Trump’s Interior Dept Removes ‘Sexual Orientation’ From Ethics Guide

Donald Trump

The Trump administration just can’t stop trying to erase the LGBTQ community.

The Department of the Interior removed language regarding lesbian, gay and bisexual people from its anti-discrimination guidelines.

According to HuffPost, the words “sexual orientation” were removed from the department’s ethics manual.

On page four of the 2017 edition of the manual regarding Basic Obligations of Public Service, one principle reads, “You shall adhere to all laws and regulations that provide equal opportunities for all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, or handicap.”

However, the 2009 version of the ethics guide – during Barack Obama’s administration – included the categories “race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability.”

Bolding is mine.

HuffPost also reports that on his first day on the job in August 2017, then-Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt redlined the words “sexual orientation” on an email to agency staff.

When HuffPost asked the Interior Department about the edits, agency spokesperson Carol Danko replied saying the new language – substituting the word “sex” for “gender” and “sexual orientation” – was merely an effort to avoid redundancy.

“Per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, under Title VII the term ‘sex’ includes gender, gender identity, transgender status, sexual orientation, and pregnancy,” Danko told HuffPost.

The confusing part of that statement is the Trump administration’s Department of Justice recently took the completely opposite position on the issue at the U.S. Supreme Court. The DOJ argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not provide protections for LBG people via the word “sex” in the legislation.

Assuring HuffPost that the Interior Department has “zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind,” Danko told the news site that since Bernhardt became the agency chief in April 2019, “our internal policies have been redrafted with a broader brushstroke to explicitly capture inappropriate conduct beyond the legal standards of harassment and discrimination such as political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, and status as a parent.”

However the Interior Department parses this language, the fact is the Trump administration has led a continued assault on LGBTQ people since Donald Trump took office.

GLAAD has been tracking the many ways the community has been diminished or erased since January 2017 including banning transgender people from serving in the military, making no mention of the LGBTQ community in World AIDS Day proclamations, and allowing tax-payer funded adoption agencies to use “religious beliefs” to deny placing children in homes of LGBTQ couples.

(source: HuffPost, GLAAD)

Florida Lawmakers To Consider Whether To Ban Or Enact LGBTQ Protections

Florida lawmakers will consider two bills this session with major implications for LGBTQs

As this year’s session of the Florida state legislature gets underway today, state lawmakers will consider two bills that could have serious impact on the LGBTQ community in the Sunshine state.

The Florida Competitive Workforce Act (CWA) would amend the 1992 Florida Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes from discrimination.

The CWA has been introduced for ten years with an ever-increasing number of sponsors.

This year, the legislation has almost 60 sponsors – including 10 Republicans. In fact, the primary sponsor for the bill in the state House is Republican Jackie Toledo of Orlando.

A coalition of 450 businesses in the state including Disney, Darden and AT&T, support the passage of CWA.

“If the Florida Legislature is looking to recruit businesses like Amazon — at no cost to the taxpayer — all they have to do is pass a law that says LGBTQ people will be treated fairly and equally in our state in employment, housing and public accommodations,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) told the Orlando Sentinel. “Other states already have this. It’s not a social experiment.”

Currently, 20 states have comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights protections.

Joe Saunders, senior political director for Equality Florida, says “It’s our belief that if the Florida Competitive Workforce Act were sent to the floor today, it would pass both chambers.”

However, Rep. Michael Grant (R-Port Charlotte) has sponsored another bill – House Bill 3 – which would preempt local governments from imposing new regulations on businesses and sunset all local ordinances that currently impose such regulations, including those that ban discrimination.

In other words, HB 3 would wipe out all local ordinances that protect LGBTQs from discrimination. In the absence of a statewide law, local ordinances currently protect gays in only 60% of the state.

Grant insists his legislation comes as a result of a recently enacted Key West ordinance which bans the sale of sunscreens that contain ingredients known to harm coral reefs.

It’s the coral reefs he’s protecting. Riiiiiiight.

“What is absolutely clear to us is that, if this bill passes, it will be devastating to the protections provided by local government to the LGBTQ community,” says Saunders.

In this context, its clear why the CWA is so important. It would finally create statewide protections for LGBTQs.

