Justice Department: Anti-LGBT Discrimination Is Legal Under Federal Law

On the same day that Donald Trump unexpectedly announced a ban on transgender soldiers in the U.S. military, his Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief declaring anti-LGBT discrimination is lawful in a current employment discrimination case

From Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade:

In a 23-page brief, the Justice Department under U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rejects the notion that sexual-orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect,” the brief says. “Moreover, whatever this Court would say about the question were it writing on a blank slate, Congress has made clear through its actions and inactions in this area that Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination does not encompass sexual orientation discrimination. Other statutes and rules may prohibit such discrimination, but Title VII does not do so as a matter of law, and whether it should do so as a matter of policy remains a question for Congress to decide.”

Although the Justice Department under the Obama administration never took an official view on whether sexual orientation discrimination is prohibited under Title VII, the brief effectively turns a Justice Department that once argued for protections for LGBT people into an institution that seeks to undermine them.

The reasoning in the brief contrasts with the determination of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the independent agency charged with enforcing federal workplace civil rights laws. In 2015, the EEOC found in the case of Baldwin v. Foxx anti-gay discrimination constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, issued this statement, “In one fell swoop, Trump’s DOJ has provided a roadmap for dismantling years of federal protections and declared that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people may no longer be protected by landmark civil rights laws such as the Fair Housing Act, Title IX, or Title VII.”

Here’s a recap of actions the Trump administration has taken against LGBT folks since Trump was inaugurated.

But remember, Donald Trump promised during the 2016 campaign how much “better” for the gays he would be than Hillary Clinton.

Missouri State Rep. Rick Brattin: “There Is A Distinction Between Homosexuality And Just Being A Human Being”

Missouri state Rep. Rick Brattin

The editorial board of the Kansas City Star calls out state lawmaker Rick Brattin for declaring during a legislative debate that “there is a distinction between homosexuality and just being a human being.”

Look at him. Pretty tells you who he is, doesn’t it?

This is where we thank Hillary Clinton for reintroducing the word “deplorable” into our vocabulary.

Rick Brattin, a Missouri state representative from Harrisonville, seems pretty certain: Homosexuality and humanity are incompatible.

“When you look at the tenets of religion, of the Bible, of the Qur’an, of other religions,” he said Monday, “there is a distinction between homosexuality and just being a human being.”

The statement, made on the Missouri House floor, was deplorable. It betrayed a stunning lack of understanding of theology and self-government: The Constitution protects all Americans from the tyranny of any single faith-based approach to secular law.

We asked Rep. Brattin to explain his statement, but he did not return a phone call to his office.

[snip]

Monday, state lawmakers tried to pass an amendment prohibiting discrimination in the state on the basis of sexual orientation or gender status. In Missouri, you can still be fired because the boss thinks you might be gay.

Brattin made his statement during the debate on that amendment. But it quickly became clear that there were not enough votes to pass the plan, leaving gays and lesbians still unprotected by Missouri’s discrimination law.

That sends exactly the wrong message about tolerance in the state.

It gets worse. After all the amendments were dropped, including the protections for gays and lesbians, the House passed Senate Bill 43, a measure that would actually make it more difficult to sue for discrimination.

The bill is another unnecessary blemish on the state. The legislation’s original sponsor owns a company facing a discrimination lawsuit, making the decision even more questionable.

The bill now sits on Gov. Eric Greitens’ desk.

The governor has made clear his desire to bring new businesses and jobs to Missouri. Supporters say SB 43 is part of an effort to make the state more business-friendly.

But what business wants to operate in a state that tolerates discrimination? Or a state where a representative thinks gays and lesbians are less than human?

The states that grow in the 21st century will be those that show tolerance, acceptance and intelligence. Missouri’s lawmakers are sending a clear signal this state is not any of those things.

The governor should veto the bill. And Brattin should apologize.

Mississippi Funeral Home Sued For Refusing To Cremate Deceased Married Gay Man

For anyone who thinks we don’t need laws to protect us.

Last May, Robert Huskey, of Mississippi, passed away at the age of 82 after coping with a longtime heart condition.

With the outcome becoming clearly imminent, Huskey’s nephew made arrangements at the local funeral home for after his passing.

