Nel's New Day

December 5, 2017

Has the Supreme Court Ever ‘Given Protection to Food’?

Couples denied the benefits of legal marriage in the United States cheered when the Supreme Court invalidated discrimination against them in US v. Windsor (2013) and later Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). The current set of justices is now eliminating rights for married same-gender couples. Yesterday, the majority of justices refused to hear an appeal from the Texas Supreme Court that decided lesbian and gay spouses do not deserve government-subsidized workplace benefits in Houston. In Pidgeon v. Parker, the state’s high court concluded that Obergefell may have granted the right for same-sex marriage, but the federal decision “did not hold that states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons.” In Texas, marriage equality is legal, but married same-gender couples won’t get the same rights as married straight couples.

That Supreme Court non-decision was made the day before it heard arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Division, a case in which a baker was sued because he refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding reception after they legally married out of state. The lawsuit is based on Colorado law declaring that businesses cannot deny goods or services to someone due to their disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry. Colorado agreed with the gay couple that the baker was discriminating against them with his refusal to make them a cake because they are gay.

In another Colorado case, a baker refused to create a cake with homophobic bible messages but offered to sell him a Bible-shaped cake and an icing bag so that he could decorate it himself. The commission disagreed with the complaint against her because the refusal was based on the message and not the religion. The Masterpiece baker refused to the sale because of the users; he didn’t even ask if the cake would have any written “speech.”

Although “religious belief” seems to be an integral part of the case, the baker is not using the First Amendment’s recognition of freedom of religion. Instead the case is based on “free speech,” in this situation the claim that decorating a cake is an art and therefore represents free speech.

As in earlier cases about LGBTQ rights, the questions—and sometimes answers—would have been humorous if they didn’t pertain to the serious issue of government-sanction discrimination. Elena Kagan asked the baker’s lawyer if religious beliefs are a reason for hairstylists or make-up artists to refuse services for a same-gender wedding. The lawyer said no because these activities are not about “speech.” Kagan retorted that “some people might say that about cakes.” The justice was even more incredulous about the lawyer’s statement that “the tailor is not engaged in speech, nor is the chef.” Kagan asked, “Woah, the baker is engaged in speech, but the chef is not engaged in speech?”

Sonia Sotomayor asked the baker’s lawyer if the high court had ever “given protection to a food” and noted that “the primary purpose of a food of any kind is to be eaten.” She continued, “There are sandwich artists now. There are people who create beauty in what they make, but we still don’t call it expressive and entitled to First Amendment protection.” Sotomayor suggested a functional test to determine where objects to be used or consumed wouldn’t be considered expressive enough to warrant First Amendment protection.

Samuel Alito dug the hole deeper in an innocent question about the protection of architectural designs based on speech. The lawyer again said it would not be, and Stephen Breyer indicated surprise at her answer:

“So in other words, Mies [Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a German-American architect] or Michelangelo is not protected when he creates the Laurentian steps, but this cake baker is protected when he creates the cake without any message on it for a wedding? Now, that really does baffle me, I have to say.”

As in most Supreme Court cases, three conservative justices—Chief Justice John Roberts, Alito, and Neil Gorsuch—oppose civil rights with Clarence Thomas a complicit silent fourth.  Anthony Kennedy is firmly in the middle, and questions from the remaining four indicate an understanding of the issue.

People who suffer from privilege continue to demonstrate their lack of understanding regarding the humiliation of discrimination. In his column, conservative George Will almost seemed to be sensitive to the issue when he wrote about the limits of free speech and cited the black protests of “sit-ins” leading up to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Yet he finished by lambasting the gay couple for not just going to another baker who would prepare the cake. Yet Will said nothing about the blacks just going to another place where they could get served.

From his pedestal, white straight conservative male David Brooks wrote, “It’s just a cake. It’s not like they were being denied a home or a job, or a wedding. A cake looks good in magazines, but it’s not an important thing in a marriage.”

Kennedy told Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the representative from the homophobic DOJ supporting the baker, that the baker, if he won, could just put up a sign stating that he would not back wedding cakes for same-gender couples. That would be “an affront to the gay community,” Kennedy explained to Francisco. Visual signs   Kennedy also rejected the argument that the baker’s denial was based on the couple’s identity and not objections to marriage equality. He also accused the Colorado Civil Rights Commission of being “neither tolerant, nor respectful of Phillips’ religious beliefs.”

A group of faith leaders has written:

“Our objective is to spread hope and love to all people, including gay and transgender people, which is why we are deeply troubled by those who continually use religion as an excuse for discrimination against LGBTQ people—or any group of people…. We want to state loud and clear that religion should never be used to harm, hurt or deny service to anyone in the public square.”

By accepting the baker’s arguments, the Supreme Court can create a giant sinkhole for civil rights laws for all other categories including sex, race, and religion. Even with five votes in favor of the baker produces the dilemma of drawing a line respecting religious beliefs without, as Breyer said, “creating chaos.” If the baker wins a free speech argument in the highest court for his “art,” anyone can refuse service to any minority group by claiming free speech rights. The basis of the baker’s argument is that laws protecting the civil rights of marginalized groups can violate free-speech rights of those who refuse to serve them. A court ruling against LGBTQ people only would single out that group for legal discrimination while protecting other classes of people. There would not be a legislative fix for such a constitutional right to discriminate.

The baker’s attorneys acknowledge that their win could allow a baker to refuse service to an interracial couple, an argument supposedly settled almost 50 years in another Supreme Court case, Newman v. Piggie Park. The owner of a South Carolina barbecue chain claimed that the Civil Rights Act “contravene[d] the will of God” and infringed on his right to the free exercise of religion, because his beliefs “compel him to oppose any integration of the races.” In a brief 1968 ruling, the Supreme Court called his claims “patently frivolous.”

Justices could also send the case back to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission requiring it to be more tolerant to the baker’s religious beliefs or write the decision to apply only to Colorado law.

A ruling in favor of the gay couple would merely preserve current nondiscrimination laws, unavailable in most states.

However the court decides, the decision will probably not be announced until next June, the month of wedding cakes. Reasonable people can hope that at least five justices will agree with Sotomayor’s conclusion:

“If you want to be a part of our community, of our civic community, there’s certain behavior, conduct you can’t engage in. And that includes not selling products that you sell to everyone else to people simply because of either their race, religion, national origin, gender, and in this case sexual orientation. So we can’t legislate civility and rudeness, but we can and have permitted it as a compelling state interest legislating behavior.”

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September 28, 2017

Ask a Computer If You’re Gay

Can a computer determine whether a person is lesbian or gay by appearance? Stanford University researchers decided that they could do this and caused a firestorm in the media. Early in their announcements, the mainstream media accepted their research:

“Advanced computer analysis … found that gay men and women tended to have ‘gender-atypical’ features: fixed features such as the shape of one’s nose or jaw, and transient features such as hairstyle and facial hair…. ‘The results show that the faces of gay men were more feminine and the faces of lesbians were more masculine than those of their respective heterosexual counterparts. Among men, the data-driven measure of facial femininity positively correlated with the probability of being gay.’”