In past years, the CWA hasn’t even made it out of committee. The Sentinel notes that most years, it wasn’t even assigned to a committee which demonstrates how key power players in the state legislature opposed the bill.

It will come as no surprise that the anti-LGBT Florida Family Policy Council strenuously opposes passage of the CWA.

President and general counsel for FFPC, John Stemberger, claims the CWA will create “a new lawsuit which can be used as a weapon by disgruntled employees to sue employers, claiming they were fired because of the very fluid and subjective notions of gender identity or sexual orientation.”

He also says the statewide protections would allow for lawsuits that “punish creative professionals who decline to design or create a custom product which communicates a message which they disagree with or which conflicts with their religious convictions.”

That’s not exactly true, though.

The CWA already contains language that makes exceptions for “constitutionally protected free exercise of religion.”

If you want an example of how a positive or negative civil rights environment attracts or repels business, take a look at North Carolina.

When the Tar Heel state passed its 2016 law that allowed for LGBTQ discrimination, the NCAA and the NBA All-Star Game canceled on the state, as did corporations looking to bring new businesses to the area.

Experts estimate the economic impact to North Carolina was $3.76 billion according to the Associate Press.

(h/t Orlando Sentinel)

Trump Signs New Canada/Mexico Trade Agreement With Pro-LGBT Language

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Donald Trump & Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Donald Trump has signed the newly-updated trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The agreement, much to the chagrin of 38 House Republicans, includes aspirational language encouraging member states to adopt policies against LGBT discrimination in the workforce.

Trump signed the agreement in Buenos Aires alongside Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

From The Washington Blade:

Section 23 of the USMCA contains a provision against sex discrimination in the workplace, calling on members in the deal to adopt policies against sex-based discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The section also calls for cooperation among the member states “in promotion of equality and elimination of employment discrimination” with regard to numerous characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

The inclusion of the LGBT language in the update to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, is a win for Trudeau, whose government inserted the provisions. The language, however, is aspirational and won’t require a change in law for any member states.

Although the United States has federal laws barring discrimination on the basis of sex and courts are increasingly interpreting them to bar anti-LGBT discrimination, no explicit federal law is in place against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Trump signed the agreement with the LGBT provisions intact even though a group of 38 House Republicans led by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) urged him to seek removal of that language, insisting the agreement “is no place for the adoption of social policy.”

The USMCA must be ratified by Congress with implementing language for the agreement to take effect. It remains to be seen whether House Republicans will now vote against the agreement with the LGBT language, or if the USMCA has enough support for approval in the next Congress when Democrats will have a majority in the U.S. House.

According to Politico, the LGBT provisions were a Canadian priority championed by Trudeau.

Pennsylvania Adds LGBTQs To Anti-Discrimination Laws But Not Hate Crime Statute

Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission added sexual orientation and gender identity to its list of protected groups.

Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission added sexual orientation and gender identity to its list of protected groups.

That action now allows people to file complaints to the State of Pennsylvania regarding incidents of LGBTQ discrimination. The commission investigates complaints of discrimination in areas of education, housing, employment and public accommodations.

Before the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity, if LGBTQ folks felt they had been discriminated against, their own recourse was to file a complaint with their local municipality IF the area they lived in barred such discrimination. According to Equality Pennsylvania, only 51 of the Keystone State’s 2,562 municipalities have laws that protect LGBTQ citizens.

What the change does not do, however, is add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s hate crime statute.

So, if LGBTQ folks face discrimination in a restaurant or hotel, you can file a complaint. But if you are assaulted for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, the perpetrator can be arrested but there will be no hate crime attached unless you are in one of the cities or local municipalities that have added sexual orientation or gender identity to their hate crime statute.
Now, there wasn’t always the case.

Back in 2002, the Pennsylvania state legislature added LGBTQ folks to the hate crimes law. In doing so, Pennsylvania became the 5th state to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks.

But two years later, when anti-gay protesters were arrested at a gay-rights event for preaching via bullhorn, concerns were raised about misuse of the statute.

