Bilerico reports that Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that transgender people are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under the category of sex-based discrimination. This is a big step forward.
George Stinney, wrongly convicted and executed in 1944 at age 14 in South Carolina, was exonerated Wednesday by circuit court Judge Carmen Mullen. When he went to the electric chair, he was so small he had to sit on a phone book for the execution.
We do not have the knowledge of gods. There are too many people with motives to lie, to make false accusations, to seek out a scapegoat, to set an example. We should abolish the death penalty if only for this reason. It is good for Stinney's name to be cleared at long last; but his life was stolen. The sadness of this is beyond adequate expression.
My column for this week is now online at the Blade. Here is an excerpt:
The Michigan House of Representatives recently passed a bill modeled on the 1993 federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, which featured in the Hobby Lobby case. The Michigan measure may allow emergency medical technicians to invoke sincerely held religious beliefs in refusing to serve LGBT people.
Where will religious demands in daily commerce end? If you view conscience clauses only in terms of gay families, the problem might seem limited. But what about people who object to interracial marriage or to second or third marriages after divorce? Assuming that gay conservatives are motivated by more than axe grinding against gay liberals, why does their solicitude for the religious right appear reserved for gay-related cases?
If an anti-gay Christian receives legal exemptions, why should a Christian Scientist parent opposed to modern medicine not be exempt from child welfare laws? Why should a Muslim devoted to the subordination of women (which, to be fair, is disputed within Islam) not invoke Sharia Law? Satanists, amusingly, have already responded to a Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma state capitol by demanding equal placement of a monument to the demon Baphomet.
I neglected to post this several days ago when Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) spoke out against congressional interference with D.C. voters' choice to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Thank you, Senator.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins defended his wearing a "Justice for Tamir Rice" shirt during warm-ups before Sunday's game against the Bengals.
"My wearing of the T-shirt wasn't a stance against every police officer or every police department," Hawkins said. "My wearing of the T-shirt was a stance against wrong individuals doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason to innocent people."
Hawkins made the statement the day after Cleveland police union president Jeff Follmer called Hawkins' shirt "pathetic" and said Hawkins should stick to playing football.
Bravo, Mr. Hawkins.
Why is a horse in a wedding dress any more related to gay couples than to straight couples? Gay people are not seeking to marry horses, but other human beings. But somehow, this sort of stunt seems to persuade some people.
More of the angry tribal deity perspective from AFA's Bryan Fischer.
A shot of Freedom Plaza Saturday as protesters gathered. Associated Press reports.
NBC News reports:
The first openly gay U.S. ambassador to serve in East Asia, Ted Osius III, was sworn in Wednesday by Secretary of State John Kerry, signaling another important step forward for LGBT rights in the region as well as for the government agency.
Osius, who will serve in Vietnam, now becomes the 7th openly LGBT person named as an ambassador under the Obama administration, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
"Not long ago, that would have literally been impossible. And when Ted first joined the Foreign Service, being open about who you love was grounds for having your security clearance yanked," Secretary Kerry said in a statement. "Today, the LGBT community is embraced by the Foreign Service and well beyond."
City Paper reports.
In summary: The people of the District of Columbia have the right to govern ourselves, except when we don't. The fight continues.
Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai and Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi have received the Nobel Peace Prize awards....
Ms Yousafzai said she was there to stand up for the rights of forgotten and frightened children, and raise their voice rather than pity them.
Mr Satyarthi said receiving the prize was "a great opportunity" to further his work against child slavery.
Matt Baume of AFER gives a marriage equality update.
Over the weekend, Republicans in the Michigan Statehouse passed a “license to discriminate” bill that would give just about anyone the right to refuse service to LGBT people if it conflicted with their religious beliefs.
The broadly written Religious Freedom Restoration Act would allow, for example, an EMT to refuse emergency treatment to a gay person or a pharmacist to refuse to refill HIV medication, because God decreed gays and lesbians should be put to death.
The measure is similar to one in Arizona that even right-wing governor Jan Brewer thought went too far and vetoed.
A similar issue arose during the D.C. marriage equality fight in 2009, and the overbroad religious exemption demanded by the Archdiocese of Washington was rejected by Phil Mendelson, then chair of the D.C. Council Judiciary Committee, at GLAA's urging.
My column this week is about a travesty of justice in the Michael Brown case in Missouri. Here is an excerpt:
What is the fuss about? Succinctly: A police officer who was more an occupier than a protector used deadly force to subdue a jaywalker, then prosecutors presented the case for his defense.
As protests sprang up across the nation and overseas last week, Wilson resigned from the force. St. Louis County police shut down a vigilante operation by the Oath Keepers militia. Twenty-year-old Deandre Joshua was murdered during the unrest on the night of November 24. When President Obama said after the grand jury announcement, "[T]here are still problems and communities of color aren't just making these problems up," reactions from the right would make you think he had torched a storefront.