The study reported that gay men had narrower jaws and lesbians had larger jaws. The assumption is from the questionable theory that these characteristics come from levels of hormone exposure, in particular testosterone, in the uterus. The study used only white people, according to the researchers, because the source gave them insufficient numbers of people of color. The computer was programmed to focus on the nose, eyes, eyebrows, cheeks, hairline and chin of males and the nose, mouth corners, hair and neckline were more important for women. The abstract also stated that gay men and lesbians have “gender-atypical … expression and grooming styles.”

Researchers Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang wrote:

“We used deep neural networks to extract features from 35,326 facial images. These features were entered into a logistic regression aimed at classifying sexual orientation. Given a single facial image, a classifier could correctly distinguish between gay and heterosexual men in 81% of cases, and in 74% of cases for women. Human judges achieved much lower accuracy: 61% for men and 54% for women. The accuracy of the algorithm increased to 91% and 83%, respectively, given five facial images per person. Facial features employed by the classifier included both fixed (e.g., nose shape) and transient facial features (e.g., grooming style).”

Among their criteria is that “heterosexual men and lesbians tended to wear baseball caps” and that “gay men were less likely to wear a beard.” Lesbians don’t wear eye makeup, but straight women do. And lesbians wear “less revealing clothes,” have darker hair, and smile less than straight women,

Only after all the hype did the media start looking into the research methodology and results:

  • All photographs were taken from an online dating site.
  • The photographs of white people were based on researchers’ pre-conceived assumptions about ethnicity.
  • Only two sexual orientations—straight and lesbian/gay—were assumed for the study. No bisexuals, asexuals, questioning, etc.
  • All the subjects were under the age of 40.
  • Everyone lived in the United States.
  • They were all open about their sexual orientations on a website by identifying the gender—“men” or “women”—of  the subject for relationships. No closeted people.
  • The study addressed a rigid sexual and gender binary, ignoring people with non-binary gender identity or sexual orientation.

A response to an article about the research’s accuracy had valid points:

“My face would look different if I were single. If I were trying to attract a woman, I would go to the gym more, which would slim down my face. I would get haircuts more often. I would trim my beard more often, and shave more often. It’s intuitive to me that this would be common. Some people might put more effort into styling their hair, doing their makeup, treating their acne, wearing contacts instead of glasses, etc. (I’m not saying people who wear glasses are less attractive; I’m saying people who wear glasses might feel they’re less attractive than they would be without glasses.)”

Researchers said that the computer could select gay people with a 91-percent accuracy rate only applies when the computer program knew that one of two images belonged to a gay person. Selecting 1,000 men at random with at least five photographs, the ratio of success dropped to seven in every 100. When given 100 males that researchers through were most likely to be gay, only 47 of them self-identified as gay.

One person evaluating the research said that “it’s a description of beauty standards on dating sites that ignores huge segments of the LGBTQ community, including people of color, transgender people, older individuals, and other LGBTQ people who don’t want to post photos on dating sites.”

After greater scrutiny of the study, the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which had tentatively accepted it for publication, decided to take a “closer look.” An editor addressed the journal’s concerns:

“In the process of preparing the [manuscript] for publication, some concerns have been raised about the ethical status of your project. At issue is the use of facial images in both your research and the paper we accepted for publication. The acceptance was conditional on the ethical clearance of the work to be published. We typically do this by having authors state the [Institutional Review Board] status of their work. However, in this particular case, there turns out to be some idiosyncratic issues that must be cleared before your paper can be set ready for publication.”

The editor continued by stating that the images were copyrighted and that “the owners of the images posted them for different purposes. It may therefore be deemed unlikely that all of them would have granted consent for the use of their images in your research work.”

GLADD stated that technology can only “recognize … a pattern that found a small subset of out white gay and lesbian people on dating sites who look similar.” Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of the book Reclaiming Conversation said that the industry may want to “buy and sell this information with purposes of social control.” She pointed out that judging a person by appearance can increase institutional discrimination. Also frightening is extending the purported use to technology identify other characteristics such as those assumed to belong to Jewish people.

Ashland Johnson, Director of Public Education and Research at the Human Rights Campaign, pointed out how the “dangerously bad” research was “likely to be taken out of context” and possibly “threaten the safety and privacy of LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people alike.” He gave as an example “a brutal regime’s efforts to identify and/or persecute people they believed to be gay.”

In Wired, Sophia Chen drew attention to the researchers’ excuse for developing the program: “[Our] findings expose a threat to the privacy and safety of gay men and women.” Chen responded:

“They built the bomb so they could alert the public about its dangers.”

Ethicist Jake Metcalf of Data & Society social scientists lack clear ethical deadlines to keep from harming people. He explained that outdated and irrelevant guidelines for social experiment allow researchers to make up the rules themselves. Government-funded scientists must get the approval of an institutional review board that developed its rules 40 years ago for such human interactions as drawing blood or conducting interviews. In this study about identifying lesbians and gays, the researchers assumed they didn’t have to consult a review board because they didn’t interact with anyone; they just took their photos off an online dating site.

Last month, researchers released a free app to guess ethnicity and nationality from names for an 80 percent accuracy. A scientist at the affiliated Stony Brook University, Steven Skiena, said the purpose was to prevent discrimination. Yet no one has any way to control the use of the app. It’s the same problem with a possibly inaccurate method of identifying lesbians and gays.

September 14, 2017

Edie Windsor: An Icon for the Ages

A great woman died this week. Thanks to Edie Windsor, my partner and I, along with hundreds of thousands of other same-gender couples, are able to have the same benefits of legal marriage that heterosexual couples have always had. Edie is even more special to me because I had the opportunity to talk with her on a cruise to Alaska before she became internationally famous. Every time I saw her on television or spotted her in a photograph, I remembered her energy, warmth, and kindness.

As Richard Socarides wrote, Edie is the Rosa Parks of the LGBT movement of the 21st century. Her legal claim to have the same rights as any other married couple personified courage as she openly declared her long-time relationship with another woman. United States v. Windsor wasn’t even specifically about marriage; it was about the rights that marriage confirms in state and federal law regarding taxes. Yet the Supreme Court case ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), barring federal recognition of legally valid same-gender marriages, was unconstitutional ended in the landmark decision granting marriage equality to all same-gender couples.

Married in her early twenties, Edie divorced her husband, Saul Windsor, in less than a year after she told him that she wanted to be with a woman. In 2013, Windsor told NPR:

“I told him the truth. I said, ‘Honey, you deserve a lot more. You deserve somebody who thinks you’re the best because you are. And I need something else.’”

She took a job with IBM in 1958 after she earned a master’s in applied mathematics from New York University and became a computer programmer ad executive. Like almost all LGBT people at that time, she stayed in the closet. Earlier this year, she told Metro Weekly:

“I worked for IBM for 16 years. I lied for 16 years to people I loved. We ate lunch together, we had drinks together, we spent weekends together. Today, you don’t have to do that at IBM. You don’t do that anywhere, almost. It’s unlikely that LGBT people in the United States would have to do such a thing again.”

Edie met her love, clinical psychologist Thea Spyer (left), at the Portofino restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village. A few years later, Thea gave Edie a diamond brooch instead of a ring for their engagement to keep their relationship secret. They loved to dance, and Edie kept dancing with Thea even after multiple sclerosis put Thea in a wheelchair (to right of Edie, above). Their remarkable relationship, which included Edie as Thea’s caregiver, is beautifully documented in the film, Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement. The title refers to the 44-year “engagement” before they could legally marry in 2007 after an arduous trip to Canada when Thea was a quadriplegic. Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir used almost five decades of slides for this poignant yet joyful view of this love story. [More views of Edie at her website.]

