Today from San Francisco: What happens next in LGBT civil rights?

Posted on 04 Sep 2015 at 3:54pm

Scott Shader

Hi there. It’s me again, checking in from the National Gay and Lesbian Journalist Association conference in San Francisco. I just wanted to share a little bit of what was talked about in today’s morning plenary session, titled: Life After Marriage: What’s Next.

Scott Shafer, host of “The California Report” on KQED Public Radio, moderated the discussion that included as panelists National Center for Lesbian Rights ExecutiveDirector Kate Kendall, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrrera and Isa Noyola, program manager with the Transgender Law Center.

Unfortunately, the plenary — scheduled to be an hour and 15 minutes long — got off to a late start and so lasted less than an hour. That meant that a lot of relevant topics were left undiscussed. The fact that the first several minutes were taken up talking about a marriage equality issue — Kim Davis in Rowen County, Ky. — also cut short the time spent on what comes next.

But the discussion that did take place on where we, as an LGBT rights movement, go from here was informative, to say the least.


Isa Noyola

The most important discussion, I think, centered on the T in our LGBT community: The LGB parts of our community cannot get so flush with excitement and satisfaction over winning the marriage equality battle — not counting, of course, holdouts like Kim Davis and the inevitable rash of “religious freedom” bills we are likely to see in state legislatures and probably Congress, too — cannot just walk away and leave our transgender brothers and sisters in the dust of our success.

Noyola began her remarks by reading the names of the 18 trans women murdered so far this year in the U.S., helping drive home her point that while society may be changing when it comes to sexual orientation, the inequalities and injustices are still strong, violent and deadly when it comes to issues of gender identity.

Reading those names, Noyola said, :helps me ground myself and brings us to the heart of the situation our trans communities are facing. … The trans communities have had to swallow a bitter pill for years around our rights and our place in [LGBT] communities.”

Noyola, Kendall andHerrera all warned that trans people remain the most marginalized and endangered segment of our LGBT communities as a whole. And something I read in the “Street Sheet” newspaper, a publication of the Coalition on Homelessness, served to underscore even more strongly that transgender people are lagging far behind the rest of the community in terms of rights and protections.


Kate Kendall

According to the newspaper, which based some of its article on results of a recent National Transgender Discrimination Survey, trans people are homeless at a higher right, especially trans women of color, and trans people are about 4 times more likely to have a household income below $10,000 annually. And a separte study showed that one in five California transgender people experienced homelessness after identifying as transgender.

Trans people have a harder time finding jobs because of anti-trans bias. They are targeted more often for violence. And they are an easy target for politicians pandering to right-wing conservatives who want somebody to blame for whatever is bothering them at the moment.

As a result, so called “bathroom bills” have become all the rage. We saw more than a few of them in Texas during the last legislative session, and now opponents of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance are breaking out the “men in the women’s restrooms” boogey-man to try and defeat HERO at the polls in November.

Even here in oh-so-liberal California, the threat of a bathroom bill is raising its ugly head.

The key to victory, Kendall said, is education, and, all three panelists agreed, not leaving our transgender brothers and sisters behind. We as LGB people have got to fight as hard for the rights of transgender people as we fought for marriage equality.


Dennis Herrera

The other main “what’s next” topic was the revamped version of the old “Employment Non-Discrimination Act.” Now known as The Equality Act, this piece of legislation would ban anti-LGBT discrimination not just in employment, but also in public accommodations, housing, credit and other areas.

Kendall said that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who represents California’s 12th District in Congress, recently told supports of the Equality Act that the bill’s chances in the Republican-dominated Congress, as it stands now, are slim. But just introducing and pushing the measure now will help build the framework necessary to get protections enacted at the state level in the more than 30 states where anti-LGBT discrimination is still legal (including Texas).

Kendall stressed that the Equality Act definitely does include protections based on gender identity and gender expression, unlike ENDA, which at times in its history has been notorious for excluding transgender protections.

There are other issues that will be moving to the frontburner now that marriage equality is the law of the land. Things like LGBT families, adoption, immigration, LGBT prisoners, and more. But perhaps the best place to start is with the Equality Act and definitely by remembering to never leave the T behind.


