The Supreme Court declined Monday to take up a heated dispute between one of the nation’s most liberal states and one of its most conservative in a case that had pit freedom of religion against gay rights.
California passed a law in 2016 prohibiting taxpayer-funded travel – such as for state employees to attend conferences – to any state that doesn’t ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Texas law allows foster-care and adoption agencies to deny same-sex couples on religious grounds.
Texas took California directly to the Supreme Court last year, asserting the travel ban was “born of religious animus” and that it violates the Constitution.
Conservatives Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas issued a dissent over the court not taking the case because of course.
“Other legislation coming to the floor next week are two bills that passed through the House last Congress: a wilderness package and the Equality Act, which will end legal discrimination against LGBTQ Americans,” Hoyer writes.
In addition to the explicit declaration that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination in employment, education, housing, jury service and credit, the Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex and LGBTQ status in public accommodations and federal programs.
Further, the Equality Act would expand the definition of public accommodations under federal civil rights law to include retail stores, banks, transportation services, and health care services. The legislation would also establish that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — a 1994 law aimed at protecting religious liberty — can’t be used to enable anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
The House approved the Equality Act in 2019, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-KY) refused to allow a vote on the legislation in the Senate.
“All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they love. Around the globe, including here at home, brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) activists are fighting for equal protection under the law, freedom from violence, and recognition of their fundamental human rights.
“The United States belongs at the forefront of this struggle — speaking out and standing strong for our most dearly held values. It shall be the policy of the United States to pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, and to lead by the power of our example in the cause of advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world.
“Through this memorandum, I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that United States diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”
The memorandum goes on to list specific actions to be taken abroad:
1. Combating Criminalization of LGBTQI+ Status or Conduct Abroad.
2. Protecting Vulnerable LGBTQI+ Refugees and Asylum Seekers.
3. Foreign Assistance to Protect Human Rights and Advance Nondiscrimination.
4. Swift and Meaningful United States Responses to Human Rights Abuses of LGBTQI+ Persons Abroad.
5. Building Coalitions of Like-Minded Nations and Engaging International Organizations in the Fight Against LGBTQI+ Discrimination.
6. Rescinding Inconsistent Policies and Reporting on Progress.
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill (R) has filed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court asking that a federal appeals court ruling which held both members of a same-sex couple can be listed as parents on their children’s birth certificates be overturned.
The case was brought by parents Ruby and Ashlee Henderson in 2015 as a challenge to Indiana’s birth records law. The couple sued when county officials refused to list both on the birth certificate of their son, who was conceived via artificial insemination.
A federal judge found in favor of the Hendersons in 2016, but Indiana appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld the lower court’s ruling. By that point, seven couples had joined the Hendersons in the lawsuit.
Indiana’s attorney general sent a brief to the Supreme Court arguing that it should reverse a lower court’s ruling that allowed both members of same-sex couples in Indiana to be listed as parents on their children's birth certificates.https://t.co/DpcpQiU8eF
NBC News reports that in its January 2020 decision, the appellate court noted, under Indiana law, “a husband is presumed to be a child’s biological father, so that both spouses are listed as parents on the birth certiﬁcate and the child is deemed to be born in wedlock.”
“There’s no similar presumption with respect to an all-female married couple — or for that matter an all-male married couple,” the judges wrote, adding that requiring both women in a same-sex marriage to be listed as parents would prevent any discrimination.
Karen Celestino-Horseman, the attorney representing the Hendersons, told NBC News the Supreme Court should follow the legal precedent set in its own 2017 ruling for Pavan v. Smith. That case involved married couples in Arkansas who conceive via artificial insemination.
The high court’s decision held that the “constellation of benefits that the states have linked to marriage” included having the names of same-sex parents on a birth certificate.
The Hendersons argued in their original suit that a number of legal issues could arise regarding who could enroll their son in school, ensure he was covered by health insurance, or even speak on the child’s behalf during a medical appointment. Without the legal status conferred by a birth certificate, one of the women would need to formally adopt their son which could cost up to $5,000 in legal fees.
But Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill argued in his SCOTUS brief that upholding the ruling in the Hendersons’ case would “violate common sense.”
Hill also maintained that allowing both parents in a same-sex couple to be on a child’s birth certificate could jeopardize parental rights based on biology.
“A birth mother’s wife will never be the biological father of the child, meaning that, whenever a birth-mother’s wife gains presumptive ‘parentage’ status, a biological father’s rights and obligations to the child have necessarily been undermined without proper adjudication,” Hill wrote in his brief.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hold a conference regarding the case on December 11. It will be the first dealing with same-sex marriage rights since Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the high court.
Hill last made national headlines in May when he had his law license suspended for a month after being accused of groping a state lawmaker and three other women in a bar in 2018. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) and other state GOP leaders called for Hill’s resignation at the time.
The letter, which was coordinated by Belgium’s embassy in Warsaw according to the BBC, expresses the group’s support for “the efforts to raise public awareness of issues affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community and other communities in Poland facing similar challenges.”
Among the many diplomats who signed the letter are representatives from the U.S., Australia, India, Israel, Sweden, Finland, Mexico, Spain, the U.K., New Zealand and Japan.
Noting that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls for affirming “the inherent dignity of each individual,” the open letter urges Poland to respect and protect its LGBTQ community which has faced backlash from the country’s right-wing government.
“Respect for these fundamental rights…obliges governments to protect all citizens from violence and discrimination and to ensure they enjoy equal opportunities,” writes the group of diplomats.
“Human rights are universal and everyone, including LGBTI persons, are entitled to their full enjoyment,” the letter reads in closing before adding, “This is something that everyone should support.”
The BBC reports that nearly 100 towns across Poland have approved local ordinances denouncing “LGBT ideology.” The resolutions carry no penalties but they serve to further divide the country amid the country’s culture wars.
Georgett Mosbacher, U.S. Ambassador to Poland, tweeted a link to the open letter with the message, “Human Rights are not an ideology – they are universal. 50 Ambassadors and Representatives agree.”
Human Rights are not an ideology – they are universal. 50 Ambassadors and Representatives agree. https://t.co/YV4qgkpz54
But Polish leaders clapped back saying LGBT people in his country are not “deprived” of respect.
“To the dear ambassadors, I can only say that tolerance belongs to Polish DNA,” announced Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at a press conference. “Nobody needs to teach us tolerance, because we are a nation that has learned such tolerance for centuries and we have given many testimonies to the history of such tolerance.”
That said, the Associated Press reports that conservative leaders in the predominantly Catholic nation see the modern fight for LGBTQ civil rights as “a threat to traditional families.” And ILGA Europe has ranked Poland as the worst country in the European Union for LGBTQ people.
The Log Cabin Republicans, an organization representing conservative LGBTQ voters, recently released a misleading video featuring Richard Grenell, the openly gay former Ambassador to Germany, praising the Donald as the “most pro-gay president in American history.”
That’s certainly some serious hyperbole (and a lie), but it was right up the Donald’s alley as he retweeted the clip with the caption, “My great honor!!!”
The video, which has been viewed over 5.2 million times on Twitter at this writing, is meant to attack former Vice President Joe Biden’s record on LGBTQ issues.
In the clip, Grenell (who briefly served as acting Director of National Intelligence) points to Trump being the “first president in history to be pro-gay marriage from his first day in office.”
What Grenell doesn’t note is that marriage equality was the law of the land by that time, decided in 2015 by the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s not exactly an act of courage to acknowledge the law.
When asked about the issue shortly after his electoral win in 2016, Trump told CBS News reporter Lesley Stahl his personal view on the matter was “irrelevant” and that he considered the matter “settled.” He added, “I’m fine with that.”
Hardly a glowing endorsement of marriage equality. Especially when, during the campaign, he sent mixed signals about gay rights.
While Trump mentioned “L. G. B. T. citizens” during his nominating convention speech (in a halting cadence that sounded like he’d never used the phrase in his life), he went on to tell Fox News he would “strongly consider” appointing judges who might overturn same-sex marriage.