After Thea’s death two years later, Edie’s inheritance was taxed at $363,053 because DOMA prevented same-gender couples from the advantages of marital tax deductions for all heterosexual couples. She argued that existing law subjects people in same-sex marriages “to differential treatment compared to other similarly situated couples without justification in violation of the right of equal protection secured by the Fifth Amendment.” The taxes resulted from the decades-long appreciation on real estate that they had long owned. Edie found the taxes an affront to her marriage to Thea, and she sued to regain them.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 27: Edith Windsor, 83, acknowledges her supporters as she leaves the Supreme Court March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case ‘Edith Schlain Windsor, in Her Capacity as Executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, Petitioner v. United States,’ which challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the second case about same-sex marriage this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Finding a lawyer was difficult because of her age and fragile health—and the fact that her sexual orientation made her appear to some lawyers as less than a compelling plaintiff. Roberta Kaplan, partner with the firm Paul, Weiss, was joined by the ACLU, and Edie’s case went before the Supreme Court on March 27, 2013 when Edie was 83. Her openness and victory were signals to all of us in the LGBT community that we might also be out to the public. Edie stayed an LGBT rights activist after the court ruling, and met her second wife, Judith Kasen (right), at a benefit. They were married a year ago.

Even a Supreme Court case two years after Edie’s victory ruling for marriage equality has not  created equal rights for LGBTQ people across the nation. The judiciary continued to struggle with questions about marital rights, adoption, and other family law in states that kept opposing same-gender marriage. The future for these rights is dimming: Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), the officials in his administration, and many other Republican leaders are virulently anti-LGBT. The Supreme Court will argue a case next month about whether businesses need to serve LGBT people, specifically if a baker has the right to not bake cakes for LGBT couples. DDT’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is supporting the baker and also arguing that the Civil Rights Act does not protect LGBT people from employment discrimination. Kaplan is fighting DOJ in these cases from her new firm, Kaplan & Company. DDT has attempted to ban transgender service members in the military.

I would like to think that my marriage is like squeezing all the toothpaste out of the tube: it’s impossible to put it back in. And I would like to think that I can’t be refused service in a restaurant because a so-called “law” allows people to deny service to anyone they personally reject. Nowhere in history have rights been taken away from people once granted. People can skirt school desegregation, mandated by Brown v. Board of Education, but the ruling is still the law of the land. In a fit of pique, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his dissent to United States v. Windsor:

“By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition. Henceforth those challengers will lead with this Court’s declaration that there is ‘no legitimate purpose’ served by such a law, and will claim that the traditional definition [of marriage] has ‘the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure’ the ‘personhood and dignity’ of same-sex couples.”

A public memorial will be held Friday, September. 15 at 12:30 pm at Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City. In lieu of flowers, Windsor had requested that any donations in her memory be made to the NYC LGBT Center, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, and Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders, or SAGE.

President Obama made this touching statement after Edie’s death:

“America’s long journey towards equality has been guided by countless small acts of persistence, and fueled by the stubborn willingness of quiet heroes to speak out for what’s right. Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor – and few made as big a difference to America.

“I had the privilege to speak with Edie a few days ago, and to tell her one more time what a difference she made to this country we love. She was engaged to her partner, Thea, for forty years. After a wedding in Canada, they were married for less than two. But federal law didn’t recognize a marriage like theirs as valid – which meant that they were denied certain federal rights and benefits that other married couples enjoyed. And when Thea passed away, Edie spoke up – not for special treatment, but for equal treatment – so that other legally married same-sex couples could enjoy the same federal rights and benefits as anyone else.

“In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. And because people like Edie stood up, my administration stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in the courts. The day that the Supreme Court issued its 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor was a great day for Edie, and a great day for America – a victory for human decency, equality, freedom, and justice. And I called Edie that day to congratulate her.

“Two years later, to the day, we took another step forward on our journey as the Supreme Court recognized a Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality. It was a victory for families, and for the principle that all of us should be treated equally, regardless of who we are or who we love.

“I thought about Edie that day. I thought about all the millions of quiet heroes across the decades whose countless small acts of courage slowly made an entire country realize that love is love – and who, in the process, made us all more free. They deserve our gratitude. And so does Edie.

“Michelle and I offer our condolences to her wife, Judith, and to all who loved and looked up to Edie Windsor.”

Thank you, President Obama. And thank you, Edie. And thank you, all the people who fight for equal rights.

July 28, 2017

Fiat by Tweet Fails

Filed under: LGBT Issues — trp2011 @ 11:58 PM
Tags: , , ,

Following a horrendous speech to Boy Scouts last Tuesday, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) attempted to distract people from his earlier egregious behavior by tweeting that transgender people would not be permitted to serve in the military in any capacity. There was no study for this decision, and the Pentagon seemed to be taken unawares. Fiat by tweet? No one really knows. It’s possible that DDT is trying to make nice with evangelicals after being offensive to their beloved Jeff Sessions for days in a row.

The tweets began at 5:55 am on July 26. The first one read:

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……”

During the eight-minute pause before a continuation of DDT’s message, the Department of Defense HQ panicked. Al Gore said that they thought DDT had declared war. The second part of the tweet showed that the war was on the the 15,000 transgender soldiers in active or reserve duty and the almost 150,000 transgender people who serve in the military in some capacity. The second tweet told them that they had lost their jobs:

“….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…..”

DDT completed the three tweets by a reference to the costs and disruption from transgender people in the military:

“….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you”

Both DDT’s “reasons” are bogus.

The military spends $84.4 million on medication for erectile dysfunction but only $5.6 million for health care for transgender employees. That $84.4 million is our taxes at work—15 times more than the $5.6 million cost of hormone treatment and surgery for transgender people in the military and 0.07 percent of the $49.3 billion in health care expenditures for military and former military members, 586,804 percent more than that for transgender employees in the military. The Pentagon pays $91.1 million for one F-35s fighter plane and $478 million for a single Littoral combat ship that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said has “practically no proven combat capability.”

Two DDT weekends would pay for a year of health care for transgender people in the military. A single trip to Mar-a-Lago, his private clubs, costs taxpayers about $3.6 million, and he spent seven weekends there in just two and a half months before he moved on to his personal resort at Bedminster (NJ). Congress also allocated $41 million to provide security costs to his resorts for his time there. Travel and protection costs for the DDT family ran a least $30 million for his first 100 days, compared to $12 million for an entire year for President Obama and his family. The costs continue for security for Trump Tower where DDT never goes and other personal costs for him.

The disruption claim was refuted by Defense Department officials who reported on a seamless process of transgender service members coming out after the Obama administration repealed the ban on their serving. The Pentagon completed a comprehensive review of the situation before it lifted the ban on transgender service members in 2016. Radha Iyengar, author of the RAND study that investigated transgender people in the military, said:

“We’ve had commanders report that having a more improved attitude toward inclusiveness and diversity was beneficial to their unit overall. And that really speaks to the benefits, but there was really no effect, in any of the cases, of operational effectiveness. They saw these positives, but we really didn’t see any of the negatives.”

