1723 posts categorized "News"

January 29, 2015

GLAA launches 2015 election project amid right-wing threats

Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
Fighting for equal rights since 1971
P.O. Box 75265, Washington, DC 20013
www.glaa.org

For Release:
 Thursday, January 29, 2015
Contact: Rick Rosendall 
202-328-6278


GLAA Launches Election Project Amid Right-Wing Threats to D.C. Self-Determination

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C., today launched its 2015 Election Project as the group Heritage Action called on Congress to overturn District bills that protect reproductive health decisions and LGBT students.

GLAA President Rick Rosendall stated, "We thank Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton for her strong statement today that included this: 'Just as my colleagues insist that the laws of their constituents be respected by Washington, you better bet that we will insist on the same American principle and will target members who dare disrespect the people of the District of Columbia by trying to overturn our local laws.'"

Rosendall continued, "The Congresswoman is right. As the District prepares for a special election on April 28, we should not have to look over our shoulders for fear that congressional overseers will substitute their judgment for that of D.C. voters by blocking our local enactments."

This week, GLAA released its LGBT policy brief, "Building on Victory," and its questionnaire for candidates in the April 28 special election to fill D.C. Council vacancies in Wards 4 and 8. The deadline for receipt of candidate responses is March 5, after which GLAA will assign ratings to the candidates (on a scale of -10 to +10) based on their questionnaire responses and their records on LGBT issues. GLAA does not endorse candidates in partisan elections.

Continue reading "GLAA launches 2015 election project amid right-wing threats" »

Surrender Dorothy

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(AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Christian Science Monitor reports that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is testing the waters for a presidential run.

Seriously? The closet case who just this week demanded to know from AG nominee Loretta Lynch why gay marriage would not lead to polygamy? If you are that delusional, Senator, bring it on.

Heritage Action urges Hill action against pro-gay D.C. legislation

GLAA anticipated this sort of thing. Follow the link to the new Home Rule section of our policy brief, out this week. We have briefed Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and the Human Rights Campaign, and they are on the case.

January 28, 2015

AFA fires Bryan Fischer

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Mediaite reports. It involves RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and a bunch of RNC folk heading to Israel on a trip paid for by American Family Association, whose longtime spokesman Bryan Fischer has said that Jews have no right to practice their religion in America. Below is the video from the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.

January 27, 2015

Mormon church offers gay people some rights, with a condition

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(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

WaPo reports:

After years of behind-the-scenes meetings between LGBT advocates and top Mormon leaders, church officials Tuesday announced for the first time general support for legislation to protect LGBT people in areas such as housing and employment – as long as accommodations are made to protect the freedom of religious people who oppose such measures.

Experience teaches us not to trust vague "religious freedom exemptions." This article does not specify what that means in this case. I know what it meant to the Archdiocese of Washington in 2009--a sweeping exemption to the DC Human Rights Act. No. We are not demanding "all or nothing," we are demanding equality, and we keep pressing until we win. Partial steps are one thing, poison pills another. I don't want marriage with an asterisk.

January 25, 2015

Judge issues 14-day stay of order striking down Alabama marriage ban

January 24, 2015

Jack Jacobson elected president of D.C. State Board of Education

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Jack Jacobson, Ward 2 representative to the D.C. State Board of Education, has been elected by his colleagues as the body's president. A State Board news release states:

Mr. Jacobson’s focus has been on raising educational achievement in the District’s traditional public and public charter schools, constituent services, public safety, and cooperation between District agencies. Most recently, Mr. Jacobson served as the Chair of the State Board’s Implementation Committee, where he oversaw the review and subsequent adoption of the District’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver....

After taking office, Mr. Jacobson shared, “I look forward to working with all of my colleagues, as well as the community, our students, teachers, principals, and other stakeholders, to ensure that our education system is exemplary and that all students have the opportunity to receive an excellent education. I also look forward to strengthening the relationship between the State Board and the State Superintendent of Education, the Deputy Mayor for Education, the Chancellor, the Public Charter School Board, the DC Council’s Committee on Education, and all of our school leaders.”

Congrats to Jack, who is my own State Board rep and is the highest-ranking openly gay elected official in the District, following the departures of David Catania and Jim Graham from the D.C. Council. Best of luck to him in his new post.

January 22, 2015

Mayor Bowser names Sheila Alexander-Reid director of LGBT Affairs

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(Photo by Ron Simms, Jr.)