Rep. Cecil Bell uses big words in statement about Kim Davis

Posted on 04 Sep 2015 at 2:59pm

Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia

Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, and author of numerous bills this past legislative session that would’ve barred Texas from recognizing marriage equality, issued a statement today, Friday, Sept. 4, condemning the arrest of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk for refusing to issue marriage licenses.

Davis, a Democrat who refused to issue licenses on religious grounds and was arrested yesterday, was a victim of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalizing marriage equality nationwide, Bell said.

The text, found below, speaks for itself:

The lawless, unconstitutional edict of the US Supreme Court in Obergefell striking down state constitutional marriage amendments does not place the antithetical into law as the judiciary branch does not hold the authority to make law. SCOTUS, in striking down DOMA, ruled that the lawmaking authority regulating and defining marriage is held by the legislatures of the separate states.

Of the fifty states in our Union…

- eleven have laws enabling the licensing of same sex marriage

- in three of those states, the people voted to enable same sex licensing

- in eight of those states, that was done without a public vote, by legislative action. 

Thirty nine states (78%) have no laws to grant officials the authority to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals and I will continue to stand for our sovereignty and against federal overreach. 

Kim Davis and the other clerks who have stood for their religious freedoms and for state and citizen sovereignty are not guilty of violating any state or federal law. Again the Court’s ruling does not create law or an ability to force conformity to the will of the Court. We are not a krytocracy which is a people governed by Judges. The US Supreme Court’s wanton abandonment of law and constitutional authority in the reprehensible act of “striking down” state marriage amendments where law abiding citizens exercised the sovereign power of the ballot and of the separate states does establish a conundrum. Absent enabling legislation within a state, except as defined under current law, no marriage license, death certificate, birth certificate or other such document can be legally issued. No constitutional authority exists to force the Court’s vile and decrepit will on the people. Conversely, in cases like that of Ms. Davis, the absence of law leaves these overreaching federal judges clearly guilty of legislating from the bench.

The efforts to eliminate state sovereignty are far broader than the moral dilemma of homosexuality.

The quiet acceptance of unconstitutional atrocities across our state and across the separate states of our nation is abominable. I stand for Texas, for Texans and with the citizens of the separate states for the constitutional restoration of state sovereignty. 


Cecil Bell, Jr.

Texas State Representative

Bell fueled rumors earlier this year he would mount a challenge to Speaker Joe Straus, a moderate Republican. But he instead rolled out PACT for Constitutional Restoration Of State Sovereignty to keep elected officials accountable to the Constitution.

No word yet if he thinks the 13 bills he passed this session also usurp the law.


Same-sex marriage is destroying opposite-sex divorce

Posted on 04 Sep 2015 at 2:34pm

Judge Jeffrey Atherton

Same-sex marriage may not be destroying marriage as we’ve known it since Biblical times, but it is destroying divorce, at least in Chattanooga, Tenn.

A Tennessee judge refused to grant a straight couple a divorce, at least in part, because of same-sex marriage. Judge Jeffrey M. Atherton cited from the Obergefell decision when denying a couple in their 60s a divorce after 20 years of marriage:

“The Tennessee Court of Appeals has noted that Obergefell v. Hodges, affected what is, and must be recognized as, a lawful marriage in the State of Tennessee. This leaves a mere trial level Tennessee state court judge in a bit of a quandary. With the U.S. Supreme Court having defined what must be recognized as a marriage, it would appear that Tennessee’s judiciary must now await the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court as to what is not a marriage, or better stated, when a marriage is no longer a marriage. The majority’s opinion in Obergefell, regardless of its patronizing and condescending verbiage, is now the law of the land, accurately described by Justice Scalia as a naked judicial claim to legislative — indeed, super-legislative — power.”

Clearly the judge doesn’t care for the Obergefell decision, and decided to make a point of it by denying the couple a divorce because, he claims, the federal government preempts states from regulating marriage.

No word from him whether he plans to dismiss all divorces that come before his court.