In a third “misrepresentation,” DDT claimed that his decision came after consultation with “my Generals and military experts, but the tweets came as a surprise to the Pentagon. Defense Secretary James Mattis was on vacation and reportedly appalled and infuriated by the tweets. The Pentagon referred all questions about DDT’s order to the White House. The day after DDT’s tweets, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a memo to service chiefs, commanders, and senior enlisted leaders.

“I know there are questions about yesterday’s announcement on the transgender policy by the President. There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance. In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.”

A theory behind DDT’s tweets is that he reacted to the radical right threatening to blow up the $790 billion defense and security spending package in the House if it included health care for transgender service members. (Keep in mind that they are quibbling about $5.4 million for health care.) Mattis was working with them, but DDT may have taken over the issue and decided to eliminate more President Obama’s work. An amendment to ban funding for gender reassignment surgeries and treatments for transgender active-duty personnel failed 209-214 with 24 Republicans voting with the Democrats. Amendment supporters then tried to push the GOP leadership to circumvent the House rules to pass the amendment, but the leadership refused, saying it would make them look hypocritical. That’s’ when Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) went to the White House and complained to DDT. White supremacist Steve Bannon told DDT that he should deal with the situation.

A senior House GOP aide emailed about DDT’s tweets, “This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire.”

DDT’s unified many of the Republicans, even representatives who voted in favor of the amendment, with the Democrats’ outrage regarding the tweets. Although some GOP legislators stayed quiet, several of GOP legislators agreed with Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, who said, “Removing thousands of men and women from admirably and honorably serving is counterintuitive to strengthening our military. I have serious concerns about what this new directive means.” LoBiondo called on Mattis to “provide clarity on this issue and determine what is in the best interest of military readiness to protect our nation.” Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), John McCain (R-AZ), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK)—all veterans—came out in strong support for allowing qualified people into the military no matter their gender identity. McCain chairs of the Armed Services Committee.  This is the first issue, other than the possibility of DDT firing Jeff Sessions as attorney general, in which Republicans have been vocal in opposing DDT’s views.

Other countries were flabbergasted with DDT’s declaration. In Israel, Retired Gen. Elazar Stern was shocked by DDT’s position. “It makes us strong that we don’t waste time on questions like this,” said Stern, the former commander of the Israel Defense Forces Manpower Command. “It’s something to be proud of.” The Guardian wrote about how DDT’s tweets send “the depressing message … in normalising and legitimising prejudice and discrimination” and “significant in itself for its cruelty and foolishness.” Eighteen countries other than the United States permit transgender people to serve in the military. Nine other countries are moving in that direction.

After DDT became the GOP candidate at the RNC a year ago, he said, “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” On the campaign trail, he tweeted, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”

In Gallup Daily’s tracking of DDT’s approval rating, his disapproval rating is up 13 percent since his inauguration, up to 58 percent. He has lost support among his entire base: drops of 12 points with evangelicals, 20 points with the working class, and eight points each with rural United States and Mormons. Fifty-eight percent of adults agree with the statement, “Transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military.” Only 27 percent said they should not while the rest answered “don’t know.”

DDT made his announcement on the 69th anniversary of President Harry Truman integrating the armed services and during a week with DDT’s theme “American Heroes.”  He used transgender people as scapegoats to distract from his involvement with Russian influence in the election, the health care fiasco, and all his other mistakes. Now he’s moved on to sabotage health care and continue with hiring and firing.  John Kelly has been moved from Homeland Security Secretary to DDT’s chief of staff. A question across the media is whether he will control DDT’s tweets. If he tries ….

Help continue the fight against DDT’s ruling on transgender military employees by signing a petition on the internet.

Correction: “An entire year for President Obama and his family,” not “day.”

June 12, 2017

Remembrance, Celebration

Two anniversaries make this a bitter-sweet day.

Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court made interracial marriage the law of the United States in its ruling in Loving v. Virginia. The 1967 unanimous decision came nine years after Mildred Jeter, a black woman who later identified as Native American, married Richard Loving, a white man, and the couple was threatened with prison if they didn’t leave Virginia. Justice Anthony Kennedy cited Loving v. Virginia in the Supreme Court ruling that legalized marriage equality, a case in which four of the nine justices—John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas—supported bigotry.

On the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, one year before Mildred Loving died in 2008, she talked about her support for marriage equality:

“I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights. I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

One year ago, 49 LGBT people were slain in a hate crime at the Orlando (FL) club, Pulse. Those deaths brought the total of murdered LGBT people in the United States to 77 last year, making 2016 the deadliest year ever for that community. Even without the 49 people killed at Pulse, the number of LGBT homicides rose from 24 in 2015 to 28 in 2016, a 17 percent increase. Of the 28, 19 were transgender and gender non-conforming people—68 percent—and 17 were transgender women of color. Joining those commemorating the horrific event at the location at Pulse were 49 “angels” who formed a protective circle like they did after the slaughter.

With LGBT rights under attack from the current administration, over 50 LGBT Pride Parades in the nation came full circle last weekend back to resistance and equality marches , designed to urge politicians to support LGBT rights. It was the 54th “pride” parade since gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny organized the first one on the Fourth of July in Philadelphia. Yesterday, people gathered for the Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington, D.C.

For pure joy, watch Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) dancing through the streets in a parade.

June is Pride Month. I would like to extend thanks to the governor of Oregon who sent this message about the tragedy in Orlando and marriage equality:

“Every year in June, the LGBTQ community and allies come together to celebrate Pride. It is a month-long public celebration of love and embracing each other for who we are — inside and out. That has been the LGBTQ community’s message from the very first Pride celebrations: love and equality.

“One year ago today, we woke up to a heartbreaking reminder that our values are not shared by everyone. As details unfolded about the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, we were painfully reminded not only of senseless gun violence in our country, but the countless hate crimes that have targeted LGBTQ people for generations.

“What happened in Orlando was an attempt to make people afraid and ashamed of who they are. This should not happen anywhere, or for any reason. Every one of us has the right to live openly, safely, and with dignity.

“As governor, I will not tolerate acts of hatred and discrimination in the state of Oregon. We are still mourning the loss of two brave men who stood up to hate on a train in Portland. As a state, we must embrace a culture of inclusion — and celebrate our diversity — because when we open the doors of opportunity to everyone, we thrive together.

“I’m proud that Oregon continues to be a leader in policies that protect LGBTQ individuals. Our state prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Since I became governor, we’ve banned gay conversion therapy, and just a few weeks ago, expanded rights for transgender Oregonians.

“The LGBTQ community is stronger and more resilient today than ever before. As we remember the 49 lives cut short one year ago today in Orlando, we recommit ourselves to marching forward. We stand together, stronger than ever, with our message of love and equality.

“Be who you are. Love whom you wish. Together, we won’t let hate win.

On this day, during this month, and all through the year, I give thanks to people like the Lovings, the Supreme Court, Kate Brown, and millions of others who have paved the way for me to marry my love as we look forward to our 48th anniversary on June 25, 2017.