Congrats to Sheila Alexander-Reid and Terrance Laney, named by Mayor Bowser as Director and Deputy Director of what will now be called the D.C. Office of LGBT Affairs. Lou Chibbaro at the Blade reports.

I am proud to note that Sheila was a 2007 winner of GLAA's Distinguished Service Award. We look forward to working with Sheila and Terrance.

Huckabee: states shouldn't follow SCOTUS gay marriage ruling

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(AP Photo / Susan Walsh)

Here's what Mike Huckabee told right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt, his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification:

If the courts make a decision, I hear governors and even some aspirants to the presidency say well, that's settled, and it’s the law of the land. No, it isn't the law of the land. Constitutionally, the courts cannot make a law. They can interpret one. And then the legislature has to create enabling legislation, and the executive has to sign it, and has to enforce it.

Dear Mike, no. Please check out the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the Constitution.

"Hero of the supermarket" wins French citizenship

Lassana Bathily, a Malian Muslim immigrant who saved several lives from terrorist Amedy Coulibaly earlier this month at a kosher supermarket, has been granted French citizenship. He had applied for it last summer. Congrats to him. When we overgeneralize about Islam, and talk as if we are in a religious war, we play into the hands of people like Coulibaly and hurt people like Bathily. That makes no sense.

January 17, 2015

In the belly of the beast

Michael Sam proposed to Vito Cammisano in the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. In the background you can see Bernini's Colonnade and St. Peter's Square. What a marvelous locale, tacitly challenging the Church's denigration of our families. Early reports indicate that St. Peter's did not collapse.

Congrats to Michael and Vito, and best wishes for their happiness.

January 16, 2015

Pope Francis: Same-sex marriage is harming the family

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Rhuaridh Marr reports at Metro Weekly that Pope Francis said this in the Philippines:

The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage.

At last we have an answer to the question, "Is the Pope Catholic?": Sadly, yes.

SCOTUS takes 6th Circuit marriage cases

Lyle Denniston reports at SCOTUSblog:

Taking on a historic constitutional challenge with wide cultural impact, the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon agreed to hear four new cases on same-sex marriage. The Court said it would rule on the power of the states to ban same-sex marriages and to refuse to recognize such marriages performed in another state. A total of two-and-a-half hours was allocated for the hearings, likely in the April sitting. A final ruling is expected by early next summer, probably in late June.

The Court fashioned the specific questions it is prepared to answer, but they closely tracked the two core constitutional issues that have led to a lengthy string of lower-court rulings striking down state bans. As of now, same-sex marriages are allowed in thirty-six states, with bans remaining in the other fourteen but all are under court challenge.

UPDATE 7:51 p.m. The Obama administration will file a brief in the same-sex marriage cases, supporting equal access to marital rights in all of the states, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

At last!

I really hope that counsel for our opponents boils it down during oral arguments by saying, "Your Honors, what about the chirren?!!" and sitting back down.

January 13, 2015

Court strikes down South Dakota gay marriage ban

The Blade reports:

A federal judge in South Dakota became the latest to rule against a ban on same-sex marriage on Monday, striking down the state’s law on the basis that it violates rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

In a 28-page decision, U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier, a Clinton appointee, grants summary judgement to plaintiff same-sex couples in the case, saying South Dakota’s marriage ban runs contrary to their rights to equal protection and due process under the U.S. Constitution.

“In Loving, the Supreme Court addressed a traditionally accepted definition of marriage that prohibited Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving from marrying,” Schreier writes. “Because Virginia’s laws deprived that couple of their fundamental right to marriage, the Court struck down those laws. Little distinguishes this case from Loving. Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to marry. South Dakota law deprives them of that right solely because they are same-sex couples and without sufficient justification.”

The decision is stayed pending appeal.

January 12, 2015

SCOTUS denies Louisiana case, reschedules 6th Circuit cases for consideration Jan. 16

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Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog reports:

The Supreme Court, returning from its winter recess, decided on Monday not to take on a same-sex marriage case that remains under review in a federal appeals court, but otherwise took no action on that constitutional controversy. The Court made no comment as it turned down a plea by same-sex couples in Louisiana to review that state’s ban, which had been upheld by a federal trial judge in New Orleans (Robicheaux v. George).

The four same-sex marriage cases challenging the Sixth Circuit’s ruling that upheld four states’ bans have now been set for consideration by the Justices at their Conference on Friday of this week.

