Podcast: Country Coming Out Song Goes Viral, UK, Bhutan, And Billy Porter

The Randy Report podcast delivers the week's top stories in a quick, convenient podcast - 'the 60 Minutes of gay news - only shorter'

The Randy Report podcast delivers the week's top stories in a quick, convenient podcast - 'the 60 Minutes of gay news - only shorter'

In this week’s podcast:

• More LGBTQ candidates won elections this year than ever before

• A US Supreme Court decision upholds high school transgender students’ rights

Switzerland is poised to (finally) legalize same-sex marriage

• Adoptions by same-sex couples in the UK has increased for the 3rd year in a row

• Isolated Asian country of Bhutan legalizes same-sex relations

• Emmy/Grammy winner Billy Porter has been announced to help usher in the New Year

• A coming out Christmas song by country artist and LGBTQ ally Aaron LaCombe goes viral ‘Uncle Carl (Came Out On Christmas)’

Click here to watch the video and head over to Aaron’s official website for more info about his music

All that and more in this episode of The Randy Report

Aimee Stephens, Who Took Transgender Rights Case To Supreme Court, Dies At 59

Aimee Stephens (image via GoFundMe)

NBC News reports that Aimee Stephens, the transgender funeral home worker whose firing led to legal proceedings that ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court, died Tuesday of renal failure. She was 59.

The ACLU, which has been handling her case, announced the news on Twitter.

In 2013, Stephens came out as transgender to her employer and was subsequently fired. Stephens sued and her case, Stephens v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home, became part of a combined LGBTQ employment rights case. The high court heard oral arguments in October.

In doing so, Stephens became the first transgender person to have their case heard in the highest court of the land.

A ruling from SCOTUS could be handed down any day now which could affect the employment rights of transgender people across the entire U.S.

Years of kidney disease took its toll on Stephens and she required lengthy dialysis treatments. A GoFundMe campaign was launched last week to fundraise for her end-of-life costs.

Idaho Governor Signs Two Anti-Transgender Bills Into Law

Idaho Gov. Brad Little (image via public domain)

After allowing two recently passed bills to sit on his desk for more than a week, Idaho Governor Brad Little chose to sign two anti-transgender bills into law on the eve of International Transgender Day of Visibility.

The laws take particular aim at transgender youth.

House Bill 509 prohibits transgender people from changing the gender listed on their birth certificate. The legislation is clearly a direct rebuttal to a federal court’s decision to overturn Idaho’s previous ban on trans people amending their birth certificates.

In 2018, U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ruled a prohibition on updating birth certificates by Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare was discriminatory because some citizens – like adoptive parents – were allowed to amend birth certificates while trans people were not. The court ruled that the ban could cause “irreparable injury and harm” to trans people.

Idaho Rep. Julianne Young (R) proposed a new ban against updating birth certificates claiming they are “historical” documents.

House Bill 500 bans transgender student-athletes from participating in sports.

This makes Idaho the first state in the country to pass legislation targeting transgender student-athletes.

Local news station KTVB reports the anti-LGBTQ group Family Policy Alliance of Idaho hailed the bills’ passage saying  that the so-called “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” protects athletic opportunities for girls “by ensuring biological males don’t play in girls’ high school and college sports.”

The Idaho attorney general’s office has already told the press that it estimates it will cost $1 million to defend the law in court.

The new law also allows for female student-athletes gender to be “challenged” and forces the athlete to submit to medical exams to prove their gender.

“This bill asks doctors to perform procedures way outside of the standards of care,” pediatrician Jessica Duvall told Forbes. “Moreover, even if the tests were performed against medical society norms, more often than not they do not yield clear, easily interpreted results.”

The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement denouncing both laws said that both laws.

“We are living in an unprecedented global health crisis, with confirmed cases of COVID-19 increasing on a daily basis in Idaho, across the United States, and around the world, but Governor Brad Little and the Idaho legislature have decided to prioritize the demonization of transgender people,” said HRC President Alphonso David in a statement.

“This is unacceptable, and a gross misuse of taxpayer funds and trust. Idaho is leading the way in anti-transgender discrimination, and at a time when life is hard enough for everyone, Idaho’s elected leaders will be remembered for working to make their transgender residents’ lives even harder.”

Alex Schmider, GLAAD’s Associate Director of Transgender Representation, denounced the legislation as well writing, “Tonight, on the eve of Transgender Day of Visibility and while the United States is overwhelmed with a massive public health crisis, Idaho Governor Brad Little passed legislation targeting some of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community — transgender children. Although medical experts, sport governing bodies, and Idaho’s major employers have spoken out against these two bills, Governor Little has instead sided with discrimination. Now, more than ever, transgender people need to be supported, not subjected to state-sponsored discrimination and suffering.”

“Our country is facing an unprecedented health crisis, and Gov. Little and members of the Idaho Legislature have prioritized attacking transgender student-athletes with this discriminatory and unnecessary new law,” said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality. “State leaders should focus on protecting public health and safety, not on attacking vulnerable youth who want to play on a team with their peers. With so much suffering right now, Idaho is making sure trans kids suffer more.”