May 2, 2017

DDT’s Licence to Discriminate

Filed under: LGBT Issues — trp2011 @ 9:39 PM
Tags: , , , ,

“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.” That’s what Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said at the Republican National Convention almost a year ago. Immediately after DDT’s inauguration, his press secretary said:

“President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election.”

In his 15th week in office, DDT plans to sign another executive order, this one removing all rights that he can from LGBTQ people. It is labeled “religious liberty,” the term that allows anyone to discriminate against not only LGBTQ people but also anyone else based on what people call their “religious beliefs.” DDT waited until after his first 100 days in office to make this move. Supposedly his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, talked DDT out of signing the hateful order in early February, but super-“religions” VP Mike Pence worked with administration officials to “rewrite” the order. New verbiage is very little different from the original, according to people who have seen it. With Pence involved, discrimination is not surprising: when he was governor of Indiana, he signed a “religious freedom” bill that had to be redone because of millions in lost revenue to the state.

The grand signing is scheduled for Thursday, National Prayer Day, in front of a proud Pence and other conservative leaders. The original draft order, leaked on February 1, was highly criticized as government-licensed discrimination and quietly disappeared. Thursday is also the day that Leonard Leo, DDT’s adviser to select Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court, receives the annual Canterbury Medal from the Becket Fund—a “religious freedom” activist group.

DDT has already shown animosity toward the LGBTQ population through his selection of Cabinet members and other administration leaders. AG Jeff Sessions consistently opposes legal protections for LGBT people and voted against the 2009 Hate Crimes Prevention Act, protections for LGBT survivors of sexual violence under the Violence Against Women Act, and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He led the support for the amendment to a constitutional amendment that would have kept same-gender couples from marrying. Sessions’ Hate Crime Subcommittee protects people only on the basis of “religious beliefs or background.” Sessions also withdrew the lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2 that included discrimination regarding which bathrooms could be used by transgender people. At the same time, he “persuaded” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to revoke early guidance on equal access to facilities for transgender students, stopping lawsuits regarding the rights of transgender students.

Other DDT discrimination against LGBT people:

  • LGBTQ content was removed from White House and Department of State websites on the very first day of Trump’s presidency at the same time that other federal websites kept its content.
  • DDT’s Muslim and refugee ban is a death sentence for many LGBTQ people seeking safety in the United States.
  • DDT’s State Department sent two anti-LGBTQ organizations as the only civil society representatives to the UN annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This UN commission is important to LGBT rights because of its recommendations. Both DDT delegations rely on fake science and fabricated data to support their views.
  •  DDT’s appointment to lead the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, Roger Severino, has said that transgender equality is “the radical left using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology.”
  • DDT revoked the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act that removed mandates from companies receiving labor contracts that included the removal of LGBTQ rights. Less than two months earlier, the White House had declared that “the executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.”
  • LGBTQ questions measuring sexual orientation and gender identity disappeared from the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census because, according to the Department of Commerce, there was “no federal data need” to measure numbers of LGBTQ people.
  • DDT nominated for Army Secretary a LGBTQ-hater, Mark Green, who referred to being transgender as a “disease.” If confirmed, Green would replace, Eric Fanning, the first openly gay may to be the Secretary.
  • DDT’s recently hired Department of Agriculture employee James Renne helped orchestrate an anti-LGBT purge of longtime LGBTQ government employees during the George W. Bush presidency.

A leaked copy of an earlier draft executive order, “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” may be similar—if not as bad as—the order to be revealed later this week. The four-page draft covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.” It creates wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity as well as curtailing women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.

Language specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.” To summarize, the February order said that “Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their conscience.”

The definition of “religious exercise” extends to “any act or refusal to act that is motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the act is required or compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” It lists specific beliefs and gives governmental protection to those who have those beliefs. The language seems similar to last year’s law from Mississippi, declared in violation of both the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. The original draft exempted people or organizations from complying with the Affordable Care Act’s preventative-care mandate that includes contraceptive coverage and require insurance not be required to cover abortion or “subsidize[s] plans that do provide such coverage.” The government could also not take action against federally funded child-welfare organizations, such as those providing foster, adoption, or family support services, if they deny services based on “the organization’s religious beliefs.” The order would allow federally-funded organizations to refuse services to LGBTQ people to the point of removing children from their homes.

The ACLU is prepared to sue whenever DDT signs the order. His mandate violates federal law and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution as well as licensing individuals and private parties to violate federal law. In addition, it could violate the 1st Amendment regarding religion and state. Such an order uses a set of beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity to control everyone.

As Nico Lang wrote about the upcoming order:

“LGBT people, for lack of a better word, would be screwed. This order, if it were to be signed, would allow employers to fire workers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, permit doctors to deny life-saving services to trans people, and enable landlords to refuse housing to same-sex couples. It would realize the worst fears of the LGBT community by relegating us to second-class citizens.”

Conclusions: DDT never keeps his promise unless it gets him money or good press, and one of his basic goals is to overturn anything that President Obama did. Fourteen percent of LGBTQ people—mostly gay white men—voted for DDT because they love guns and hate minorities. We’ll see if DDT keeps their loyalty after he signs the order.

October 11, 2016

Out of the Closet

National Coming Out Day has been commemorated every October 11 for the past 28 years. It began in 1988 by marking the one-year anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington Lesbian and Gay Rights and continues to invite LGBT people to come out of the “closet” and proudly announce their sexual orientation and gender identity. The “closet” has been more and more associated with the LGBT community because, as Judy Grahn wrote in 1984:

“At present the term ‘closet’ implies a scandalous personal secret, or skeleton, in the family closet. In the case of a Gay person, it refers more precisely to being the skeleton in the family’s closet. That skeleton is the reality of Gayness itself. The sometimes violent and always frightening suppression of Gay culture often forces Gay people to live in the closet, in a secret world….”

The past few decades have marked a time when LGBT people have openly declared their true selves in vastly increasing numbers, a process that has helped increase the extent of legal LGBT rights despite its danger. Because some people suffer from homophobia because of their fear, being openly LGBT is not always safe. San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, who was assassinated on November 27, 1978, knew that he lived in danger because he refused to hide his sexual orientation.

The conservative environment fostered during the two terms of George W. Bush and solidified in many states by the Tea Party legislators elected in 2010 continue to create peril for many LGBT people. Over half the states in the nation—29 in all—discriminate against LGBT people, many of them worse than others. For example, trans people can be arrested in North Carolina if they use the bathroom that the state thinks is not correct. Same-gender couples can legally marry, but they are still struggling with punitive laws about divorce, adoption, Social Security rights, etc. In those 29 states, people can be fired if they’re merely considered LGBT. This map shows which states continue to discriminate.

Although “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts,” like the one supported and signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, GOP vice-presidential candidate, don’t always identify LGBT people, that community is the focus of these laws.

At one time, it seemed that the LGBT people were the major scapegoats, but the election campaign for 2016, an event that started 16 months ago and still has another four weeks, has pushed far more people into the closet. Many Muslims are forced to hide their religion to avoid hate crimes against them. Homeless people are at risk because Donald Trump encourages violence against them. Others are afraid to openly explain their preference in a presidential candidate because of fear. I have a sign supporting Hillary Clinton that I am concerned about posting because it may encourage damage to my property. Hiding our religion and political beliefs because of fear is just one example of the movement toward fascism in the United States.