Carlton Lee, Michael Brown Sr.'s pastor, received dozens of racist death threats in recent weeks, and his church, far from the riots, was burned down as he was off trying to keep the peace. Vowing to rebuild at a Sunday service beside the ruins, he urged love in response to the haters.
It is an old struggle....
A memorial service for former Mayor Marion Barry was held on Saturday at the D.C. Convention Center, in which he was eulogized by a long list of public officials, entrepreneurs, and community activists. Loose Lips reports.
I was interviewed by Martin Austermuhle for a piece that aired on WAMU radio on Friday. Our friend Andy Bowen, who is now executive director of Garden State Equality, wrote a lovely remembrance of Barry for DCist on Thursday.
Regarding the bitterness that some in our community feel over Barry's 2009 vote against marriage equality: One thing people might keep in mind is that while Marion is gone, all of his friends and supporters aren't. Burning bridges by indulging a bitter comment accomplishes nothing. Plus, I hate being a sore winner. We won marriage equality strongly and overwhelmingly, and we did it with a broad-based coalition and with smart and respectful messaging. I confronted Marion in 2009 over his participation in an anti-gay rally at Freedom Plaza as he was leaving that rally, and I challenged him on his vote against marriage equality; but I did it in a civil manner. As a result, I had five more years of a cordial relationship with him, while he continued serving as one of 13 DC Council members. Being nasty would not have helped our cause. Marion was always nice to me, and it cost me nothing to reciprocate. Did I appreciate it when he told me he didn't know any gay couples in Ward 8? Of course not. I was truly baffled by his saying that to me (in the hallway outside the Council Chambers), because there were no reporters or news cameras near us for him to play to. But if I cut off everyone I know who said baffling or obnoxious things, well, I'd have a much lonelier life. Marion was not perfect, but he was a longtime ally (including supporting our successful effort in 1979 to prohibit ballot measures that infringed on rights protected by the DC Human Rights Act). So I gave him credit as well as criticism, and did not break off a productive relationship. May he rest in peace.
One of the bills that received unanimous approval on its final reading at the D.C. Council meeting on December 2 was Bill 20-803, the Human Rights Amendment Act. This bill enacted the recommendations in Sections 5.1 and 5.5 of GLAA's 2014 policy brief, "Building on Victory." Here is the bill summary:
To amend the Office of Human Rights Establishment Act of 1999 to require the Director of the Office to have a demonstrated professional background in human rights law, and to amend the Human Rights Act of 1977 to require the annual report include information on investigations and public hearings undertaken by the Office, and to repeal the exemption [known as the Armstrong Amendment] allowing religiously-affiliated educational institutions to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Thanks to Councilmember Tommy Wells, who introduced the bill and steered it through the Judiciary Committee. I blogged about the September 29 hearing here. A lawyer for Catholic University testified against the bill, falsely claiming that it would require the university to indicate its approval of a gay student group; in fact, it would only require the University to grant gay groups the same amenities as other student groups. Congress could act to overturn or block implementation of the bill, though that would require a presidential signature or a veto override. In the meantime, this is an overdue action in which the Council has resoundingly indicated its agreement with GLAA that the Armstrong Amendment (which was imposed by Congress a quarter century ago) needs to go.
Today, the District of Columbia Council unanimously approved a bill that will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy.
When signed into law, Washington, D.C. will become the third jurisdiction—behind California and New Jersey—to pass legislation protecting LGBT youth from practices that are known to cause severe depression and even suicide.
“Today, the DC Council sent a powerful message to LGBT youth and their families that they are accepted, supported, and loved,” said Samantha Ames, NCLR staff attorney and coordinator of the #BornPerfect campaign at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). “The Council has used its authority to protect our most vulnerable youth from dangerous and discredited pseudoscience that tells them who they are is wrong, and reaffirmed the consensus of every major medical and mental health organization that all children are born perfect, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
NCLR, in conjunction with other organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, played a key role in organizing the coalition behind the bill, which was authored by Councilmember Mary M. Cheh. A broad range of groups supported the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, including national LGBT organizations, mental health organizations, faith leaders, youth advocates, reproductive justice groups, and civil rights organizations.
Earlier this year, NCLR launched the #BornPerfect campaign to protecting LGBT youth across the country from conversion therapy over the next five years by passing laws, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices.
Learn more about #BornPerfect at www.NCLRights.org/BornPerfect.
GLAA is proud to be part of the coalition that pushed for this bill. Now it goes to Mayor Gray for his signature, then to the Hill for the requisite congressional review period. Our youth will be that much safer for our collective effort, and the national movement to protect minors from these dangerous practices will get a boost.