Grenell also mentions the Trump administration’s supposed push to end the criminalization of homosexuality around the world.
You might recall the initiative, announced to be headed up by Grenell himself, was unknown to Trump when he was asked about it. And, since the announcement of the campaign, there’s been no news or apparent action on the issue.
NBC News also reported that State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino downplayed Grenell’s new effort, describing it as “long-standing,” “bipartisan” and “really is not a big policy departure.”
Additionally, Trump’s administration has attacked the LGBTQ community on numerous fronts including the transgender military ban, arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court LGBTQ people shouldn’t be protected under federal civil rights law, and supporting taxpayer-funded religious adoption agencies that refuse to place children in LGBTQ homes.
Just this week, the Trump Administration intrinsically erased LGBTQ people from an updated foreign policy on gender and women’s empowerment by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Throughout the video, Grenell ignores that transgender people even exist as he only uses the terms “gay and lesbian.”
Grenell also alleges that Biden believes “gays are security risks,” which is a pretty far stretch as Grenell is referencing an off-hand statement made almost 47 years ago.
Biden was reportedly ‘startled’ by a question about gays serving in the military and civil service at an informal event with neighbors in 1973.
According to the conservative Free Beacon, Biden responded, “My gut reaction is that they [gay people] are security risks but I must admit I haven’t given this much thought,” he said. “I’ll be darned!”
You’ll note Grenell doesn’t mention the incident happened back in 1973, and he also doesn’t include the part of Biden’s response that said he hadn’t given the subject much thought.
In reality, Biden’s movement on LGBTQ rights has pretty much mirrored the nation’s perspective.
He’s publicly evolved to become a champion for gay rights – most memorably coming out in support of same-sex marriage in 2012 just days before President Obama.
While Joe Biden has promised full-throated support for the Equality Act, which would extend existing civil rights protections to LGBTQ people, Trump and the majority of his fellow Republicans have stood firmly against the legislation.
He’s literally spent his entire term tearing down Lgbt rights, access to healthcare, appointing anti equality judges, arguing against equality in the courts, and denying asylum to desperate people fleeing oppression. No one is here to congratulate a grifter like @RichardGrenell
Born May 22, 1930, Harvey Milk is listed as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Important People of the 20th Century,” because he spoke out not only for LGBTQ people but women, people of color and other communities living on the margins.
“All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words.
That is what America is about.”
A Naval and Korean War Veteran, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man elected in California, to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in1977. At a time when anti-gay ballot issues were winning across the country, Milk and his coalition were a major force in defeating California’s “Prop. 6 Briggs’ Initiative” that mandated firing teachers for being gay.
“It takes no compromise to give people their rights, it takes no money to respect the individual.
It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”
He was the first openly gay man elected to public office; but more than that, he won that election a mere eight years after the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969.
His message of inclusion, the value of the marginalized, which he built his representative coalition around, also help elect the first Asian American man and African American woman to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. In his short eleven months in office, he spearheaded the defeat of California’s “Brigg’s Initiative” which would have prohibited gays and lesbians from teaching in schools.
Like Abraham Lincoln, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. before him, the gay civil rights leader and champion of equality and justice, knew what history held in store. What Harvey Milk could not have known was the recording he made in the event of his murder would be played just nine days later, when a white, Christian, anti-gay, straight, gunman assassinated him and San Francisco Mayor, George Moscone in their City Hall offices on November 27, 1978.
“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”
While it is impossible to imagine what Harvey Milk might have gone on to achieve had he not been killed, it’s plain to see the lasting impact his living legacy has had on the LGBT+ Community and America as a whole.
He has received countless honors posthumously, including a Naval ship named after him; the first postal stamp recognizing an openly gay American, a critically acclaimed biopic; and our country’s highest honor given to a civilian, the Medal of Freedom, presented by President Obama in 2009.
In 1985, The Times of Harvey Milk, narrated by Harvey Fierstein, became the first gay-themed film by openly LGBTQ filmmakers to win an Academy Award.
