LGBTQ Rights Package Introduced In North Carolina

Screen capture from ABC11 in North Carolina

Screen capture from ABC11 in North Carolina

A group of lawmakers in North Carolina has proposed a package of 4 bills that would improve life for LGBTQ people in the state.

The first bill would repeal House Bill 2, also known as the state’s ‘bathroom bill.’

The second piece of legislation would put into place statewide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

The third bill would outlaw so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ the dangerous pseudo-science that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

And the fourth bill would prohibit the use of the ‘gay panic’ or ‘trans panic’ defense in legal cases which attempts to justify killing or harming someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“No one should worry that they can’t buy a home because of who they love or be denied a haircut or a hotel room because of their gender identity,” Rep. Vernetta Alston (D-District 29) told the local ABC News affiliate.

Kendra Johnson of Equality NC added, “For too long LGBTQ North Carolinians have lived in the shadow of archaic and outdated laws that impact everyone in our community.”

Lawmakers say they are ‘hopeful’ the bills have momentum to pass, but I’ll note that the Republican-controlled state legislature hasn’t previously given queer people much to believe in.

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)

Biden Signs EO Prohibiting LGBTQ Discrimination In Federal Agencies

President Joe Biden issues a statement of full support to LGBTQ+ people on National Coming Out Day
President Joe Biden signs executive order prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in all federal agencies
President-elect Joe Biden

Just hours after taking the oath of office, President Joe Biden signed 17 executive orders including one prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in all federal agencies.

The first paragraph of the executive order states, “All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

The order instructs the head of each agency to “review all existing orders, regulations, guidance documents, policies, program or other agency actions” that prohibit sex discrimination to revise and amend such policies to include banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The order cites the Supreme Court ruling for Bostock v. Clayton County which was handed down on June 15, 2020. The 6-3 decision found that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation because such animus is a form of “sex discrimination” which is clearly prohibited under the Civil Rights Act.

In the seven months since the ruling, the Trump administration chose to not implement the ruling. That inaction was consistent with most of the Trump administration’s policies regarding LGBTQ rights and protections.

Biden’s executive order is more expansive than just the Bostock ruling, however.

The order notes that, under Bostock’s reasoning, “laws that prohibit sex discrimination — including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Fair Housing Act, and section 412 of the Immigration and Nationality Act — prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, so long as the laws do not contain sufficient indications to the contrary.”

Biden also addresses how discrimination can often overlap with other forms of prohibited discrimination including animus based on the basis of race or disability. The language specifically notes that “transgender Black Americans face unconscionably high levels of workplace discrimination, homelessness, and violence, including fatal violence.”

The executive order is a great start – especially seeing our new president addressing LGBTQ concerns on his first day on the job. But the order will have limitations in that some civil rights legislation doesn’t name sex as a protected class.

That makes the passage of the Equality Act, which would expand all federal civil rights laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity protections.

Biden has promised to sign the Equality Act, which would add LGBTQ protections to existing federal civil rights laws, into law within his first 100 days. But the impending second impeachment trial of Donald Trump may slow things down a bit.

The Senate Judiciary committee, which would oversee the Equality Act bill, is the same committee now tasked with the impeachment proceedings.

Additionally, Senate Democrats will need ten Republican colleagues to vote in favor of the bill since there’s the 60 vote threshold required to close debate and move to a vote.

Jen Psaki, the new White House press secretary, told the Washington Blade that President Biden plans on issuing an executive order in the next few days that would reverse the Trump administration’s ban on military service by transgender Americans.

Other executive orders signed Wednesday reversed Trump’s Muslim travel ban, stopped construction of the Mexico border wall, and rejoining the Paris climate agreement.

What LGBTQ Promises Will Biden Be Able To Achieve In Early Days?

President Joe Biden issues a statement of full support to LGBTQ+ people on National Coming Out Day
What LGBTQ campaign promises will Joe Biden be able to achieve in his first days as president?
President-elect Joe Biden

With President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration less than a week away, queer folks may wonder what LGBTQ promises he’ll be able to fulfill in the often-referenced ‘first 100 days.’

On a conference call with LGBTQ leaders prior to the holidays, Biden’s team repeated his intention to order the reversal of the transgender ban on military service on January 20, according to the Washington Blade.

The policy, initiated by President Trump via tweet in July 2017, could take up to a year to fully reverse.

But with cases of COVID-19 surging across the country and an unexpected second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, other legislative goals might take longer than previously thought.