Fifth Circuit poised to strike down gay marriage ban

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(Photo by Chris Geidner/BuzzFeed)

From Friday. Chris Gender reports that the Fifth Circuit hearing on marriage equality was sounding very good for our side:

More than halfway through the morning’s arguments, an exasperated Justin Matheny, the assistant attorney general in Mississippi charged with defending the state’s ban, tried to change his tune during his rebuttal arguments.

When it became clear that the three-judge panel was leaning against upholding the bans, Matheny acknowledged that the “trajectory” for marriage rights for same-sex couples is “undeniable” — but added his new argument: “it’s not there yet.”

Judge Patrick Higginbotham, born in Alabama almost eight decades ago and appointed to the appeals court by President Reagan more than three decades ago, spoke up. And though the older judge was hard to hear at times, he spoke loudly and clearly when he responded to Matheny: “Those words, ‘Will Mississippi change its mind?’ have resonated in these halls before.”

Boom.

Tiffany & Co. features gay couple in ad

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A first for Tiffany & Co. Mediaite reports.

Netanyahu and Abbas join heads of state at Paris march against hatred

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(Reuters photo)

The Independent reports:

France’s President Francois Hollande asked Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu not to attend Paris’s phenomenal march against hatred on Sunday, claiming that his presence would be divisive, it has been reported.

The unity rally in Paris was fronted by more than 50 world leaders, who all linked arms as they led the march from the Place de la République in eastern Paris, where 1.5 million people gathered to honour the 17 victims of last week’s bloody massacre that left the country reeling.

In an unprecedented show of solidarity, the Israeli Prime Minister was seen marching just four people apart from Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, while Prime Minister David Cameron’s appearance marked his first ever street march. Demonstrators carried placards brandishing the phrases “I am Charlie” and “I am Jewish”.

Well there's a shot you don't see every day. British PM David Cameron is out of frame to the left.

Notably absent from the massive rally, which was attended by some three million people, was any representative from the Obama administration. This report from WSJ is an example of the coverage. Of course the right wing would have attacked the President whether he attended or not. Had he been there, "Obama marches with Abbas" would have been one of the headlines. I thought he should have gone. I am sure we will hear more on this, since endless attacks on this president are what some people seem to live for.

Hundreds march in D.C. to honor Leelah Alcorn

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(Photo by Michael Key, Washington Blade)

The Blade reports:

More than 300 people marched through downtown Washington on Saturday to honor a transgender Ohio teenager who committed suicide late last month. American University student Jes Grobman; Rev. Wendy Moen of First Trinity Lutheran Church and Lourdes Ashley Hunter, co-founder of the Trans Women of Color Collective, are among those who spoke on the steps of the Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square during a pre-march rally. They proceeded to march to the Justice Department where they read a list of demands that include a federal ban on so-called conversion therapy to minors.

Acorn's voice has certainly not been stilled. The outpouring of protest across the country since her death is a welcome sign of the strengthening transgender rights movement. We have a long way to go to gain equality for transgender citizens (and on the ground, not just on paper), and in particular to protect sexual minority youth.

January 09, 2015

GLAA receives donation from Alfandre Foundation

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Bob Alfandre with Dionne Warwick in 1988 (Washington Blade photo by Doug Hinckle)

I stopped by GLAA's post office box today to check our mail for the first time since the holidays, in advance of our January 13 monthly meeting. In it I found a moving surprise: a $500 check for GLAA from the Robert N. Alfandre Foundation. In the accompanying letter, dated December 23, the foundation's administrative director, Nicole Alfandre Halbreiner, wrote:

Enclosed please find a donation from the Robert N. Alfandre Foundation. Mr. Alfandre was a supporter of GLAA for many years. Sadly, he passed away in June of this year. We will be continuing his support in his memory.

A longtime supporter, indeed. I met Bob more than three decades ago, shortly after I joined GLAA. His generosity was matched by his graciousness. He always seemed to be in good cheer, and it was infectious. We noted his passing last June here at GLAA Forum. His funeral at All Souls Episcopal Church was something of a reunion for longtime community members and supporters. It was such an event, a mayoral candidate was handing out flyers outside afterwards. The reminiscences and spirit among his friends in the church that day made Bob and his positive energy feel very much present.

Thanks so much to Ms. Halbreiner (who is one of Bob's daughters) and the Foundation for their generous support. Already this year we have discussed legislation with D.C. Council members (including three new members), and talked over congressional matters with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. We are also starting to plan for our 44th anniversary awards reception in late April, and are finalizing our candidate questionnaire and policy brief in anticipation of our ratings process for the special election to fill Council vacancies in Wards 4 and 8 on April 28.

