Texas Lawmakers Advance Bill Legalizing LGBTQ Discrimination By Licensed Professionals

Republican lawmakers in Texas approved a bill on Monday that would allow state-licensed professionals to discriminate against LGBTQ people, or anyone they want to refuse services, based on their religious beliefs.

Republican lawmakers in Texas approved a bill on Monday that would allow state-licensed professionals to discriminate against LGBTQ people, or anyone they want to refuse services, based on their religious beliefs.

The Austin Statesman reports that Senate Bill 17 would give professionals who are licensed by the state – like lawyers, physicians, barbers and pharmacists – the ability to turn away anyone they don’t want to serve or do business with.

The legislation includes a requirement that medical professionals treat patients who are at risk of death or serious injury. And licensed law enforcement officers would not be covered by the law.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), says the legislation is necessary to make sure that state licensing bodies don’t punish or retaliate against religious professionals who may take actions predicated by “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

“Living our faith does not stop when we start to work,” Perry told the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday.

“When we see what we may perceive as immoralities, those people who hold those beliefs should be able to defend their faith without fear of losing their livelihood and their license,” added Perry.

But opponents of the bill say “sincerely held religious beliefs” are a vague concept that could ultimately excuse any unprofessional behavior.

Among those testifying at the committee hearing were a dozen members of the clergy, including Rabbi Nancy Kasten, who told lawmakers living according to religious beliefs “should never be confused with permission to use faith as a weapon against those who do not share those beliefs.”

Rev. William Knight, from the Metropolitan Community Church of San Antonio, agreed saying, “Love does not withhold care for those in need because of a difference in belief.”

The Statesman reports a “vast majority” of the nearly-60 people who showed up at the hearing opposed the bill.

But in the end, the measure was approved to the full Senate by a vote of 7 – 1. All six Republicans on the committee plus Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) supported the legislation. Only Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) voted against the bill.

But wait – there’s more!

SB 17 is just the first of many GOP-sponsored bills in the pipeline that would create new faith-based protections. Here’s just a few:

• SB 1107 would give medical professionals the ability to refuse performing nonemergency treatment that offends their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

• HB 1035 would allow any marriage-related business to legally turn away same-sex couples, give county clerks the ability to opt-out of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, revoke any ordinances that require providing trans-friendly bathrooms, and protect religious groups who refuse to hire anyone whose beliefs don’t align with their own.

• Similarly, HB 4497 would bar local municipalities and state agencies from punishing any business or professional who decline to provide “marriage-related goods and services.”

• SB 1978 would prohibit state agencies and local governments for taking “any adverse action” against those who may discriminate thanks to their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

• HB 4357 would protect any faith-based counselors who practice so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ which purports to ‘heal’ individuals of homosexuality. The dangerous and harmful practice has been denounced by practically all major medical organizations including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

(H/t Austin Statesman)

SCOTUS Says ‘No’ To Anti-LGBTQ Bed & Breakfast

The U.S. Supreme Court declined the hear the appeal of a bed & breakfast owner in Hawaii who refused to host a same-sex couple due to her religious objections over homosexuality.

The initial lawsuit, Aloha Bed & Breakfast v. Dianne Cervelli, stems back to an incident in 2007 when Cervelli contacted the B&B owner, Phyllis Young, about accommodations.

Cervelli indicated there would be two guests as she would be traveling with her same-sex partner, Taeko Bufford.

According to the complaint, Young asked “Are you both lesbians?” Young then refused to board the couple saying she was uncomfortable having lesbians in her home.

The couple filed complaints with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission which found Young had illegally discriminated against the couple. Hawaii’s public accommodation law clearly bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Associated Pressreportedthat Young told the commission she is Catholic and feels that homosexuality is wrong. She felt her decision to deny accommodations to the couple was protected by her right to free exercise of her religious beliefs under the First Amendment.

Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of the couple in 2011, along with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission as co-plaintiffs. 

In April of 2013, the Hawaii First Circuit Court ruled in favorof Cervelli.

Young appealed the ruling, and in February 2018, the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision.

The B&B owner tried to take her case to the Hawaii state Supreme Court, but the high court refusedthe hear the appeal last year.

In October, Young filed a petition to have her appeal heard at the U.S. Supreme Court.

As SCOTUS has declined to take up the case, Young has exhausted her legal options and the ruling by the lower court will stand.

Peter Renn, counsel for Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office, celebrated the news.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to let the lower court ruling stand reaffirms that the freedom of religion does not give businesses a right to violate nondiscrimination laws that protect all individuals from harm, whether on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation,” said Renn in a statement to the Washington Blade. “The Supreme Court declined to consider carving out an exception from this basic principle when a business discriminates based on the sexual orientation of its customers.”

“LGBT people deserve an equal right to go about their everyday life without the fear that discrimination waits for them around the corner,” he added.

News Round-Up: March 1, 2019

Pietro Boselli (image via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

• If anyone was ever born to wear a white Speedo, it’s Pietro Boselli (above).

• Drag series Canada’s a Drag will return for a second season.

• Mike Pence says he couldn’t be more proud of his wife teaching at an anti-LGBTQ school.

• The mayor of Fairbanks, Alaska, vetoed legislation that would have protected LGBTQ people from discrimination.

• If you wanted to see this year’s ‘Hottest Chorus Boys on Broadway,’ you could click here for a peek.

• Meghan Markle and Prince Harry plan to raise their child in a gender-neutral nursery and environment.

• The Jonas Brothers dropped their first new music in six years at midnight last night – “Sucker.”

The first round of Jonas fame was a bit too young/teeny bopper for me, but now that the guys have grown up (and so well, may I add?) I’m happy to give them a peek.

