SCOTUS Declines To Hear Appeal For Anti-LGBTQ Florist

Gay couple dances after getting married
Gay couple dances after getting married
(stock image via Depositphotos)

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by anti-LGBTQ florist Barronelle Stutzman of Washington state who refused to sell flowers to a same-sex couple for their wedding.

Stutzman’s petition is listed on Friday’s orders list indicating the high court had denied certiorari, or refused to take up the case. No reason was given although the orders note that Justice Thomas, Justice Alito, and Justice Gorsuch would have granted the petition to hear the case. In the Supreme Court, at least four justices have to agree to take up a case.

The decision means the ruling by the Washington Supreme Court will stand.

The sad story began in 2013 when Rob Ingersoll and Curt Freed, longtime customers of Arlene’s Flowers owned by Stutzman, approached the florist for flowers for their dream wedding. Stutzman refused claiming doing so would violate her religious beliefs.

In 2017, the case had made its way up to the Washington state high court which ruled Stutzman had violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws which prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in public accommodations. The florist was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

Stutzman appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 wherein SCOTUS vacated the lower court’s decision and asked the Washington court to review the case in light of a narrow ruling in the case of Jack Phillips, owner of the Colorado bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop.

A year later, in June 2019, the Washington Supreme Court reaffirmed its decision finding there had been no animosity involved against Stutzman in the original ruling.

Today’s decision is the end of the road in terms of legal options for Stutzman.


“After Curt and I were turned away from our local flower shop, we cancelled the plans for our dream wedding because we were afraid it would happen again. We had a small ceremony at home instead,” Ingersoll told ABC News in a statement. “We hope this decision sends a message to other LGBTQ people that no one should have to experience the hurt that we did.”

Alphonso David, president of Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement, “The Supreme Court has once again said that critical nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people are legally enforceable and has set a strong and definitive precedent.”

Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for the virulently anti-LGBTQ legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, called the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case “tragic.”

This is the third high profile LGBTQ-related case addressed by the Supreme Court.

In June, SCOTUS issued a unanimous but very narrow ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services (CSS) in Philadelphia which had refused to certify same-sex couples who applied to become foster parents.

The ruling was not the broad ‘license to discriminate’ anti-LGBTQ advocates had hoped for. Instead, the justices found in favor of CSS because the city hadn’t applied its own policy of exemptions uniformly. The decision only applies to CSS and its contract with Philadelphia.

And earlier this week, SCOTUS also rejected to hear an appeal by a Virginia school board seeking ban transgender students from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity. That decision sets precedent regarding restroom discrimination in schools in at least five states.

(Source: ABC News)

HHS Reverses Policy Allowing LGBTQ Discrimination In Healthcare

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra (image via Twitter)
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra (image via Twitter)
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra (image via Twitter)

The Department of Health and Human Services has affirmed that federal laws banning sex discrimination in health care also protect LGTBQ people.

From the Washington Post:

The Biden administration said Monday it would provide protections against discrimination in health care based on gender identity and sexual orientation, reversing a policy of its predecessors that had been a priority for social conservatives and had infuriated civil liberties advocates.

The reversal is a victory for transgender people and undoes what had been a significant setback in the movement for LGBTQ rights.

The shift pertains to health-care providers and other organizations that receive funding from the Department of Health and Human Services. Civil rights groups had said the Trump policy would allow health-care workers and institutions, as well as insurers, to deny services to transgender individuals.

Today’s update was made in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. That decision affirmed federal nondiscrimination protections in employment and said that sex discrimination includes discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Research shows that one-quarter of LGBTQ people who faced discrimination postponed or avoided receiving needed medical care for fear of further discrimination.

In a statement, American Medical Association president Susan R. Bailey applauded the move:

“The Biden administration did the right thing by terminating a short-lived effort to allow discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation when seeking health care.

“As we said in our letter to the previous administration, the interpretation was contrary to the intent and the plain language of the law. It’s unfortunate that such an obvious step had to be taken; the AMA welcomes this common-sense understanding of the law.

“This move is a victory for health equity and ends a dismal chapter in which a federal agency sought to remove civil rights protections.”

Videographer Abandons Wedding Moments Before The Ceremony

Photo of an abandoned camera at a wedding
Teegan and Clarissa Templeton on the happy day
Teegan and Clarissa Templeton (photo; Tiffany McCarson)

After saving for over a year and planning down the last detail for the wedding day of their dreams, a same-sex couple in North Carolina were devastated when their videographer ghosted on them as they made their way down the aisle.