This year, National Coming Out Day coincides with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement when people go forward and leave transgressions behind. As Max Antman writes about Yom Kippur and coming out of the closet:

“Coming out is often one of the most challenging, terrifying, and life-altering experiences an LGBTQ person faces in their lifetime. Regardless of whether the process is one of pain or ease, to come out is to surrender the privilege of a heterosexual life, and for many people, that is not only difficult – it’s impossible.

“Move forward into a space of opportunity and growth or remain trapped within perils of the past and fears of the future? The choice seems obvious enough, but the path to renewal is far from easy. Choosing ‘life and prosperity’ requires us to recognize our previous misgivings, but it also challenges us to accept whatever consequences lie ahead. Deciding to move into the new Jewish year through repentance and coming out of the closet are both very difficult choices, for they rely upon our faith in God and in ourselves.”

“As Yom Kippur and National Coming Out Day approach, we are challenged to take advantage of the opportunities they hold. We look at our past both individually and communally, and are given the chance to craft a better way. Even as we acknowledge the challenges and complexities of some of our less inclusive texts, these holidays give us the opportunity to look back at how far we have come in our journey towards acceptance and inclusion – not just as individuals, but as communities and a broader society.”

As more and more people know at least one LGBT person—frequently a relative—the acceptance grows. Two days ago, Anderson Cooper was the first openly gay person to moderate a presidential candidate, an historic occurrence. There were sneers, including from Donald Trump, but Cooper’s ability makes the job easier for the next LGBT person. As people know more open members of the LGBT people, the more accepting they have become. In the 22 years between 1993 and 2015, the percentage of people who were aware that they knew someone LGBT went from 61 to 88 while the level of acceptance ratcheted upward.

Not all LGBT people are safe coming out. I waited until I retired and left the state where I had worked because I would have lost my job. Staying closeted is something that shouldn’t cause guilt. But we all need to work for a world in which declaring a sexual orientation or gender identity or religion or political preference doesn’t put a person into jeopardy. People need to think about this factor in voting on November 8.

rainbow-flag

Meanwhile, LGBT people and our allies can take pride in the latest location of a rainbow flag. Planting Peace, a socially active group, sent a flag into outer space with a high-altitude balloon where it stayed 21.1 miles about Earth for over three hours. The universe is now an LGBT-friendly space; we can work to create the same atmosphere here on Earth.

For more joy, check out these top 20 tweets including one great message from President Barack Obama.

August 18, 2016

Couples Forced to Annul Adoption before Marrying

Twenty years ago, I met a lesbian couple who managed to get the same rights of married couples when the mother of one of them adopted the other one. As “sisters,” they were able to have the same rights that married couples have, i.e., visiting each other in the hospital. Since then, I discovered that other same-gender couples took a different route by one of them adopting the other one.

Another route for same-gender couples to have the same rights as married couples is for one of them to adopt the other. Two gay couples talked about what happened after they followed this route and then wanted to marry each other after marriage equality became the law of the land. Typically, adoption cannot be overturned; they are parent and child in perpetuity. But two Pennsylvania couples tried to have their adoptions annulled because getting married while the adoption is still legal would violate state incest laws that exist in 25 states.

couple 1

With Couple 1 (above left), Bill Novak adopted Norman MacArthur in 2000 after they had been partners for more than three decades. They persuaded a judge to annul their adoption in 2015 and then married in Bucks County where they had retired from Brooklyn (NY). Bill said that he adopted Norman because they would be legally considered strangers if one of them was hospitalized. In 2000, they were told that “hell would freeze over” because Pennsylvania would allow the gay couple to marry. When Norm had heart surgery in 2002, two years after the adoption, the sign on the door to the Cardiac-Intensive Care Unit stated “immediate family only.”

Twelve years later, the lawyer who finalized the adoption said that it couldn’t be undone. But some judges in the county understood the importance of adoption annulment so that the couple could marry. In the court proceedings, the judge said, “The times have changed and the laws must change with them,” and vacated the adoption. They immediately got their marriage license, and Bill said, “After 52 years together, it was already the world’s longest engagement.” This year the couple is celebrating their first wedding anniversary.

When Judge Gary B. Gilman of Bucks County vacated Novak’s adoption decree last year, the couple’s lawyer, Terry Clemons said, “It removes the hurdle for other people who may be in the same position as Bill and Norm.” He was wrong, as shown by another Pennsylvania couple who tried to get an annulment.

Couple 2 (above right), Nino Esposito and Roland “Drew” Bosee, spent another Father’s Day this year as an adoptive couple, however, because another judge refused to annul their adoption. Retired teacher Esposito adopted former freelance writer Bosee in 2012 after they had lived together more than 40 years as a same-gender couple and only ten states had marriage equality laws. The judge accused the couple of trying to get tax advantages and refused to annul the adoption. He said that the annulment can be granted only in cases of fraud and reversing it could put all adoptions in jeopardy.

After the couple was denied the annulment to their adoption, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to issue guidance to courts so that same-gender couples could easily annul their adoption in order to marry. It appears that this has not been done.

Whether this kind of adoption is common is hard to know. Angela Giampolo, a Philadelphia lawyer specializing in LGT law, said that there are no statistics. Yet there are stories of other couples, some of them famous, in which one adopts the other.

bayard rustin

Black activist Bayard Rustin (above left) helped set up the famous 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1982, Rustin decided to adopt Walter Naegle after they had been together for five years so that Naegle could inherit his estate. For the gay couple to do this, Naegle’s biological mother had to legally disown him, and then a social worker came to the couple’s home to ensure that it was suitable for a child. The adoption gave Naegle visiting privileges when Rustin was hospitalized for a perforated appendix. Rustin died in 1987 before anyone dreamed that the United States would legalize marriage equality.

Sergio Cervetti and Kenneth Rinker, choreographer of Murphy’s Law, also considered adoption when they moved to Pennsylvania from New York City. Issues were health insurance and inheritance tax as well as their wanting to be a couple. Their adoption was vacated after 15 years in the same county where Novak and MacArthur succeeded in having the adoption annulled. Novak and MacArthur were among the witnesses to Cervetti and Rinker’s wedding vows.

faderman

Famous lesbian author and scholar Lillian Faderman (above right) and Phyllis Irwin, chair of the English department at California State University where Faderman was on the faculty, decided on adult adoption after Faderman gave birth to her son, Avrom, in 1975. They completed the legality in 1983 after the fame of Faderman’s book, Surpassing the Love of Men, and she had to travel. If Irwin had not gone through the adoption of her partner, she couldn’t have even taken their son to a doctor. The adoption made Irwin the grandmother of Avrom. At that time, Irwin could not adopt Avrom because no state recognized adoptions of a second, same-gender parent.

Irwin and Faderman got married in June 2008 before the court reversed marriage equality during California’s Proposition 8 debacle. They didn’t vacate the adoption, however, because legal advice told them that undoing the adoption was unnecessary of there was no blood connection. Since then, hey have discovered that their lawyer’s advice was wrong, and they are working to annul the adoption. Faderman said in 2015, “We’ve always felt married. We’ve been married in our hearts for 44 years.”