But on the day of his death, the Picayune Funeral Home refused to pick up and cremate Huskey’s body. The refusal was based on the fact the funeral home had discovered Huskey was gay, and had lived with his husband, Jack Zawadski for 52 years.

According to Lambda Legal:

Since the nursing home could not keep Bob’s body on site, Jack and John had to scramble to locate another funeral home with an on-site crematorium. They located one in Hattiesburg, some 90 miles away. By that time, because Bob’s body could not be housed at the nursing home for the hours it would take for the Hattiesburg hearse to arrive, they had to find yet another funeral home in Picayune willing to transport Bob’s body to Hattiesburg.

The family has now filed a lawsuit against the funeral home with the help of Lambda Legal.

In a statement released Tuesday, Zawadski said, “I felt as if all the air had been knocked out of me. Bob was my life, and we had always felt so welcome in this community. And then, at a moment of such personal pain and loss, to have someone do what they did to me, to us, to Bob, I just couldn’t believe it. No one should be put through what we were put through.”

This is why we need The Equality Act to pass in Congress. Mississippi has NO discrimination protections for LGBT folks at all.

(source)

Trump To Legalize LGBT Discrimination In Executive Order Signing On Thursday

Well, we all saw this coming.

Politico is reporting that President Trump has invited conservative leaders to a signing at the White House Thursday. Most observers expect this will be the long-awaited executive order on promoting religious liberty over LGBT rights.

Two senior administration officials confirmed the plan, though one cautioned that it hasn’t yet been finalized, and noted that lawyers are currently reviewing and fine-tuning the draft language. Thursday is the National Day of Prayer, and the White House was already planning to celebrate the occasion with faith leaders.

The signing would represent a major triumph for Vice President Mike Pence—whose push for religious-freedom legislation backfired mightily when he served as governor of Indiana—and his allies in the conservative movement.

According to the above-linked report, the order is only slightly revised from the sweeping anti-LGBT order that was leaked to the press in February.

In February, The Nation obtained a draft of the executive order. “The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions [from antidiscrimination laws] for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act,” the progressive magazine reported at the time.

The ACLU has already weighed in:

“The ACLU fights every day to defend religious freedom, but religious freedom does not mean the right to discriminate against or harm others. If President Trump signs an executive order that attempts to provide a license to discriminate against women or LGBT people, we will see him in court.”

(h/t JoeMyGod)

Washington Post Confirms Draft Of Trump Executive Order On LGBT Issues

Many LGBTs across the country have feared, since the election of Donald Trump, that our rights and protections could come under fire with a Trump administration.

It appears that our concerns may be born out later this week.

This afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer dodged a direct question about a possible anti-LGBT executive order: “I’m not gonna get ahead of the executive orders that we may or may not issue. There’s a lot of executive orders, a lot of things that the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill. But we have nothing on that front right now.”

An hour later, Washington Post reporter Josh Rogin tweeted that there is, indeed, a draft of an executive order addressing LGBT issues.

Watch below (49:14 mark) as Spicer side-steps the question on a possible LGBT executive order:

Trump Executive Order Targeting LGBTs Could Come This Week

It’s not all that surprising, when you consider that President Trump has promised to sign the so-called First Amendment Defense Act which would legalize anti-LGBT business discrimination nationwide, that sources are saying an executive order allowing discrimination against LGBTs is expected from the Trump White House.

The expectation is that the EO would affect areas of employment, social services, business, and adoption.

From LGBTQ Nation:

From what we’ve heard, the executive order could be far-reaching, and could include: making taxpayer funds available for discrimination against LGBTQ people in social services; allow federally funded adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ parents; eliminate non-discrimination protections in order to make it possible to fire federal employers and contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; and allow federal employees to refuse to serve people based on the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and that gender is an immutable characteristic set at birth, which would impact a broad range of federal benefits.

The order is expected to come in the packaging of so-called “religious freedom,” which argues that someone’s religious beliefs should be enough to prevent them from having to provide goods and services to members of the LGBTQ community if doing so would conflict with said beliefs.