Thanks to NCLR and all our coalition partners. Special kudos to Alison Gill, formerly of the Trevor Project and now Senior Legislative Counsel with the Human Rights Campaign, who served as coordinator.
Lambda Legal issued this by news release:
On World AIDS Day 2014, Lambda Legal urges those tasked with enforcing U.S. criminal law - from governors to prosecutors to police detectives - to halt the criminal prosecution of people based on their HIV status, thereby assisting efforts to combat the misconceptions, fear, stereotypes, discrimination and stigma faced by people living with HIV that fuel the epidemic in the U.S. and around the world.
HIV criminalization is a striking example of how misinformation, stereotypes and unfounded fears affect people living with HIV and of the government engaging in discrimination that perpetuates these stigmatizing messages. Imposing unjustified and unnecessary criminal prohibitions on people with HIV has led to a society where people are - among other forms of oppression - imprisoned, classified as felons and forced to register as sex offenders, based on outdated and inaccurate information regarding HIV.
We have not come nearly far enough in educating the public about HIV and in reducing stigma and discrimination. Fear and ignorance about HIV and discrimination against people living with HIV remains a serious problem that both marginalizes people and poses barriers to treatment and care.
Lambda Legal remains committed to securing equal protection and equal rights for this community - because living with HIV is not a crime. Lambda Legal's commitment to fighting HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination began more than twenty-five years ago in 1983 when we filed the nation's first challenge to AIDS discrimination and helped secure a court order stopping the efforts of neighbors to evict a doctor from his offices because he treated HIV-positive patients.
That commitment remains strong today. People living with HIV have a right to work and live free from discrimination, and laws, policies and other governmental actions should be based on sound science rather than fear and bias.
See the relevant portion of GLAA's 2014 policy brief.
@HRC you just lost my donations. Stick to what you know! I will never donate to you again.— nyctrojan (@nyctrojan69) November 25, 2014
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, not content with comparing abortion to the Holocaust, declares that gay marriage destroys the foundation of civilization.
I have known Marion Barry since the early 1980s, and he was always courteous to me, even twenty years ago on election day when he arrived at Precinct 15 and I was standing outside wearing a Carol Schwartz campaign shirt. Indeed, he came right for me, all smiles. That was always one of his more charming qualities.
After his death early Sunday at age 78, I received requests for comment from several journalists. I was under the weather all day and did not send them my thoughts until Monday morning. Since I missed the news cycle, here are my comments.
In many ways Marion Barry resembled Bill Clinton: smart, politically astute, charming, and with a phenomenal memory. He didn’t just remember people’s names, he remembered their pets and what ailed them. People who disliked him used to dismiss his talents, which was a big mistake. He was the smartest politician in hometown D.C.
In his early years as mayor, before his addictions got the better of him, he appointed more gay officials than any mayor in the country. I remember him announcing the birth of his son Christopher from the stage at Gay Pride. He was an ally of the LGBT community throughout his mayoral years.
I was greatly disappointed when he opposed marriage equality, and said “Shame on you” to him after he led a chant (3:30 on the clip) at an anti-gay rally in Freedom Plaza in the spring of 2009. He replied, “I supported you on everything else.” That did not mollify me, but it was noteworthy that he and the only other “no” vote on marriage, Ward 7 councilmember Yvette Alexander, touted their pro-gay credentials from the dais rather than launching into anti-gay screeds. They were voting with their constituents; but they still, implausible as it seemed, were eager not to be thought anti-gay. That was a tribute to how far the LGBT community had come.
People are calling this the end of an era, but the Barry era really ended 16 years ago when Anthony Williams was elected mayor. After that, Marion was still a force in Ward 8, but not citywide. In recent years he could barely walk, but his mind was still sharp. I was still pleasant with him despite the harm he did to the city, because it cost me nothing and he was still one of our 13 councilmembers. He was a charmer to the end (when he wasn’t trash talking), and enjoyed reminiscing about past battles when he was on our side. It was clear that he would be re-elected in Ward 8 as long as he lived; now the question is when his constituents, so devoted to him, will move on.
Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch reports. The right wing is losing it.
In honor of Trans Awareness Week and the Transgender Day of Remembrance, our friends at GLAAD have released this video.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is being observed today around the world, as we can see in the photo above tweeted by Pepe Julian Onziema in Uganda. The observance in Washington, D.C. is at the Metropolitan Community Church at 474 Ridge St NW. Here's the description from the Facebook event page:
Doors Open at 6:00 PM - Program will start closer to 7:00 PM
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.
According to The Transgender Day of Remembrance Website:
"The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn't perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who've died by anti-transgender violence."