Trump Watch: New York City has fined Donald Trump $10,000 for violating his agreement to preserve the Trump Tower atrium as public space. Trump has repeatedly closed the atrium and used it for campaign events. He was also fined $10,000 in June for failing to show up for a court hearing, again violating part of the public space agreement with the city.

Photos of full-sized statues of Trump in the nude have popped up all over the internet after the anarchist group INDECLINE put them up in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Seattle. The statue that mysteriously appeared in New York City’s Union Square today is gone with the declaration from NYC Parks that it “stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small.” The project is called “The Emperor Has No B—s.” Checking out the gross image shows parts of the “junk” missing and the rest very small.

Ivanka Trump, who is off vacationing with Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend (no, I’m not joking), received this note after she ordered an ear cuff online.

Invanka's note

Trump supporters responded with thousands of threats. At a rally featuring GOP vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence, supporters also promised “civil war” no matter who is elected president of the United States in November.

Eighty-one more days.

 

June 26, 2016

Marriage Equality Celebrates First Birthday

Happy First Anniversary

One year ago today, the Supreme Court declared marriage equality the law of the land. The last year has not seen an easy transition everywhere.  Chaos continued the day after the Supreme Court ruling:

  • Mississippi said the decision was not “effective immediately”; the state AG said that they were waiting for a lower court ruling.
  • The Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, Roy Moore, said that “the U.S. Supreme Court [has] no legal authority to redefine marriage” and that the decision may be invalid because two of the SCOTUS  justices voting for the majority opinion didn’t recuse themselves.
  • Louisiana AG said that the state would not be issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples because there was no “mandate or order making [the] decision final and effective.”
  • Utah tried to stop the state from issuing any marriage licenses.
  • Texas AG Ken Paxton described the ruling as “a judge-based edict that is not based in the law.” He told clerks that they didn’t have to issue licenses to same-gender couples and judges didn’t have to marry them.
  • The Kentucky governor ordered marriage licenses to be immediately changed to implement the new ruling, but that didn’t stop county clerk Kim Davis to refuse to issue them to same-gender couples. Confusion reigned after the state changed from a Democratic to a Republican governor midway through the process.
  • South Dakota AG Marty Jackley ordered the state to honor the ruling “absent further direction,” but it might take a “reasonable period of time” to implement it.
  • Tennessee legislature attempted to “nullify” the Supreme Court ruling in their state.

Freedom for same-gender couples to marry has stoked the GOP presidential campaigns this year. Current “presumptive” candidate Donald Trump, who brags about how he’s the best candidate for LGBT people, has promised to overturn the Supreme Court ruling. Trump knows that without the evangelical vote, he has no chance of being elected president. His most recent pandering came from a gathering of 1,000 evangelicals where he talked about how much more religious he is than Hillary Clinton.

 “We don’t know anything about Hillary in terms of religion. Now, she’s been in the public eye for years and years, and yet there’s no – there’s nothing out there.”

Trump’s accusation demonstrates that he knows as little about Hillary Clinton as he does about foreign policy, successful business practices, and universities. Clinton has spoken about her Methodist faith many times, including speeches about her views on Christianity and the Bible in Iowa. As a senator, she was also part of a Christian prayer group with several Republicans. Trump’s inaccurate statements match the comments he made about the president’s birth in Kenya and being a Muslim.

At the same meeting, Trump urged people not to pray for their leaders because they are “selling Christianity down the tubes.” Instead they should “pray to get everybody out to vote for one specific person.” This statement comes close to violating federal tax law because tax-exempt places of worship and ministries cannot legally intervene in political elections.

Trump also claims that he’s more Christian than other people. Yet he couldn’t think of a scripture important to him, saying that this is “private.” When asked whether he prefers the New or Old Testament, he said, “Both.” For several weeks, he was ridiculed for saying “Two Corinthians” instead of “Second Corinthians.”

James Dobson is trying to build Trump’s reputation among evangelicals by claiming that he is now a “born again” Christian, but Trump’s new campaign manager, Paul Manafort, refuses to talk about the recent “conversion.”

To prove his evangelical cred, Trump announced his new “executive board convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America.” At the top of the list is Michele Bachmann; the other 20 on the board are men. This was one week after Trump announced that he was the LGBT community’s new best friend. Those two categories mix together like oil and water. He’s also promised to require department store employees to say “Merry Christmas” and fight restrictions against public employees, such as school coaches, against leading Christian prayers on the field. He has no control over either of these areas, but evangelicals may not know this. Nor can he erase marriage equality unless he gets enough Supreme Court justices to do what he tells them.

clela rorex 1974There are many touching stories about same-gender marriages, but my favorite may be the one about the couple who waited 41 years before their Colorado marriage was declared legal by the federal government. In 1975, a young, relatively new county clerk, Clela Rorex (right), issued a marriage license to Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan in Colorado after checking with District Attorney Alex Hunter.

 

sullivan adams met in 1971Adams and Sullivan (left) had met four years earlier when Sullivan was traveling around the world. Falling in love, Adams wanted permanent residency for Sullivan, an Australian, so they could stay together.  Colorado had no laws against same-gender marriage, but the state AG declared their marriage invalid. Nearly 40 years later, Rorex insisted that the six licenses she issued to same-gender couples in 1975 are valid despite the continued statements from the state AG that they were not. “We never felt that those licenses were invalidated,” she said. “They were never taken to court or challenged on any validity issues.” The licenses were never rescinded.

Yet the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) denying Sullivan’s appeal in a letter that stated: “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.” A second letter stated that the green card petition was denied because neither party was able to perform female functions in a marriage. After the 9th Circuit Court refused to hear the couple’s case, they left everything behind and moved to Europe because the U.S. intended to deport Sullivan.

Fed up with living as paupers, they quietly moved to Los Angeles eleven months later, and Sullivan hid. After Adams was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010, their lawyer advised them to go to Washington state and get married there in case the government refused to recognize the 35-year-old Colorado license. The day before they were scheduled to go to Washington in 2012, Adams died at the age of 65.

Tony Sulllivan (right)Adams and Sullivan (right) were the first gay couple to sue the government for recognition of their marriage. After DOMA was overturned, 40,000 binational same-gender couples were eligible for immigration rights. Sullivan kept fighting for recognition of their marriage so that he could receive a green card. After DOMA was struck down two years ago today, it was too late for the couple.

Yet Sullivan sees their story as a victory. “They never managed to separate us,” he said. Their story has been made immortal in the documentary, Limited Partnership: A Love Story That Defined a Movement. Anthony Sullivan received his green card as a widower on April 21, 2016—exactly 41 years after his marriage to Richard Adams. The White House also “asked” the Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to issue a written apology to the couple.

clela 2Clela Rorex was at Out Boulder’s annual garden party to hear the announcement. At 74, Sullivan could not attend. He wrote that it was never about the green card.

“I was after being able to stay with the person I loved. It was quite a journey. Together, we made something of it rather than it just being an aberration in history. The government acknowledged we were right. It meant our lives hadn’t been wasted. We had lives that changed the world.”

Three awards were announced at the Out Boulder event.