For 14 months Clarissa and Teegan Templeton each worked two jobs to save up for their dream wedding at a scenic farm in North Carolina. Having done their research, they booked the venue, the photographer, the flowers, and a videographer through Tolman Media.

Clarissa told the News Observer that in all of their planning, the couple was careful to search for LGBTQ-friendly companies

But on the big day, the videographer decided to abandon the gig moments before the ceremony was to begin without saying a word to anyone.

Clarissa Templeton says she discovered Tolman Media on Instagram and made the booking through the company’s South Carolina branch in June 2020 for their April 3 wedding.

The company has several branches across the U.S. and reportedly contracts with many videographers.

The couple says they were in email contact with the camera man, Seth Curl, via email leading up to the big day.

Capturing the happy moment on video was especially important to the couple since, with the ongoing COVID pandemic, many family members and friends weren’t able to attend. Teegan and Clarissa hoped a video to share with loved ones would be the next-best thing.

(photo: Tiffany McCarson)

Teegan, who arrived at the venue first, recalls seeing the videographer early on. But as the ceremony began, Clarissa realized he was no where to be found amid the crowd of attendees.

“I had a mini panic attack,” Clarissa shared with Insider. “I started to panic in my head and told myself maybe he ran to the car or had some technical difficulty.”

She added, “I refused to let myself focus on it anymore and put 110% of my focus on Teegan in that moment we were sharing together. I wanted to be in that moment.”

Following the ceremony, the couple began to take their wedding pictures with their photographer (hired separately from Tolman Media). When Clarissa asked the photographer if she knew anything about the videographer’s disappearance, the photographer paused before answering, “He left.”

During this time, the couple’s wedding planner, Ashley Hansen, scrambled to contact Curl via phone. He reportedly told Hansen he left because “of his faith and that he didn’t feel comfortable because it’s a same-sex marriage.”

Ultimately, Hansen tracked down the folks at the South Carolina office of Tolman Media who dispatched another videographer to the event. According to a Facebook post by Clarissa, the company promised to “refund the entirety of our money and give us the footage this new videographer was going to capture for FREE.”

By that time, even though the wedding was winding down, the brides went about recreating some of their big day. But, as Clarissa explained, it felt “fake” to the couple.

Fortunately, the couple’s photographer was able to capture the joyous moments via still photography.

(photo: Tiffany McCarson)

The Templetons reached out to Tolman Media following the wedding requesting the previously mentioned refund, but it wasn’t until Clarissa posted her story to Facebook that she heard back from Tolman. At that point, Tolman Media issued a full refund and said the videographer was no longer employed by the company.

Ben Hillyard, president of Tolman Media, also issued a statement saying, “We at Tolman Media hold discrimination and discriminatory behavior as a very serious offense against individuals. We do not tolerate it within our organization.”

“Tolman Media is not this videographer,” added Hillyard. “The opinions and beliefs of this videographer do not represent our beliefs or our track record in any way shape or form.”

Hillyard also told Insider that moving forward he will ensure all branches are “fully aware” of the company’s nondiscrimination policy. And – future contractors will be required to be transparent about being available to work on same-sex weddings. And if they refuse, the company will not work with them.

Two weeks after the wedding, the Templetons received an email from Curl.

“On April 3, I did something that I have never done, nor ever had to do before,” wrote the videographer as reported by the News Observer. “Because of my faith and what I support, I made the decision to leave and not film Clarissa and Teegan’s wedding day.”

He added that he knew abandoning his assignment “would have severe consequences” and that his unannounced departure “ruined a beautiful wedding and left so many heart broken (sic).”

While Curl did apologize to the couple, he added, “This destroys me that I’ve ended up in a position where I am getting so many people saying so many negative things about me, my life, my career, and my beliefs.”

Photo of an abandoned camera at a wedding
(image via Depositphotos)

At the end of the day, the couple who did everything they thought possible to avoid such LGBTQ discrimination on their wedding day say they hope others don’t have to have the same experience.

“The last thing we would ever want is for anyone to go through this again,” Clarissa explained to Insider. “It is our wish to do everything we can to ensure that no other couple has to endure the heartache we are left trying to cope with. What happened to us isn’t rare.”