GLAA is all-volunteer and gets a lot of work donated, but we do have expenses, including advertising and website maintenance. The Robert N. Alfandre Foundation's generous donation helps start our year on a promising footing. We are humbled and gratified by this show of confidence, and will do our best to continue earning it.

January 07, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and the defense of blasphemy

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(Photo by Thibault Camus / The Associated Press)

NYT reports on today's attack in Paris by masked gunmen at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which killed 12 and wounded 10. Condolences to the families of the victims.

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Some in the West say that people have no right to offend other people's religions. Some assert that Christians would never tolerate blasphemy against their own religion. Both assertions are wrong. Freedom of speech means nothing if not the right to offend.

Some of our most honored literature contains blasphemies. For example, Nobel winner Günter Grass in his greatest novel, The Tin Drum, has his lead character pray to Jesus (quoting from memory), "Athlete of Athletes ... world's champion hanger on the cross by regulation nails, who lasted the longest time and earned the highest possible number of points...." He describes seagulls descending on a horse's head that had been used to fish for eels on the Baltic Sea as "the Holy Ghost descending to feast the Pentacost."

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Grass has lived to a ripe old age. 26 years ago, he led a consortium of writers in guaranteeing publication of the German translation of The Satanic Verses (which btw I read and enjoyed in its English original, as I have several of Salman Rushdie's novels, one of which, The Moor's Last Sigh, has Hindu blasphemies). Whether it's serious lit or South Park, irreverence is essential to our freedoms and must be defended.

January 06, 2015

Council member Charles Allen introduces surrogacy reform bill

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen this morning introduced the "Collaborative Reproduction Amendment Act of 2015," which was co-introduced by all of his colleagues. As I said to several CMs on Monday in urging them to co-introduce:

[This bill] will legalize and regulate surrogacy parenting agreements. A coalition of advocates has been working on this with former Judiciary Chair Tommy Wells and his staff, principally Anne Phelps (who is now working for Charles), for the past two years. Given its complexity and the crush of other business before the committee, it did not get done last year.

This bill is a top legislative priority for GLAA. It represents the last big piece of family law in need of modernizing to bring it in line with the District’s policy of equality for all families.

GLAA’s statement on surrogacy from our 2014 policy brief is here:
http://www.glaa.org/archive/2014/buildingonvictory.htm#_Toc24

Jeb Bush stumbles on marriage, settles on the rule of law

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(Jeff and Todd Delmay marrying Monday in Miami. By Angel Valentin for The New York Times)

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush stirred memories of his brother George from 2004 as he strove both to pander to the anti-gay right and to strike a civil tone in discussing the arrival of marriage equality in Florida. Here he is on Sunday:

It ought be a local decision — I mean, a state decision. The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it's been overturned by the courts, I guess.

And here he is on Monday, revising and extending his remarks:

We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law. I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue – including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.

Sound familiar? Here is what I wrote in Salon in March 2004:

After calling for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage without once mentioning the dreaded words "gay" or "lesbian," President George W. Bush ended on a conciliatory note: "We should also conduct this difficult debate in a manner worthy of our country, without bitterness or anger. In all that lies ahead, let us match strong convictions with kindness and goodwill and decency." This reminds me of Dame Edna Everage, who, after saying something horribly cruel about her bridesmaid Madge Allsop, habitually adds, "I mean that in a nurturing and caring way."

I would love to have Jeb explain to me what religious liberty has to do with this. The anti-gay right throws that expression around all the time, but its only meaning here is their liberty to infringe on mine. How long will the Republican Party and its purported leaders cling to this degrading nonsense?

January 02, 2015

Mario Cuomo dies at 82

Three-time New York governor Mario Cuomo died yesterday at age 82, hours after his son Andrew was inaugurated to another term as governor. Adam Nagourney has a fine obit at NYT. Above is his 1984 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.

May he rest in peace.

December 30, 2014

Klingenschmitt praises Fayetteville for voting 'against the Devil'

Right Wing Watch reports. He aggressively opposes non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, yet HE is the one being persecuted.

December 23, 2014

Marriage equality cases headed to 8th Circuit, SCOTUS conference

U.S. drops The Gambia from free trade agreement over human rights abuses

FDA lifts blood donation ban for gay men, sort of

Vox.com reports. Basically, if you've been celibate for the past year, step right up. I can hear Frank Kameny denounce this from beyond the grave. And he doesn't have a grave. Never mind, sore subject.