  • The Clela Rorex “Allies in Action” award to lawyer Jean Dubofsky, who successfully argued against Colorado’s Amendment 2.
  • The Jack and Jean Hodges “Allies in Action” award to John Hoffman for his work with schools, including sharing his story with students as a “Speaking Out” panel member. Hoffman’s principal had silenced him in the 1990s for telling his students that he was gay.
  • The inaugural “Ignite and Inspire” youth award to Boulder High student Gabriela Bell—member of the Boulder Valley Safe Schools Coalition, president of Boulder High’s Gay Straight Alliance, and member of the Boulder Youth Advisory Board.

We can only hope that with people like this, we can fight the Donald Trumps and have many more anniversaries of marriage equality in the United States.

June 18, 2016

Orlando Shooting, Not the First Hate Crime

Last night Bill Maher talked about the Orlando killing being the only act of violence against LGBT people. I’m always amazed at the ignorance of self-proclaimed liberals about the subject of homophobia.

We expect this behavior from conservatives. They refuse to mention anything about the LGBT community since the Orlando shooting as they cry crocodile tears about the deaths of 50 people. They send “thoughts and prayers” and hold a “moment of silence” before voting down rights for LGBT people. Two days after the Orlando shooting, Rep. Pete Sessions blocked a bill that would have permanently banned discrimination against workers by federal contractors, President Obama’s executive order that covered 20 percent of the nation’s workers. This is the third time that the House has stopped the LGBT protections bill. Sessions also even insisted that Pulse was not a gay nightclub; he called it “a young person’s nightclub” with “some [LGBT people], but it was mostly Latinos.”

Most people don’t try to persuade conservatives to vote for equal LGBT rights in employment, housing, lodging, and other issues that greatly impact everyone’s lives. But liberals and independents who think that the shooting in Orlando is the first time and place that LGBT people have faced violence need some education.

LGBT people suffer from more hate crimes than any other minority group in the United States. Almost one-fifth of the 5,462 so-called single-bias hate crimes reported to the F.B.I. in 2014 occurred because of the target’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Hate crimes against LGBT people in the U.S. Americans are 8.3 times the expected rate based on the size of LGBT population—higher than the rate for Jews (at 3.5) and black people (at 3.2). Crimes against LGBT people increased after same-gender people gained marriage rights.

These statistics may be the tip of the iceberg because most hate crimes are not reported to the police and local jurisdictions frequently fail to classify those reported as hate crimes. Thousands of city police and county sheriff’s departments filed not one hate crime to the FBI between 2009 and 2014. Mississippi reported only one hate crime throughout the state in 2014. Data in just 12 states shows 88 homicides of LGBT people from 2012 to 2015, and homicides are almost surely much higher for the entire country.

Early reports from the Orlando shooting stated that the Orlando killer called 911 and claimed his crime supported ISIS. Since then, the investigation thinks that this might have been for attention, but conservatives cannot let go of what makes them the most comfortable. South Florida criminal defense attorney Khurrum Wahid, who has represented several defendants accused of terrorist-related activities such as supporting Islamic radicals, said, “It’s a lot easier to call it Islamic terrorism because we’re all united against that. But it’s not as easy to call it homophobia because we’re not all united against that.” The conservative belief also allows them to continue their hateful rhetoric toward the president. For example, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said on the campaign trail that “Barack Obama is directly responsible” for the deaths of 50 people last Sunday morning.

Investigations into the crime reveal that the killer was a mentally unstable, self-loathing, bigoted, violent man who abused his first wife and hated himself for being gay. Southern Poverty Law Center Mark Potok describes three strands:  “he hates gays, … he doesn’t like his life at all, … [and] Islamist ideology, which is the weakest of the three. It’s almost like an afterthought.”

The motivations behind attacks against LGBT people “have always been, and continue to be, [about] seemingly religious rhetoric,” says Kaila Story, a professor of women’s and gender studies at University of Louisville. Like politicians, conservative religion avoids mentioning that most, if not all, the people killed in Orlando are LGBT. The Vatican’s statement referred only to “innocent victims, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution read, “We regard those affected by this tragedy as fellow image-bearers of God and our neighbors.” The religious group then passed Resolution 3 that supports the overturn of marriage equality, enables religion-based discrimination against LGBT people, and opposes inclusion and respect for transgender people.

Conservative religious leaders who openly recognize that LGBT people were killed in the gay bar are gleeful about their deaths. Television evangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson responded toward the tragedy in which a Muslim “gentleman” killed 49 LGBT people: “The best thing to do is to sit on the sidelines and let them kill themselves.”

Sacramento pastor Roger Jimenez went farther than Robertson in his sermon to the members of the Verity Baptist Church, posted the day after the horrific event:

“I think that’s great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job—because these people are predators. They are abusers….

“I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put the firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out.”

YouTube removed the video the day after Jimenez posted it.

Pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church (Tempe, AZ) released this venom, again in a video uploaded to YouTube:

“The good news is that there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world, because, you know, these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles. That’s who was a victim here, are a bunch of, just, disgusting homosexuals at a gay bar, okay?”

The acceleration of hate toward LGBT people in the past year is shown by the 200 bills introduced in state legislatures and localities that would strip LGBT people of equal rights. These bills are accompanied by lies such as the danger of washing hands in a bathroom next to a transgender person. In the conservative tradition of controlling through fear, Republican lawmakers are claiming that they can protect LGBT people because of the falsehood that Muslims want to kill all “homosexuals.” Those who make that claim haven’t looked at their own Christian religion. Most Christians don’t want to “kill homosexuals,” but there are enough that LGBT people are in danger. You might want to do a little reading in that department, Bill Maher.

Donald Trump calls himself the only candidate who will protect LGBT people from Muslims—who are not a serious problem for LGBT people considering all the other issues faced in that community, including violence from so-called Christians. Although some of the 20 percent of the LGBT community who vote Republican have said that they will support Trump, the conservative gay group Log Cabin Republicans has not yet endorsed Trump for president. As with all other Trump statements, he changes his mind frequently on LGBT rights but did announce that he would select Supreme Court justices who would overturn marriage equality.

Dominique Hernandez holds up her fist painted in the colors of a rainbow, with a heart on her pulse, attends a vigil in memory of victims one day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Dominique Hernandez holds up her fist painted in the colors of a rainbow, with a heart on her pulse, attends a vigil in memory of victims one day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

What does homophobia feel like? James Michael Nichols writes that homophobia means that he is “living in constant fear of violence.” In this piece he describes his feelings as he arrives in his “home state of North Carolina”:

“But what does it mean to feel unsafe as you walk down the street, through the airport, on the subway, at the grocery store? How do you communicate that feeling to people who have never had to feel uncomfortable and regulated because of their gender presentation or self-expressions of queerness?”

He wrote about always having to assess the level of threat no matter where he is, being careful of where he goes and how he dresses, checking out places before travel, not getting a job because of being “too gay,” watching older people return to the closet to survive in nursing homes where they may die alone because families have already declared them dead, and being unable to show any affection for a loved one in public. Bill Maher should not declare that LGBT people when he has no idea that we go through in our daily lives.

Hopefully, some people can change. As a young adult, Jeremy Todd Addawy was a part of the racist skinhead movement who hated everyone except white straight people. According to an interview with Erin Nanasi, he decided that he could not live in a life “filled with rage and bigotry. This video shows his belief—in a comedic way—about his belief that “marriage is not a religious issue, it’s a freedom issue.” If he can learn, maybe others can too.

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