(source: Insider, News Observer)

Gay Meteorologist Sues Former Station Claiming LGBTQ Discrimination

Meteorologist Sven Sundgaard
Meteorologist Sven Sundgaard
Meteorologist Sven Sundgaard (screen cap via Instagram)

A Minnesota meteorologist has filed a lawsuit against his former TV station and its parent company saying he was fired last year for being gay.

Sven Sundgaard was dismissed from his position at TV station KARE 11 in Minneapolis last May after he reposted a comment on social media from a rabbi regarding ongoing protests in the city at the time.

Minneapolis Rabbi Michael Adam Latz had written on Facebook calling some gun-toting protestors “white nationalist Nazi sympathizer gun fetishist miscreants.”

Sundgaard deleted his repost later that evening after receiving homophobic comments and threats. He also expressed his regret to the station’s executives promising to stick to the weather.

But the next day, the station announced it had decided to ‘part ways’ with the weatherman “due to continued violations of KARE 11’s news ethics and other policies,” reports the Star Tribune.

In the new lawsuit filed on Thursday, attorneys for Sundgaard say the station’s human resources department ignored the meteorologist’s reports of harassment and discrimination during his time with KARE11.

Specific instances include Sundgaard claiming a station manager criticized him for appearing on the cover of the local LGBTQ publication Lavender; being reprimanded for making a ‘size really does matter’ remark on-air during a report on Minnesota’s many lakes; and attempting to stop him from speaking at a convention of LGBTQ journalists.

He also says he felt his religious beliefs came under scrutiny when a colleague asked probing questions like whether he believed Jesus was the Messiah after he converted to Judaism in 2010.

The lawsuit claims Sundgaard “suffered and continues to suffer emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, pain and suffering.” He is suing for back pay as well as punitive damages.

Following the filing of the lawsuit last week, Sundgaard issued a statement which read, “I’ve been overwhelmed and forever grateful for the outpouring of support I have received over the last year.”

“I hope to continue to receive your support as I embark upon this difficult journey that will highlight the unfair treatment to which I was subjected,” he continued. “While a lawsuit is not ideal for anyone, I believe it is important to take action to prevent what happened to me from happening to others. I do this also, for the countless young people who have thanked me for being an openly gay man, making it easier for them to be true to themselves.”

He closed his statement saying, “My late mom always taught me to stick up for myself.”

KARE 11, and its parent company TENGA, denied the allegations in a statement issued via email.

“One of our core values as a station is inclusion,” wrote a KARE spokesperson on Friday afternoon. “We are committed to maintaining a respectful workplace free from all forms of discrimination and harassment.”

Since his dismissal, Sundgaard has been reporting the weather at Bring Me The News.

North Carolina Wedding Venue Turns Gay Couple Away

Highgrove Estates in North Carolina
Sign out front of Highgrove Estates in North Carolina
(screen capture via WTVD)

Another gay couple denied service by a business because of the owners’ beliefs in the “sanctity of marriage.”

Local news station WTVD in North Carolina reports a gay couple approached the Highgrove Estate in Fuquay-Varina for their upcoming nuptials but were turned away after the owners became aware they were a gay couple.

Ironically, the venue purports to offer “the best of Southern hospitality.”

McCae Henderson, an attorney, and Ike Edwards, a cosmetic dentist, told WDTV they filled out an inquiry form for the venue. In the spots where they were to identify the ‘bride’ and ‘groom,’ they left a note saying they were both grooms.

The Christian-owned estate sent a reply saying they don’t host same-sex weddings and offered a list of alternative venues.

The rejection was “disheartening,” said Henderson. “We had not had anything like this throughout the process or really in our lives.”

“This is us. We are gay and we did not choose to be gay,” he continued. “The fact that we don’t have access to things other people do is discrimination in my eyes. I think everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe to an extent. I don’t think you get to be racist because your religion tells you to be racist. I don’t think you get to be homophobic because your religion tells you to be homophobic.”

“Highgrove has always welcomed vendors, guests and employees of all orientations and we do not discriminate against a people or group,” read a statement from the Highgrove owners released to WTVD. “We believe in the sanctity of marriage as God says in the Bible that marriage is between a man and a woman and we choose to honor Him above what the world decides what marriage should be.”

So, two things.

One, they are discriminating against “people or a group.” They refuse to treat LGBTQ people the same as heterosexual people.