Eventually, in 2007, a Commonwealth court struck down the addition to the hate crimes law saying the legislature had surreptitiously used an unrelated agriculture bill to make the change. In 2008, the state Supreme Court upheld that ruling and LGBTQ folks were once again left without hate crime protections statewide.

Since then, lawmakers have tried to update the hate crime statute but to no avail.

Some cities enacted their own hate crime legislation like Philadelphia in the aftermath of a vicious attack on a gay couple in the Center City area of Philly in 2014 which left one of the victims with a shattered jaw.

Currently, Pennsylvania’s hate crime laws protect folks from discrimination due to color, religion, race, and national origin.

(h/t Philly.com)

States Ranked Best (And Worst) For LGBTQs

Move.org, a great resource website for all things moving, has done a deep dive into several important factors LGBTQ folks should consider when moving to a new state to start a family and they’ve ranked all 50 states from best to worst.

Issues like hate crime legislation, same-sex adoption laws, anti-discrimination laws, LGBTQ population density and more were all taken into account

Move.org utilized data from HRC Foundation, the Movement and Advancement Project, and the Williams Institute at UCLA.

“We decided to consider the safety of LGBTQ individuals first and foremost, so we ranked whether the state had hate crime laws in place, whether or not conversion therapy was allowed for minors, and whether anti-discrimination laws were set,” wrote the researchers.

So, which state is best for starting a family?

California came out on top thanks to the Golden State’s comprehensive hate crime laws that cover both sexual orientation and gender identity, broad anti-discrimination laws, plus so-called ‘conversion therapy’ is banned for minors.

Additionally, the LGBTQ population density is pretty high at 4.9% meaning almost 1.5 million gays live there.

The rest of the top five are:
2. Illinois
3. Hawaii
4. Connecticut
5. Maryland

Jumping to the other end of the spectrum, West Virginia ranked last in terms of LGBTQ criteria.

The Mountain State offers no protections in terms of anti-discrimination or hate crime laws. There’s no law protecting minors from conversion therapy. Although, the state does allow same-sex couple to adopt.

The remaining bottom five are:
49. Virginia
48. Wisconsin
47. South Dakota
46. North Dakota

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move to these states. It’s important to note that every state has a few cities that are good landing spots for LGBTQ+ families.

Click over to Move.org for a complete list of all 50 states.

New Campaign Raises Awareness Of Discrimination Against LGBT Americans

Hubby Michael and I getting married in Palm Springs, CA

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled marriage equality to be the law of the land.

But while the rights and privileges of marriage were made available to LGBTs across the nation on that day, the sad fact remains that in 31 states it’s legal to marry the person you love on Saturday and be fired for being gay on Monday.

In an America where most folks support equal treatment, many people erroneously believe LGBT people are protected by federal law against such practices.

At this writing, only 19 states in the U.S. and D.C. fully protect against discrimination in housing, employment, and public places like stores or restaurants based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

Michael and I are fortunate to live in Nevada which is one of the 19 states in that select group of states. As a married couple, we do have full protections regarding public accommodations and employment. But others are not so lucky.

The LGBT Acceptance campaign raises awareness about discrimination against LGBT Americans.

Head over to BeyondIDo.org where you’ll find a state by state examination of protects or lack thereof for LGBT families; personal accounts of discrimination; and social media outreach campaign.

In the video below, Jami and Krista encountered LGBT discrimination head-on when a doctor refused to treat their new baby because the child had two moms.

(h/t TheOUTfront)

“Funeral Home” – Civil Rights Groups Highlights How Public Accommodation Laws Affect LGBTs

As the U.S. Supreme Court considers its ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the Movement Advancement Project shares this message asking folks to consider how public accommodation laws affect LGBT Americans on a day-to-day basis.

Via press release:

Inspired by a real legal case, Funeral Home, produced by MAP as part of the Open to All campaign, depicts a grieving widow who has just lost her spouse, and she and her family are turned away from a funeral home and refused burial services for her wife.

The ad is meant to show how a loss in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case would open the door to much wider ranging forms of discrimination—including what the grieving widow in the ad faced.

Open to All is the nationwide public engagement campaign designed to raise awareness about how our nation’s nondiscrimination laws are under attack—and to defend the bedrock principle that when businesses open their doors to the public, they should be Open to All. Learn more and find out how you can get involved.