The Human Rights Campaign‘s JoDee Winterhof, Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs, issued a statement which read in part:

“The rumors of an anti-LGBTQ executive action by President Trump are deeply troubling. We already know that he is willing to target and marginalize at-risk communities for his perceived political gain. As the President and his team plan their next steps, we want to make one thing clear: we won’t give one inch when it comes to defending equality, whether it is a full-on frontal assault or an attack under the guise of religion. Mike Pence should know that better than anyone given his track record in Indiana.

“The Human Rights Campaign will stand with those who have already been targeted by this Administration and are prepared to fight tooth and nail against every effort to discriminate.”

When asked about the reports, White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to answer the question.

Sec. Of State Kerry Formally Apologizes To State LGBT Staffers For Decades Of Discrimination

With less than two weeks left in the Obama administration, Secretary of State John Kerry took yet another opportunity to acknowledge and promote LGBT inclusion by formally apologizing to State department staffers for past discrimination due to their sexual orientation.

Here’s the full statement as posted on the State department’s website:

Throughout my career, including as Secretary of State, I have stood strongly in support of the LGBTI community, recognizing that respect for human rights must include respect for all individuals. LGBTI employees serve as proud members of the State Department and valued colleagues dedicated to the service of our country. For the past several years, the Department has pressed for the families of LGBTI officers to have the same protections overseas as families of other officers. In 2015, to further promote LGBTI rights throughout the world, I appointed the first ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.

In the past – as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades – the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place. These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today.

On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the Department’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.

(h/t JoeMyGod)

Toledo’s Take The Cake Bakery Refuses To Sell Birthday Cake To Lesbian

A bakery in Toledo, Ohio, has refused to sell a birthday cake after viewing the customer’s Facebook page and realizing she is lesbian and in a same-sex marriage.

To clarify, the customer – Candice Lowe – was not looking for a wedding cake. This was a birthday cake meant as a surprise for her wife, Amanda, of two weeks.

The couple, who are sill celebrating their recent nuptials, were stunned to get word via text message that the bakery would not sell them a birthday cake because they “do not do cakes” for same-sex parties.

“I just realized you are in a same-sex relationship and we do not do cakes for same-sex weddings or parties…I’m so sorry, I wasn’t aware of this exactly until I saw your [Facebook] page. Take care :)”

The bakery’s Facebook page has been inundated with comments supporting the Lowes.

LGBT activist Dan Savage weighed in on his blog:

Refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding says, “I don’t think you people should be able to celebrate or solemnize your relationships because same-sex marriage is a sin.” Refusing to bake a birthday cake for a lesbian says, “I don’t think your birth is something to celebrate because the world would be better off if you didn’t exist.”

Welcome to America — where bigoted bakers do background checks to avoid selling cakes to lesbians (because Jesus) but we don’t require merchants at gun shows to do background checks to avoid selling weapons of war to crazed terrorists, abusive spouses, and the mentally ill (because freedom).

According to the local ABC affiliate, the bakery had indicated they were open to comment on the story, but as you can see in the report below, the owners stopped answering or returning calls to reporters.

Georgia Could Lose Super Bowl Due To Anti-LGBT ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

As Georgia’s newly passed House Bill 757 – the so-called ‘Religious Freedom’ legislation – heads to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk for signature or veto, big businesses are weighing in and they don’t like what they see.

While pretending to protect religious freedoms, what HB757 actually does is legalize discrimination against LGBTs.

Now, the NFL has sent a non-too-subtle message to Gov. Deal – veto the hate or lose the Super Bowl.

From Outsports:

“NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.”

Atlanta is one of the four finalists to host the Super Bowl in 2019 and 2020. The Atlanta Falcons have been embroiled in a controversy of their own this month after reports of coaches asking prospective players if they are gay.

Meanwhile, Falcons owner Arthur Blank has publicly opposed the bill:

“One of my bedrock values is ‘Include Everyone’ and it’s a principle we embrace and strive to live each and every day with my family and our associates, a vast majority of which live and work in Georgia. I strongly believe a diverse, inclusive and welcoming Georgia is critical to our citizens and the millions of visitors coming to enjoy all that our great state has to offer. House Bill 757 undermines these principles and would have long-lasting negative impact on our state and the people of Georgia.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the NFL moved a Super Bowl over perceived discrimination. In 1992, the League moved the Super Bowl from Arizona to Los Angeles when the state refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day.