Two, in citing the “sanctity of marriage” I’d like to know if they’ve ever hosted the wedding of someone who’s been divorced? Cause….that’s a sin in the Bible that’s directly connected to the “sanctity of marriage.” This is just more picking and choosing parts of the Bible that support their bias.

Highgrove Estates in North Carolina
Highgrove Estates in North Carolina (image via official website)

While there are federal civil rights laws that protect against discrimination – based on race, color, creed, religion, sex and national origin – there are no such protections for sexual orientation or gender identity.

And in North Carolina, some local ordinances have passed protections against LGBTQ discrimination, but not in Highgrove’s jurisdiction.

The Equality Act – which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal civil rights laws – recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. But the legislation faces an extremely steep climb in the U.S. Senate where Democrats would need 10 Republicans to overcome a filibuster blocking the bill from a vote.

Arkansas Gov. Signs Bill Allowing Healthcare Workers To Refuse Treatment To LGBTQs

The state flag of Arkansas

The state flag of Arkansas

From PBS:

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday signed into law legislation allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of religious or moral objections, a move opponents have said will give providers broad powers to turn away LGBTQ patients and others.

The measure says health care workers and institutions have the right to not participate in non-emergency treatments that violate their conscience. The new law won’t take effect until late this summer.

Opponents of the law, including the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union, have said it will allow doctors to refuse to offer a host of services for LGBTQ patients. The state Chamber of Commerce also opposed the measure, saying it sends the wrong message about the state.

Among the concerns opponents have includes LGBTQ people being denied medical care like cutting off hormone treatments for transgender patients or grief counseling for a same-sex couple.

And it’s not just LGBTQ people who could be affected. Healthcare professionals could refuse to fill birth control prescriptions, or physicians could choose to ignore ‘end of life’ directives.

Meanwhile, a hate crime bill that would impose tougher penalties from crimes targeting certain people with certain characteristics like sexual orientation or gender identity has stalled in the Arkansas legislature due to objections by conservative lawmakers.

 

Not So Sweet: 3 LGBTQ Employees Fired From Bakery In One Month

Dessert Gallery Bakery and Cafe
Dessert Gallery Bakery and Cafe
Dessert Gallery Bakery & Cafe (image via Instagram)

Two separate lawsuits alleging anti-LGBTQ discrimination and harassment have been filed against Dessert Gallery Bakery in Houston, Texas.

According to the filings in federal court, Gilbert Johnson, a gay man, and Katherine Phillips, a lesbian woman, say they were terminated based on their sexual orientation.

But last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Attorney and LGBTQ activist Fran Watson, representing both Johnson and Phillips, cited the Bostock decision in her lawsuits.

Johnson, who had worked at the bakery as a general manager, says he began to be treated differently by his supervisor after being on the receiving end of ‘sexualized commentary’ from his supervisor’s husband.

Among his responsibilities was hiring new employees. But according to OutSmart Magazine, Johnson alleges that when his supervisor discovered he had hired a transgender woman, he was no longer allowed to hire employees.

Johnson added that he was “bombarded” with questions regarding the trans employee accessing the restroom.

(image via Instagram/DessertGalleryBakery)

Phillips, who was fired just a day after Johnson, says that she was harassed about her sexuality by co-workers about her sexuality and that eventually had a negative impact on upward mobility within the company.

At one point, Johnson promoted Phillips to shift leader, but just one month later she was demoted. A month after that, she was fired. The next day, Johnson was fired.

But wait – there’s more!

The court filing also says the trans woman was fired shortly after Johnson and Phillips.

“Even the best companies make mistakes, and the bias has to be minimized because you’re impacting and interacting with a diverse workforce,” Watson told OutSmart. “Seeing that three LGBTQ people were fired in a month—and two within a day of each other—shows that inherent bias was present. We want the law to remedy that mistake.”

Dessert Gallery has issued a statement about the dual lawsuits saying they have “always been committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and our community.”

“We have a long history of celebrating Pride and partnering with, as well as supporting, Houston’s LGBTQIA+ community,” continued the statement. “We take seriously any allegations like those outlined in these complaints but stand firm that these allegations are simply not true.”

The bakery closed by saying, “We believe the proper place to disclose the facts of this case is in the courtroom and look forward to that opportunity.”

When Chasten Buttigieg Was Outed At Work: ‘Is It True You’re A F**?’