Watch the spot below, and don’t think for a moment this isn’t already a reality in some towns.

Trump Administration Is Methodically Dismantling LGBT Protections

During the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump promised he would be “better for the gays” than Hillary Clinton.

Instead, his health department is slowly but surely rolling back efforts to protect LGBT patients.

From Politico:

The nation’s health department is taking steps to dismantle LGBT health initiatives, as political appointees have halted or rolled back regulations intended to protect LGBT workers and patients, removed LGBT-friendly language from documents and reassigned the senior adviser dedicated to LGBT health.

The sharp reversal from Obama-era policies carries implications for a population that’s been historically vulnerable to discrimination in health care settings, say LGBT health advocates. A Health Affairs study last year found that many LGBT individuals have less access to care than heterosexuals; in a Harvard-Robert Wood Johnson-NPR survey one in six LGBT individuals reported experiencing discrimination from doctors or at a clinic.

The Trump administration soon after taking office also moved to change the agency’s LGBT-related health data collection, a window into health status and discrimination. Last month it established a new religious liberty division to defend health workers who have religious objections to treating LGBT patients.

The changes at the Department of Health and Human Services represent “rapid destruction of so much of the progress on LGBT health,” said Kellan Baker, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who worked with HHS on LGBT issues for nearly a decade. “It’s only a matter of time before all the gains made under the Obama administration are reversed under the Trump administration, for purposes that have nothing to do with public health and have everything to do with politics.”

Politico breaks down all the various steps the Trump administration is against LGBTs.

Definitely head over there and read the full article.

News Round-Up: February 13, 2018

Some news items you might have missed:

• It’s a “light and shadow” kind of day here in Las Vegas. And so, I give you the handsome Ignacio Pérez Rey photographed by the incomparable Joan Crisol.

• A recently unearthed quote from Academy Award winner Marlon Brando confirms he had homosexual experiences.

• Underwear designer Andrew Christian has found a way to deal with all those pics of beleagured porn boy Topher DiMaggio on his website after “suspending” Topher as a “trophy boy.” The answer? They simply cut off his head.

• The 30-year-old man who set off a bomb in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan ( a popular gay neighborhood)  in September of 2016 has been sentenced to two life sentences plus 30 years for his actions.

• This popular Miami first grade teacher was fired for marrying her wife. The Catholic school she taught for had a “moral turpitude” clause in her contract they say she broke. Florida, as you may know, has no protections for LGBTs in the workplace.

• Pop diva Toni Braxton has a brand new single “Long As I Live” out now, and is one of several tracks Toni co-wrote and produced for her upcoming new album, Sex and Cigarettes, due out March 23. Check out the new single below.

How Does Your State Rate In Terms Of Statewide Laws For LGBTQ People?

I’m happy to see the three states (New York, California, Nevada) I’ve lived in during my adult life are all three in the top category.

From the Human Rights Campaign:

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation and the Equality Federation Institute released their annual State Equality Index (SEI), a comprehensive state-by-state report detailing statewide laws and policies that affect LGBTQ people and their families and placing states in one of four categories based on their pro- and anti-LGBTQ state laws.

The SEI assesses statewide LGBTQ-related legislation and policies in the areas of parenting laws and policies, relationship recognition and religious refusal laws, non-discrimination laws and policies, hate crime laws, youth-related laws and policies and health and safety laws and policies. Based on that review, the SEI assigns states to one of four distinct categories:

• Thirteen states and the District of Columbia are in the highest-rated category, “Working Toward Innovative Equality”: California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington

• Five states are in the category “Solidifying Equality”: Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico

• Five states are in the category “Building Equality”: Hawaii, Indiana, New Hampshire, Utah, Wisconsin

• Twenty-Seven states are in the lowest-rated category “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality”: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming

Additionally, HRC polling data collected by Hart Research Associates shows:

• 58% support laws that would prevent discrimination against LGBTQ people in the workplace

• 58% support laws that would prevent discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing

• 38% of voters incorrectly believe there are federal laws that protect LGBTQ people regarding employment, housing and access to government benefits.