News Round-Up: November 18, 2019

Donny and Marie Osmond end their 11-year run at the Flamingo (photo: Denise Truscello)

Some news items you might have missed:

Las Vegas: Donny & Marie Osmond concluded their iconic residency at Flamingo Las Vegas this past Saturday. The siblings’ 11-year residency began as a six-week engagement but was so well received that by popular demand, the residency was extended again and again. I was fortunate to see D&M several times over their amazing run. They were (and are) the picture of showmanship, talent, and professionalism. I never left the showroom anything less than impressed. #ToWhatsNext

Washington Blade: A transgender woman in Zimbabwe who filed a lawsuit over the abuse she suffered after her arrest for using a women’s restroom was awarded $400,000 on November 14 in a landmark ruling.

• Daily Beast: Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace repeatedly confronted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) over the Republican’s characterization of last week’s impeachment testimony, accusing the congressman of “very badly” misrepresenting the witnesses’ positions.

BBC: Australian rugby player Israel Folau, whose contract was canceled for repeated violations due to homophobic remarks on social media, blamed Australia’s bushfire crisis on the legalization of same-sex marriage.

OUT: A representative from the Salvation Army spoke to Matt Baume about how they are working to correct their anti-LGBTQ+ past. “Unfortunately, as a large organization, there have been isolated incidents that do not represent our values and service to all people who are in need.”

• CBS News: Emails obtained by CBS News show San Diego billionaire Doug Manchester was asked by the RNC to donate half a million dollars as his confirmation in the Senate for ambassador to the Bahamas hung in the balance. You may recall Manchester made hefty donations to the Prop 8 campaign that erased marriage equality in California for a time.

Wise Words: Danny ‘Tree Man’ Jones offers this reminder – “Remember, it’s more about effort than the result :)” Hit the play button for the super-cute video message.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Remember, it’s more about effort than the result 😝

A post shared by Danny Jones (@dannyjonesfitness) on

SCOTUS Hears Arguments On Whether Federal Civil Rights Laws Protect LGBTQs

(Photo: Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States/Public Domain)

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.

Legal blogger Amy Howe, formerly of SCOTUS Blog, also came away thinking Gorsuch may be the swing vote.

And from Mark Joseph Stern at Slate:

Only 21 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories, Guam and Puerto Rico, have laws banning bias in the workplace based on both sexual orientation and gender identity.

SCOTUS Will Rule If Existing Civil Rights Laws Ban LGBTQ Discrimination

The United States Supreme Court has announced it will weigh in on whether existing civil rights laws prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The current U.S. Supreme Court (image via SupremeCourt.gov)

The United States Supreme Court has announced it will weigh in on whether existing civil rights laws prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Currently, federal law bans discrimination in the workplace on the basis of religion, race, color, sex or national origin. While there is no specific federal law that protects LGBTQ individuals at work, advocates for the LGBTQ community say Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964prohibits being fired due to sexual orientation because that is a form of sex discrimination.

Lower courts have been split on the issue.

Of the cases that SCOTUS accepted for review Monday, two appeals courts ruled that the firings of a gay man and a transgender woman were illegal discrimination under Title VII, while a third case court ruled being fired for being gay does not fall under the purview of the civil rights law.

According to NBC News, here are the three cases:

• A New York skydiving instructor, Donald Zarda, said he was fired after telling a female client she didn’t need to worry about being tethered together by confiding he is gay. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals found, in that case, that sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination.

• A transgender woman in Michigan, Aimee Stephens, sued her former employer, a funeral home, after she was fired in the aftermath of sharing that she is transgender. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said transgender discrimination is banned due to Title VII.

• A Georgia man, Gerald Bostock, was dismissed by his employer after discovering his participation in a gay softball league (yes, that really happened), the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the 1964 civil rights law does not include sexual orientation.

Judge Diane Wood, of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote in a 2017 ruling that “it is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex.”

But over in the 11th Circuit, Judge William Pryor pointed to lawmakers in his ruling saying that Congress “has not made sexual orientation a protected class.”

The high court will hear the cases during its next term that begins in October.

JoLynn Markison, a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney in its labor and employment practice and an advocate for the LGBTQ community, has been following this issue closely.

“This shift in the Supreme Court’s willingness to rule on the issue of whether Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination extends to gender identity and sexual orientation—which are quintessential expressions of “sex”—has been a long time coming,” Markison says.

Markison points to the newest member of the high court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as a fairly substantial ‘unknown’ in the upcoming deliberations in that he doesn’t have a clear judicial record on LGBTQ issues.

However, we do know his nomination was heavily supported by far-right, conservative groups like the Family Research Council, which has long advocated against LGBTQ equality.

That said, there’s another wild card player to watch here.

“Is there a swing vote on the Supreme Court? Or is this issue already as good as decided? The balance could lie with Chief Justice John Roberts, who notably did not join the conservative dissenters in Pavan v. Smith, in which the Supreme Court held that married same-sex couples are entitled to be listed on their children’s birth certificates the same as married heterosexual couples,” said Markison.

GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, tweeted, “With more than 100 anti-LGBTQ attacks from the Trump Administration, this is exactly why we need to pass the #EqualityActnow and look toward explicitly protecting LGBTQ people with a constitutional amendment.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, followed that with her own tweet: “With Trump stacking the Supreme Court with anti-LGBTQ judges it’s clear that we need a constitutional amendment that protects LGBTQ people and all marginalized communities.”

In terms of state laws, it is currently legal to fire an LGBTQ person in more than 26 states across the nation. You can find information about your state at the Movement Advancement Project.

New Jersey Governor Signs Bills Expanding Transgender Rights

New Jersey took positive steps forward on Tuesday when Gov. Phil Murphy signed new legislation into law providing important rights and protections for members of the LGBTQ community.

New Jersey took positive steps forward on Tuesday when Gov. Phil Murphy signed new legislation into law providing important rights and protections for members of the LGBTQ community.

Murphy campaigned on a promise to protect and expand the rights of the LGBTQ community.

The first bill, SB478, allows transgender residents the ability to change birth and death certificates to reflect their gender identity. According to the new laws, people may choose to identify as male, female or undesignated.

Until now, transgender people had to undergo gender confirmation surgery and provide proof from their physician to amend their birth certificate.

According to Garden State Equality, the LGBTQ organization which helped draft the bill, New Jersey is the 17th state to enact a law dropping the surgery requirement for amending a birth certificate and only the fourth, after California, Oregon and Washington, to allow for a third gender option on the document.

Former Gov. Chris Christie had vetoed the bill twice while in office.

The second bill, SB493, allows a death certificate to reflect a person’s changed gender identity.

The third bill, SB705, provides for the creation of a Transgender Equality Task Force meant to identify barriers for transgender people in areas of housing, health care and criminal justice.

“Allowing vital records to match gender identity is an important step forward that will allow transgender individuals to control the disclosure of their transgender status,” said Gov. Murphy in a statement. “And by creating a Transgender Equality Task Force, New Jersey can ensure that all residents receive the protections they deserve. New Jersey will continue to stand with our LGBTQ residents in the continued pursuit of similar rights nationwide.”

According to a report by the Williams Institute at the University of California, there are approximately 30,100 transgender people living in New Jersey and 1.4 million trans people in the United States.

Alaska: Anchorage Voters Reject Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill

Voters in Anchorage, Alaska have rejected Proposition 1, an anti-transgender “bathroom bill” that would have forced folks to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their birth certificate gender.

From Anchorage Press:

No on Prop 1 took 53 percent of the votes with yes getting 46 percent.

This failure of the referendum to pass would mean that laws would retain the rights afforded to transgender people as passed in the Anchorage Assembly resolution of 2015.

Hurray for the good guys!

News Round-Up: March 30, 2018

(image via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

• #TGIF!  Israeli fitness model Shalom Bar (h/t Towleroad)

• 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Stephen Reinhardt, who authored the majority ruling that struck down Prop 8 in California in 2012, has passed away at the age of 87.

• This gay couple is living a Kafkaesque nightmare in trying to stay together thanks to Donald Trump’s travel ban.

• The ACLU has filed suit in Ohio for not allowing transgender people to update their birth certificates. The policy is the inconsistent with other state policies that allow transgender Ohioans to update their gender markers on their driver’s licenses and state identification cards. Ohio, Tennessee, and Kansas are the only states that don’t allow trans people to change their birth certificates.

• Country music star Kacey Musgraves told Billboard she regrets that once she laughed as a “gay guy” was bullied.

• Indie singer/songwriter Lauv dropped his latest single, “Chasing Fire” just in time for the weekend. And me like 🙂

Lauv, who Rolling Stone calls “Pop’s up-and-coming heartbreak king,” seems to find mucho inspiration in the relationships that don’t work out.

Lauv said of the single: “’Chasing Fire’ is about fighting for something that’s already over. It’s the beginning of the end. It’s desperation. It’s grand. But it’s hopeless.”

Hit play below and take a listen. I definitely hear some Coldplay/Maroon 5 influences even as Lauv stakes out his own territory.

Happy Friday, kids!

News Round-Up: March 13, 2018

Some news items you might have missed:

• How could I pass up sharing a pic of uber-sexy model Stuart Reardon and wine???

• A federal judge in Maryland has ruled that transgender students have the right to use the rest rooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.

• Hundreds turn out in support of an out high school football player who was targeted by the hate group Westboro Baptist Church.

• A hospital refused the tissue donation from a deceased 24-year-old because he was gay.

• A Republican candidate for office in Maine viciously attacked one of the surviving students of the Parkland gun massacre as “a skinhead lesbian.”

• With the new coming-out/coming-of-age gay dramedy Love, Simon opening this week, out director Greg Berlanti spoke candidly to NewNowNext about his own teen years as a closeted young gay:

“I can only imagine what I would be feeling right now if I was a 16-year-old watching people like Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy on TV.

“I wasn’t ready to come out in college or high school. I think the fear was similar, and putting on a brave face so people saw me as a happy kid next door. I had family that was close-knit, but that didn’t make me less terrified. I came out in my early 20s, around the dawn of the Internet exploding, which I think made people feel less isolated or alone.”