The big ticket item for LGBTQ advocates is the passage of the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The legislation would ban discrimination against LGBTQ people on a federal level.

The bill was passed during the last session of Congress in the House, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the legislation from reaching the Senate floor for a vote.

Initially, Biden hoped to have the Equality Act signed into law within 100 days of taking office. And with the Democrats in control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, passage certainly looks more promising.

But the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would be tasked with handling the legislation, is the same committee that will now have to deal with the impending Trump impeachment trial.

LGBTQ advocates told the Blade that, given the current circumstances, granting Biden some leeway would be understandable.

“I think we’ve gotten the commitments that we expected and hoped for and sought from the Biden team and from legislative leadership, and what that means for us now is holding them accountable, but also understanding that the country, our democracy, and the ability of people to actually live is going to take priority,” one LGBTQ advocate told the Blade.

Others, however, are not so easily assuaged.

“The notion that our government can only focus on one thing at a time isn’t acceptable,” said another activist. “You can’t have the agenda and policy goals that Biden does and not have the process to move faster.”

LGBTQ leaders will probably see the Equality Act brought up for a vote in at least one chamber of Congress as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had indicated she would bring the bill back to the floor during the first 100 days of the Biden administration.

Once the Senate does turn its attention to the Equality Act, another hurdle will be finding at least 10 Republican Senators to support the bill. Sixty votes are required to overcome the legislative filibuster and move to a vote.

Wrangling those votes isn’t an impossibility, but could take time. So far, the only moderate Republican senator to signal support has been Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). But she might be having second thoughts as the Human Rights Campaign pulled their support for her reelection this fall and endorsed her opponent. Collins has been reported as somewhat bitter over the breakup.

Aside from the trans military ban and the Equality Act, though, Biden will also be able to advance LGBTQ interests through executive orders.

For instance, Biden could sign an executive order directing federal agencies to fully adopt the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County. That decision found anti-LGBTQ discrimination to be a form of sex discrimination and therefore illegal under existing civil rights law.

One Democratic insider told the Blade that dozens of executive orders have already been drafted, although it’s not clear if the directive to implement the Bostock decision is among them at this point.

Other LGBTQ campaign promises expected to be addressed in the early days of the new administration include issuing a presidential memorandum prioritizing support for LGBTQ human rights in the first week.

Additionally, Biden promised “on his first day in office” to restore Obama-era guidance to the Department of Education ensuring transgender students having access to bathrooms, locker rooms and sports consistent with their gender identity.

Biden is also expected to name in a White House LGBTQ liaison to help oversee LGBTQ initiatives in the early days of the administration, and as well as a State Department envoy for international LGBTQ rights.

(source: Washington Blade)

News Round-Up: January 12, 2021

Real-life couple featured in new Cadbury chocolate ad
Real-life couple featured in new Cadbury chocolate ad
(screen capture via Cadbury)

Some news items you might have missed:

OUT: One half of the real-life gay couple in that Cadbury ad (above) clapped back at critics of the spot – “I’m sure there would be half as many complaints if it was two ‘beautiful’ cisgendered hetero-looking Caucasian women. Get your act together world: y’all are as hypocritical and uneducated and bizarre as Donald Trump.”

The Advocate: Hillsborough has become the first town in North Carolina to adopt LGBTQ-inclusive antidiscrimination protections since the state’s ban on doing so expired.

NowThis News: “Knock the crap out of ’em, would you? I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees” — Watch this report on how Donald Trump has been inciting violence from his supporters for years.

LGBTQ Nation: An 18-year-old lesbian who says she has been kicked out of her home for being gay has outed her Trump-loving family members who participated in the violent altercation in D.C. last week.

New York Times: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told associates that he believes Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party, according to people familiar with his thinking.

NBC News: Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and Steven D’Antuono, head of the FBI’s Washington field office, briefed reporters on the sprawling criminal investigation designed to catch those who took part in the violent Capitol insurrection last week. They said that the FBI had opened 160 case files, and that “this is only the beginning.”

How Different Were Their Reactions To SCOTUS Landmark Ruling?

L-R Former President Barack Obama, Donald Trump

When asked about the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that found LGBTQ people are protected by federal employment discrimination laws, Donald Trump told reporters, “I’ve read the decision, and some people were surprised. But they’ve ruled and we live with their decision. That’s what it’s all about. We live with the decision of the Supreme Court. Very powerful. Very powerful decision actually. But they have so ruled.”

 

That’s some enthusiasm, huh?