The stirring documentary focuses on an ordinary man who believed in ordinary values but made extraordinary accomplishments by giving everyone hope. It’s colorfully told by the vibrant and dedicated people who were a part of the movement and is profoundly moving.
But greater than all these is the lasting legacy Harvey Milk gave us in his words and wisdom.
It is striking in comparison to today’s divisive social and political rhetoric, that Harvey Milk succeeded in bringing people together by speaking of hope. He spoke of and to the “us’s” as equal people in our communities, that the marginalized matter.
“The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason.
That, that my friends, that is true perversion!”
“I have tasted freedom. I will not give up that which I have tasted.”
“All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”
“It’s not my victory, it’s yours and yours and yours. If a gay can win, it means there is hope that the system can work for all minorities if we fight. We’ve given them hope.”
“Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard.”
“If you are not personally free to be yourself in that most important of all human activities… the expression of love… then life itself loses its meaning.”
“Hope is never silent.”
Lawrence Pfeil, Jr., is a freelance writer/playwright who has reviewed film and theatre, both on and off-Broadway, for media outlets including The Randy Report, the New York Blade, and Edge Publications. You can follow him at TheOUTfront.com.
Thirty-three percent of evangelicals support government restrictions on discrimination against LGBTQs in schools, housing or the workplace. In comparison, 66 percent of other Americans support banning LGBTQ discrimination.
The poll also shows white evangelical Protestants believe religion should have more influence on public policy than it currently does.
Sixty-two percent of evangelicals believe religion should have an influence on LGBTQ issues, while only 30 percent of other Americans agree.
And it will come as no surprise that President Trump garners strong support (79%) from white evangelicals, while other Americans strongly disapprove of his job performance.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday for three cases considering whether federal civil rights laws protect LGBTQ people in the workplace.
Two of the cases (Zarda v. Altitude Express and Bostock v. Clayton County) involve the firing of gay men and question whether anti-gay discrimination is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The third case, EEOC v. Harris Funeral Homes, looks for resolution on whether anti-transgender discrimination is illegal under the law.
The basic premise of the arguments hinges on whether discrimination based on “sex” – which Title VII prohibits – includes any discrimination involving sexual orientation.
In other words, are employers allowed to discriminate against an employee based on the sex of the person they may date or marry?
Conservative Justice Samuel Alito seemed to take the position that Congress in 1964 did not foresee covering sexual orientation or gender identity when passing Title VII.
“You’re trying to change the meaning of ‘sex,’” said Alito according to the Associated Press.
But Justice Elena Kagan suggested ‘sexual orientation’ is clearly a subset of sex discrimination in that a man who loves other men shouldn’t be treated differently by an employer than a woman who loves men.
Here are the immediate reactions by some reporters who attended the oral arguments.
Chris Johnson, of the Washington Blade, tweets that the ruling could come down, surprisingly, to Justice Neil Gorsuch who asked several questions “if sex is also in play” in cases regarding anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
Johnson also notes that Chief Justice John Roberts, who has become something of the ‘moderate/swing vote’ on the court since the retirement of Anthony Kennedy, should not be counted on to rule in our favor.
Gorsuch, a textualist, asked many Qs about if “sex is also in play” in cases of anti-LGBT discrimination.
To be sure, Gorsuch also asked Qs about whether employers could keep sex-segregated bathrooms under LGBT-inclusive Title VII.
Legal blogger Amy Howe, formerly of SCOTUS Blog, also came away thinking Gorsuch may be the swing vote.
#SCOTUS finished with oral arguments on whether federal civil rights laws protect LGBT employees. Justices are closely divided; decision could hinge on Justice Neil Gorsuch, who acknowledged that question is “close” but also expressed concern about “massive social upheaval.”
Gorsuch claimed that interpreting Title VII to protect LGBTQ employees will cause “massive social upheaval.” He gestured toward open-mindedness on the textual argument but I think he will vote against LGBTQ rights.
Gorsuch seemed ambivalent, but said that “when a case is really close on the textualist evidence,” the court should refuse to work “a drastic change in this country.” I think he will cast an anti-LGBTQ vote and claim judicial modesty.