Chasten Buttigieg
Chasten Buttigieg
Chasten Buttigieg (image via memoir website)

Chasten Buttigieg, husband of newly-confirmed Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, recently shared a workplace incident when he was brazenly outed by a co-worker.

What we know of Chasten’s employment history to date is that he taught theatre classes in public schools in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. Chasten doesn’t specify where the incident mentioned took place other than a “break room.”

“I’ll never forget when an assistant manager found out I was gay in the break room, marched out onto the floor, came right up to my face and said ‘wait, is it true you’re a f**?’” Buttigieg tweeted. “Now imagine if my manager didn’t like that about me either.”

“At the time, it would have been legal in far too many places in America for them to simply show me the door,” he continued. “It is time to codify true equality for LGBTQ people and pass the #EqualityAct.”

Chasten followed that with a link to the Human Rights Campaign’s info page about the Equality Act.

The Equality Act, currently working its way through Congress, would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. It would be the first time LGBTQ Americans would have nationwide protections against discrimination in areas of employment, housing and medical facilities.

Currently, 21 states and 5 U.S. territories have no explicit prohibitions for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in state law.

The legislation passed in the House last week by a vote of 224-206. But the bill faces a steeper climb in the Senate as 10 Republican senators will have to vote with Democrats in order to overcome a possible filibuster. LGBTQ activists and advocates are unsure if the 10 GOP votes will be there when the time comes.

President Joe Biden has been a vocal proponent of the Equality Act promising the sign the legislation if it reaches his desk.

Chasten’s story inspired other LGBTQ people on Twitter to share their own experiences – closeted or not – in the workplace.

Fairness For All Act ‘Worse Than Nothing’ Due To Religious Exemptions

The U.S. Capitol building

The U.S. Capitol building

Republican Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah has introduced legislation that he calls a counter proposal to the Equality Act which was passed in the House of Representatives yesterday by a vote of 224-206.

Like the Equality Act, Stewart says his bill, titled the Fairness For All Act (FFAA), would expand existing federal laws regarding anti-LGBTQ discrimination – but with some HUGE differences.

• Under the FFAA, faith-based adoption agencies would continue to receive federal funds but could refuse to place children with potential LGBTQ parents under the guise of ‘religious freedoms.’

• Similarly, religious schools would be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

• Additionally, while the Equality Act clearly states transgender people would have access to bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity, the FFAA is vague on the issue.

• The FFAA would include an exemption that would allow businesses to refuse to serve LGBTQ people if they have fewer than 15 employees.

• While the Equality Act specifies the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) could not be used as a legal defense in court against cases of anti-LGBTQ discrimination, the FFAA would allow religious beliefs to justify discriminatory actions.

In other words, what’s the point?

“It is hard to really love our neighbors when we are fighting with them over whose rights are more important,” said Rep. Stewart in a statement. “This country can accommodate both civil liberties for LGBT individuals & religious freedom.”

Stewart’s bill has 21 Republican co-sponsors but no Democrats signed on to the legislation even though Stewart initially indicated the bill would have bipartisan support.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), the sponsor of the Equality Act, told the Washington Blade that the FFAA would “very clearly be worse than nothing.”

“For the first time in our history, it would actually put in federal statute provisions that permit discrimination against the LGBTQ community,” Cicilline told the Blade. “It would be a tremendous step backward, which is why it’s not supported by any major LGBT organization, all of the major LGBT organizations support the Equality Act.”

“The Stewart bill is a tremendous step backward in our fight for full equality,” added Cicilline.

(source: Washington Blade)

HUD Will Now Investigate Anti-LGBTQ Housing Discrimination

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the White House have announced that HUD will enforce the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

From the Washington Blade:

“Housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity happens throughout the United States,” a HUD official said during a background conference call with reporters. “Housing providers need to know it violates the law, and it demands urgent enforcement action.”

The memorandum is the result of President Biden’s executive order directing all federal agencies to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which determined anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, thus illegal in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The ruling has broad implications for all laws that bar sex discrimination, including the Fair Housing Act.

The memorandum, a HUD official said, would allow HUD to begin accepting cases of anti-LGBTQ discrimination and retroactively review allegations that were submitted after Jan. 20. Unfiled claims that are still timely (based on alleged anti-LGBTQ discrimination within the past year) can be filed or added to a current complaint, the HUD official said.