You’ll recall during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Donald declared he would be a better friend to the LGBT community than Hillary Clinton. And, as we now know, that’s not turned out to be the case.

Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was much more uplifting in his remarks, writing in part:

Today’s Supreme Court decision is a momentous step forward for our country. Before today, in more than half of states, LGBTQ+ people could get married one day and be fired from their job the next day under state law, simply because of who they are or who they love. This landmark 6–3 ruling affirms that LGBTQ+ Americans are entitled to equal rights under the law.

This decision is another step in our march towards equality for all. And while we celebrate this victory today, we know that our work is not yet done. As President, I look forward to signing into law the Equality Act, protecting the civil rights of LGBTQ+ Americans, and championing equal rights for all Americans. Happy Pride!

 

And, former President Barack Obama tweeted his response: “Today reminds us that progress might be slow. It might take decades. But no matter what things might look like today, it’s always possible. Happy Pride month, everybody.”

 

News Round-Up: June 15, 2020

Some news items you might have missed:

SCOTUS: I’m still on cloud nine over today’s landmark ruling by the Supreme Court that current civil rights laws prohibit discriminating against LGBTQ people in the workplace. Read my post on the momentous ruling here.

Instinct Magazine: The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri now officially has a gay Black man in charge. The Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson, who is not only Black and gay but also a married Barbadian-immigrant and father of two children, was elected in a landslide of 115 votes out of 164. As the 11th bishop for the diocese, he represents 42 parishes in the Eastern half of Missouri.

Quibi: The new streaming app premieres its new program from ’60 Minutes’ titled, ‘60 in 6.’ Stories include features, investigations, and profiles in 6-10 minutes. In this episode, Wesley Lowery takes you to Minneapolis to go in-depth, in minutes. Download Quibi here and try it out for two weeks for free.

Out Music: Heather Mae and Crys Matthews’s new single “6 Feet Apart” showcases the phenomenal talent of the award-winning Mae (who has been described as Stevie Nicks meets Sara Bareilles) and the unique fusion of Matthews’ Americana folk/jazz sound.

In addition to the new single, the duo has announced their LGBTQ+ virtual Pride concert tour, “The Singing OUT Tour,” with dates scheduled throughout the month of June. The concerts will feature not only music but games and giveaways as well.

CBS News: Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order on policing Tuesday that aims to accomplish three things — to incentivize police departments to use modernized best practices, to increase information sharing by tracking people who have “excessive” use-of-force complaints, and to address mental health, homelessness, and addiction.

Philadelphia Inquirer: A Philadelphia court supervisor has been fired after a video surfaced on Monday of him tearing down Black Lives Matter protest signs made by children at a South Philadelphia park.

Florida: Jacksonville Passes LGBTQ Protections AGAIN

For the second time, the City Council of Jacksonville, Florida, approved adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its non-discrimination ordinance.

This is the second time the City Council has approved the legislative move.

Back in 2017, when the amendments were initially approved by a vote of 12-6, the virulently anti-LGBTQ law group the Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit to overturn the human rights protections.

Because, of course, they did.

Last month, the Liberty Counsel won its lawsuit in the First District Court of Appeals based on a ‘legislative technicality.’

The court didn’t rule on the issue of discrimination against LGBTQs in the areas of housing, employment or public accommodations. Instead, the victory came because the city didn’t follow a strict procedure that requires a period of public notification about the changes to the ordinance.

When the amendments were announced, the city listed the 28 sections of the non-discrimination ordinance that would be amended and noted that the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” would be added.

“Section 2. Amending Sections 60.105, 400.101, 400.301, 402.102, 402.107(g)(1), 402.107(g)(3), 402.201, 402.202, 402.203, 402.204, 402.206, 402.210, 402.211, 406.102, 406.104(g)(1), 406.104(g)(3), 406.201, 408.102, 408.204, 408.401, 408.402, 408.403, 408.404, 408.406, and 408.407, Ordinance Code.”

“The foregoing sections of the Ordinance Code are hereby amended as follows: wherever protected categories are listed, that sexual orientation and gender identity, as defined in Section 3 below, shall be added to the list.”

But according to state law, such changes require the re-publishing of the full text of the Ordinance Code with the new language inserted.

The appellate court panel of judges voted 3-0 in favor of the Liberty Counsel’s argument.

At the time, the Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver gloated over the ruling writing, “The citizen plaintiffs were injured by the city’s deceptive practice in presenting the HRO for passage, and that this deceptive practice of not revealing the intent and scope of the law invalidates it.”