December 22, 2014

Mayor Gray signs bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors

This morning, I was honored to attend on behalf of GLAA as Mayor Vince Gray signed Bill 20-501, the Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Amendment Act. Thanks to Gray, bill introducer Mary Cheh, and all who worked in support of this important legislation to protect our youth from a dangerous and discredited outgrowth of anti-gay junk science. It now goes to Capitol Hill for the requisite congressional review period before becoming law.

Read GLAA's testimony from last June.

Marriage News Watch

Matt Baume of AFER gives an update on marriage equality fights across the country.

Mayor de Blasio calls for suspension of protests in NYC

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(Photo by Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

Marc Santora at NYT reports:

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday called for protesters to suspend demonstrations in the aftermath of the killing of two New York police officers, who were gunned down in Brooklyn as they sat in their patrol car.

“It’s time for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in due time,” Mr. de Blasio said in a speech. “That can be for another day.”

The mayor’s call came a few hours after the police commissioner, William J. Bratton, said that the killing of the officers on Saturday was a “direct spinoff of this issue” of the protests that have roiled the nation in recent weeks.

Dear protesters, ignore him and exercise your First Amendment rights of free speech and peaceable assembly (which, btw, do not disappear because police plant provocateurs). Dear Mayor, please grow a pair. The police union, Rudy Giuliani, and Fox News have cynically exploited the murders of two police officers by a suicidal madman to attack the protesters, the mayor, and President Obama. This amounts to saying that any criticism of police amounts to calling for them to be murdered. We cannot accept this pernicious logic. It is not the protesters who want to start a war, it is those among the police and their defenders who spew slanders in every direction. Calling for police reform is not calling for their murder. The lies must be responded to, not pandered to.

Study: 'White' Southerners have more African ancestry than they know

Vox.com reports:

In a new study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, researchers used the ancestry data compiled by the commercial genetic testing company 23and Me to measure the percentage of African ancestry of people who self-identified as white. It turns out that self-identified white people who live in the South have the highest concentrations of African DNA.

I'm shocked, shocked to find there's been miscegenation going on up in here.

December 20, 2014

Two police officers killed by ambush in Brooklyn; suspect dead by his own hand

NYT reports the awful news.

I agree with Jeffrey Wright. Citizens and police must stand together against violence and for justice for all. Otherwise madmen, provocateurs, and sociopaths will rule the day. My heart goes out to the families of the slain officers, and all who are the victims of senseless violence.

Prosecutor in Ferguson case knew some grand jury witnesses were lying

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(Photo by Reuters)

Mike Hayes at BuzzFeed reports:

In his first interview since announcing Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the shooting of Mike Brown, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch told radio station KTRS that he allowed witnesses he knew were lying to testify to the grand jury.

As Shaun King at Daily Kos points out, the perjurer whose testimony most lined up with that of Wilson was Witness #40, who turns out to be a white supremacist named Sandy McElroy. No perjury charges are being contemplated.

McCulloch should be fired at minimum and possibly disbarred. This is not justice. Anyone who could defend him after this is not really disagreeing, they just don't give a crap. We cannot accept this.

Chinese Court sides with gay man in electroshock therapy case

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(Photo by Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)

NYT reports:

In a victory for gay rights advocates in China, a Beijing court ruled on Friday that a Chinese clinic must pay compensation to a gay man who sued it for giving him electric shocks intended to change his sexual orientation.

Stating that homosexuality is not a mental illness, the Haidian District People’s Court ordered the Xinyupiaoxiang Counseling Center in the southwestern city of Chongqing to pay 3,400 renminbi, or $560, for costs incurred by the plaintiff, Yang Teng. It also ordered Baidu, China’s leading search engine, which was also named in the lawsuit, to remove the advertisement that Mr. Yang said led him to the clinic.

China bears watching. Now the world's largest economy, it has been a friendlier place for gay activists than one might have expected from a totalitarian state. Congrats to Yang and best of luck to his comrades for continued progress.

December 19, 2014

Persecution in Egypt continues

December 18, 2014

Soccer stadium deal gets final Council approval

Tim Cook makes large donation to HRC

ACLU of Florida responds to Pam Bondi

Holder: Title VII prohibits anti-transgender discrimination

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.

Continue reading "Holder: Title VII prohibits anti-transgender discrimination" »