno, during the Clinton administration, the gay employee group was given the same freedom and support as other employee groups. That changed when John Ashcroft took power. Ashcroft, and his successor Alberto Gonzalez, denied DOJ Pride any support for their annual pride celebration and refused them the same access to email, bulletin boards, or postings that they allowed others.
However, the Washington Post is reporting that under the new Attorney General appointed in November, Michael Mukasey, DOJ Pride is again able to participate and make others aware of their existence.
Mukusey’s nomination was contentious, primarily over issues of the legality of waterboarding, but he was considered a concensus candidate and not a Bush insider. I believe that this action illustrates a willingness on the part of Mukasey to do things differently and think outside of the Administration’s narrow idealisms.
Let’s hope that this is but the first step Mukasey will take in refurbishing the tarnished image of the Department of Justice.
Californina Referendum Effort Fails
January 12th, 2008
Opponents of California’s new law which protects students from discrimination, harassment and bullying based on the basis of gender or sexual orientation in the public schools, announced yesterday they failed to collect enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot to repeal the law:
In an e-mail announcement issued around 2 p.m. yesterday, which coincided with a Sacramento press conference, Karen England, director of the Save Our Kids Campaign, said backers of the referendum had collected over 350,000 signatures – more than 80,000 short of the 434,000 valid signatures needed to force a statewide plebiscite on the law in the June elections.
Last October 12, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 777 into law after an acrimonious campaign among social conservatives to persuade him to veto it. Opponents claimed that the law would “promote homosexuality” and “persecute” Christians.
Three days after Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the law, Capitol Resource Family Impact, a Sacramento group, filed a referendum with the state attorney general’s office. They then formed the Save Our Kids Campaign to collect signatures before the January 10 deadline to put the referendum on the ballot.
Never one to concede defeat, England tried to turn lemon into lemonade:
“For a completely volunteer-driven campaign to obtain this number of signatures is unheard of,” said England in her e-mailed announcement. “We had to overcome incredible difficulties during our signature gathering, including the holidays, and the results are astonishing. While we didn’t reach the threshold of required signatures, we have surprised political observers with the amazing amount of signatures we gathered in just 70 days. It is unheard of for a volunteer-only effort to find this kind of support, especially in a state as large as California.”
England also announced that with the referendum effort dead, they have filed an initiative with the Attorney General’s office and will begin collecting signatures again. Meanwhile, a legal challenge to the law is still before the courts.
The Watchmen: Protections for LGBT Youth Worse Than Holocaust Furnaces
October 18th, 2007
Earlier this week, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed several pieces of legislation which improves the rights of LGBT residents of that state. Much of that legislation is designed to protect students from harassment and bullying in public schools by making sure teachers and school administrators fully understand their responsibilities to protect youth.
These protections for LGBT youth have generated howls of protest among leading anti-gay activists. Not the least of them are the Watchmen On the Walls, an emerging international anti-gay extremist group we’ve been monitoring recently. The Watchmen will be meeting in Lynnewood, Washington this weekend. We’ve already offered a preview of some of the virulent, hate-inducing rhetoric emanating from that group from a Watchmen conference held last August in Novosibirsk.
Another glimpse into what we might find at the upcoming confab can be found in last weekend’s Watchmen gathering in Sacramento to protest the governor’s latest moves. For example, Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for Children and Families spoke at that Watchmen meeting and said that the new laws in California will leave children “morally raped” in the classroom. And then there’s this, from a translation of the Watchmen’s Russian-language web site:
Vlad Kusakin, human rights activist and owner of “The Speaker” media holding company, told the audience: “Now it’s time to rescue our children from the public schools as from a hellish furnace. Just like one who would prescribe the burning of kids in the Nazi’s concentration camps furnaces, now 65 years later Arnold Schwarzenegger opened furnaces which are even worse for our children by his signature. Pray and fast for the kids and families of California and take your kids out of public schools”.
We earlier reported on Scott Lively’s influence in the Slavic-American evangelical community. That influence comes mainly from his book, The Pink Swastika, where he blames gay people as being behind the formation of the Nazi Party and carrying out the Holocaust. This theory has been readily accepted among a population who suffered mightily at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. You can see this reflected in Kusakin’s remarks.
Lively, who with Seattle-area pastor Kenneth Hutcherson, and Riga, Latvia megachurch pastor Alexey Ledyaev, founded the Watchmen. Lively also spoke in Sacramento. Again, according to the Russian language web site:
Scott Lively, human rights activist, historian and lawyer, stated that “in American legislatures there are ways to pass, as well as to repeal, any law. Therefore, the only thing we’re lacking in the struggle for Judeo-Christian morality is the unity of the churches and the courage of clergy. Let’s put away our denominational ambitions and unite our prayers and efforts for the sake of rescuing the civilization.”
George Neverov cited statistics on deaths and diseases among homosexuals, and he also demonstrated that 3% of population is dictating the moral principles of life for the rest of overwhelming majority: “For how long shall we cowardly bend before a morality that is alien to us? For how long shall we swallow all that loathsome stuff that is imposed on us by immoral law-makers and minorities? When, O Church, will you raise in prayer and spiritual battle over the land that is entrusted to you?”
Ken Hutchison dismissed objections to the Watchmen’s violent rhetoric, telling The Seattle Times: “You’re going to have extremists on any aspect on any teaching.” But these extremists aren’t just some fringe part of the Watchmen movement. Lively and Kusakin, along with Hutcherson, are among the most prominent U.S.-based leaders. In the Watchmen world, these guys don’t represent the extremes; they’re at the very the core of the movement.
The SPLC’s Casey Sanchez reported that the Watchmen “routinely deliver hateful screeds on the airwaves and from the pulpit in their native tongue that, were they delivered in English, would be a source of nationwide controversy.” Maybe it’s time we learned a little Russian.
Thanks to Ruslan Porshnev for his help with the translations.
All Or Nothing ENDA – Consider For A Moment
October 2nd, 2007
The debate among gay activists on ENDA has on occasion come somewhat unhinged with things said like “no ENDA is better than an ENDA that excludes trans protections” while one blog went so far as to accuse dissenters of “abandoning” our trans allies.
Information and adapted graphic from the Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Pro-Discrimination Group Seeking Last Minute Signatures
September 26th, 2007
Oregon has a provision whereby a vote of the legislature can be put to a vote of the people if adequate signatures can be obtained. Oregon has 2.1 million registered voters and requires 55,179 voters to sign a petition in order for the issue to reach the ballot.
Today at 3:00 pm is the deadline for turning in these signatures and placing the legislative action on the 2008 ballot. Otherwise they become law.
According to the Statesman Journal, as of Tuesday the group seeking to keep discrimination legal and civil unions absent had about 55,000 signatures. However, they are still seeking a buffer of about 8,000 signatures as there are always signatures that are not valid on every petition. If they do not get their buffer, they will not file.
Per Oregon Live,
Marylin Shannon, a former state senator and spokeswoman for Defense of Marriage Again, said the groups had delivered nearly 63,000 signatures to overturn each of the two laws.
Now the verification process begins (probably by sampling). If the Secretary of State determines that there are adequate signatures, the two bills go to the voters for confirmation in November 2008.