And so, on Tuesday, the Jacksonville City Council essentially approved the exact same amendments to the Ordinance Code making sure to cross every ’T’ and dot every ‘I.’

Florida Politics reports the vote was treated as such a formality that no council members spoke on the bill before passage.

In 2015, Jacksonville had one of the worst ratings on LGBTQ rights in a major city, according to the Human Rights Campaign, garnering a low 23 out of 100.

Since adding the protections, the city now scores a 79 out of 100.

In related news, the Republican National Committee has announced Jacksonville will host Donald Trump’s acceptance of his party’s nomination for reelection.

It’s hard to overlook the irony that a city so dedicated to protecting LGBTQ citizens will now play host to a president who has repeatedly attacked that same community in so many ways including allowing adoption agencies to deny placement of children with gay couples, banning transgender people from serving in the military, opposing The Equality Act, and urging the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to reverse Obama-era policies of protecting LGBTQ people in the workplace.

But the GOP, in an announcement so laughable it borders on parody, recently declared Trump has “taken unprecedented steps to protect the LGBTQ community.”

Stop, stop – oh, my sides…ROTFL

Florida: Haters Advance In Attempt To Reverse LGBTQ Rights In Jacksonville

(image via VisitJacksonville.com)

For years, the city of Jacksonville, Florida, had a terrible track record when it came to LGBTQ rights in the city.

In 2015, for example, the Human Rights Campaign rated Jacksonville a 23 out of a possible 100 in terms of LGBTQ rights and protections.

Since the city expanded its Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) to include sexual orientation and gender identity in early 2017, the HRC rating has improved to 79 out of 100.

But now, Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal has sided with a handful of anti-LGBTQ activists that want to see the HRO reversed on a technicality.

Florida Politics reports that the appellate court ruled unanimously 3-0 that the lawsuit filed by virulently anti-LGBTQ law group Liberty Counsel should be allowed to move forward after being dismissed twice by lower courts.

Jason Gabriel, the city’s head lawyer in the office of General Counsel, called the decision a “mindboggling” and “bizarre” appeals court ruling against the local LGBTQ protections and vowed to fight to defend the law. “It’s a hyper-technical ruling with some bizarre findings,” said Gabriel.

The decision from the three-judge panel mainly hinged on how language was presented in the initial public notices about how the existing HRO would be amended.

When the amendments were being considered in 2017, the sections of the local Ordinance Code that would be affected were listed and then followed with instructions to add sexual orientation and gender identity to those sections.

“Section 2. Amending Sections 60.105, 400.101, 400.301, 402.102, 402.107(g)(1), 402.107(g)(3), 402.201, 402.202, 402.203, 402.204, 402.206, 402.210, 402.211, 406.102, 406.104(g)(1), 406.104(g)(3), 406.201, 408.102, 408.204, 408.401, 408.402, 408.403, 408.404, 408.406, and 408.407, Ordinance Code.”

“The foregoing sections of the Ordinance Code are hereby amended as follows: wherever protected categories are listed, that sexual orientation and gender identity, as defined in Section 3 below, shall be added to the list.”

The amendments also added specific definitions for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

Sounds pretty straight forward, yes? Everyone concerned understood what and how the changes were to the HRO.

But the Liberty Counsel held that all 25 sections of the Ordinance Code that were affected by the amendments should have been written out in full text showing the insertion of the new language.

The appellate court agreed on that very narrow legal view saying the process “violated governing principles of notice and due process.”

And so, the Liberty Counsel won its reversal on previous rulings and is now allowed to further proceedings in trying to overturn the LGBTQ protections.

Mat Staver of the anti-LGBTQ Liberty Counsel

In a press release, the Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver gloated over the ruling writing, “The citizen plaintiffs were injured by the city’s deceptive practice in presenting the HRO for passage, and that this deceptive practice of not revealing the intent and scope of the law invalidates it.”

Gabriel disagreed with the appeals court telling Florida Politics that “full text of the rules … was set forth for the Council and the public, both before or after enactment, and was immediately officially published after enactment.”

One solution to the issue, according to incoming City Council President Tommy Hazouri, who sponsored the 2017 legislation, is to simply pass the law again. Since the bill passed in 2017 (by a vote of 12-6), the membership of the City Council has not changed.

The city is also considering appealing this new ruling to the (currently conservative) Florida Supreme Court.

LGBTQ blogger JoeMyGod notes that the Liberty Counsel has been trying to repeal Jacksonville’s LGBTQ protections since they were passed in early 2017.