The good news is the new track is a catchy pop bop that’s easy to listen to, and the video is fun with the guys and their wives/significant others playing house in a huge Edwardian mansion.

They’ve taken some plot points from the recently Oscar-nominated The Favourite, but I’m not getting bogged down in that while Nick, Joe and Kevin offer such ‘easy on the eyes’ candy.

Take a look below.

Trump Didn’t Know About His Administration’s ‘Global Campaign’ To Decriminalize Homosexuality

Donald Trump

Donald Trump appeared to be surprised his administration announced a global campaign calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality around the world.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced the new initiative that would address the 71 countries, primarily in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean, where homosexuality is illegal.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is the most prominent openly gay man in the Trump administration, has been announced to lead the charge to repeal anti-homosexuality laws.

But Trump seemed unaware of the campaign when asked about it on Wednesday during a gaggle with reporters in the Oval Office.

According to The Washington Examiner, a reporter broached the subject about Trump’s “push to decriminalize homosexuality around the world,” asking, “Are you doing that and why?”

“I don’t know which report you’re talking about,” replied Trump. “We have many reports.”

Vice President Mike Pence, who has a long history of anti-LGBTQ positions and policies, confirmed with The Washington Blade that he is aware of, and supports, the new initiative.

The new policy will highlight the dismal human rights record of Iran. The Jerusalem Post recently reported the public execution by hanging of a gay man in the Middle Eastern country.

Earlier this month, Pence specifically called Iran out during a speech in Warsaw, Poland.

“The authoritarian regime in Tehran represses the freedom of speech and assembly, it persecutes religious minorities, brutalizes women, executes gay people, and openly advocates the destruction of the State of Israel,” said Pence.

“The Ayatollah Khamenei himself has said, ‘It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map.’”

Some have speculated that the ‘human rights violations’ focus is an attempt to bring more European countries onboard in Donald Trump’s push to undermine the current regime in Iran.

It’s unclear how the Trump administration will broach the subject with some Middle Eastern countries who are close allies of the U.S.

For instance, Trump has shown much deference to Saudi Arabia, where being gay is punishable by death.

News Round-Up: January 31, 2019

Instagram hottie José Adones – check his moves out at the end of this post

Some news items you might have missed:

• A candidate for the Wisconsin state Supreme Court wrote just a few years ago that legalizing homosexuality would lead to bestiality. But he has no bias against LGBTs whatsoever…

• New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed a law requiring school boards to use instructional materials that accurately portray political, economic, and social contributions of LGBTs and persons with disabilities. #Bravo!

• Donald Trump responded to reports of the horrific attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett telling reporters in the Oval Office today, “That I can tell you is horrible. It doesn’t get worse.”

• Yorke Print Shoppe in Chicago refused to print a fundraising brochure for an LGBTQ charity. The owner, Brad Scull, says he has nothing against “those people” but has an issue with promoting “the lifestyle.”

Note: There is no religious exemption to Illinois’s nondiscrimination law, and sexual orientation is specifically included as a protected class. So, you do the math…

• The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday ruled the city of Fayetteville may not continue enforcing its anti-discrimination ordinance while the city challenged the constitutionality of a 2015 law that prevents cities and counties from enacting their own LGBTQ protections not covered by state law.

• A deaf lesbian couple say Delta Airlines mistreated them when they tried to communicate with a gate agent in Detroit. The women say they wrote down their request to sit next to each other on the plane, but the agent crumpled up their note and threw it away.

• This could technically qualify as a ‘Daily Dance’ post, but I thought I’d leave this right here.

Florida-based dancer/entertainer José Adones (top of page) is giving you all kinds Latin flavor here. And I ain’t mad 🙂

Settlement Reached In California Prison Lawsuit Alleging LGBTQ Abuses

(photo credit: Donald Tong via Pexels)

In 2014, a group of LGBTQ inmates at the Alternative Lifestyle Tank at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga filed a federal class action lawsuit alleging hate speech by the prison guards and extreme incarceration due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

According to The LA Times, attorneys for the plaintiffs now say they have reached a settlement with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Among the allegations raised by the lawsuit:

• Under the guise of “protection,” LGBTQ inmates were held in their cells for up to 23 hours a day

• The plaintiffs say they were subjected to derogatory hate speech and anti-gay slurs by prison guards and staff

• They were not allowed to take part in educational programs or drug rehabilitation programs

• They were unable to participate in work programs that could potentially reduce their sentences or attend religious services

The lead plaintiff, former sheriff’s deputy Dan McKibben, told the press at a 2014 news conference when the lawsuit was filed, “When you’re sworn, you’re sworn. And I took that oath.”

“These guys, every other minute, were violating that,” he added. McKibben died in 2016 before a resolution could be reached.

Veronica Pratt, a 33-year-old transgender woman, told The LA Times on Wednesday, “It was just depressing. It was demeaning.”

“It’s a struggle being incarcerated and then to have someone tell you ‘You can’t go to classes, you can’t try to better yourself’ because of your sexual orientation,” said Pratt. “It’s degrading.”

More from The LA Times:

The settlement agreement, which was filed in federal court in Riverside, would compel the county to offer more housing options for gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex inmates; lift restrictions on participation in work, educational, religious and community reentry programs; and establish a committee that will meet regularly with incarcerated gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people to discuss their housing options.

Transgender and intersex inmates will also have the opportunity to be housed based on their gender identity.

The settlement also includes a nearly $1-million payment that will be divided among class members. And the Alternative Lifestyle Tank will be renamed the GBTI Unit — gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex.

LGBTQ inmates will still have the choice to be housed in the newly-named unit, but the new agreement dictates that they will have access to rehabilitation/education courses and any other programs available to other inmates.

A spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department declined to comment because the settlement has not been approved by the judge.