Proposed rule under Affordable Care Act would bar discrimination based on gender identity

Posted on 04 Sep 2015 at 10:09am

2000px-US-DeptOfHHS-Logo.svgNew rules released today by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights would protect from discrimination based on gender identity in healthcare and insurance.

The regulations include everything from routine medical exams to transition-related care.

Many health system voluntarily cover these services already, but the proposed rule would fill a crucial need in healthcare for transgender individuals, said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

“The Department of Health and Human Service’s proposed rules have the potential to be life-saving for transgender people. The medical and scientific consensus for years has been that transition-related care is medically necessary and should be covered by insurance,” she said.

National LGBT groups praised the proposed rule.

Julie Gonen, policy director the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called the rule a bold move.

“We applaud the agency for taking such a strong position and developing regulations that are consistent with the goal of Section 1557, which is to eradicate discrimination in healthcare. The protections outlined in the proposed regulations would ensure that transgender people —including youth — who are routinely denied this care despite decades of clinical experience and medical literature demonstrating its medical necessity can get the healthcare they need to live full, authentic, and healthy lives,” she said in a statement.

“LGBT people have too often faced healthcare and coverage systems that provide inequitable and hostile treatment on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said David Stacy, government affairs director the Human Rights Campaign. “This proposed regulation will help address some of these disparities and is vitally important to help end discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming people in healthcare and insurance.”

Both, however, urged the department to also banning discrimination based on sexual orientation by health providers and insurance as well.

“We are pleased the administration has finally proposed these critical protections, and we urge HHS to fully implement the promises of the Affordable Care Act by including both gender identity and sexual orientation as protected characteristics in the final rule,” Stacy added.

President Obama signed the ACA into law on March 23, 2010. Included in the sweeping law was Section 1557, the first federal civil rights law to prohibit sex discrimination in health care.

Public comment period closes Friday, November 6.


Justice Department urged to ensure same-sex couples receive marriage licenses

Posted on 04 Sep 2015 at 9:59am

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., urged Attorney General Loretta Lynch to ensure same-sex couples face no barriers to receiving marriage licenses. The statement came after Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, has denied issuing marriage licenses on religious grounds.

“The Supreme Court once again demonstrated marriage equality is the law of the land,” Pocan said in a statement. “The unconstitutional actions by this county clerk underscore the need for the Department of Justice to take any and all necessary steps to ensure same-sex couples have immediate and complete access to their fundamental right to marry. States and localities failing to comply with the Constitution should be met with swift action by the federal government including the loss of federal dollars.”

Pocan, who is gay, was one of 56 members of Congress to send a letter to Lynch in July requesting her office take any necessary actions to ensure couples are not denied marriage licenses.

Davis, a Democrat, was jailed on contempt of court charges after refusing to allow her deputy clerks to issue licenses after calls by Kentucky’s governor and attorney general to issue licenses. A same-sex couple that has continuously been denied marriage licenses by her office filed the latest lawsuit yesterday.


Hey from San Francisco and the NLGJA convention

Posted on 03 Sep 2015 at 7:12pm

Lobby of the Westin St. Francis

So, today I am in San Francisco. I have never been here before, and I would LOVE to have a chance to spend the next three days wandering this city with my camera. BUT such is not to be.

I am here to attend the 25th anniversary of the National Gay and Lesbian Journalist Association’s National Convention and LGBT Media Summit. That’s LGBT journalists working in mainstream media and in LGBT media.

The convention is taking place at the Westin St. Francis Hotel, in Union Square in downtown San Francisco. It is gorgeous, by the way. And right now it is full of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender journalists.

This, as I said, is the 25th anniversary, and the convention has returned here to San Francisco, where the first NLGJA Convention was held way back in 1990. So this year’s theme is Coming Home. And a lot of folks have “come home” to the convention this year. There are some big names in the journalism biz here for this event.

coke.webThe first NLGJA convention I attended was back in the early-mid-1990s in New York City. The next year (I think), I went to Miami for the convention. This is the first one I have been to since then. And let me tell you, things have changed.

There are all kind of corporate sponsors this year. Toyota. Nissan. And, my favorite, Coca-Cola.

Anyway. I am in San Francisco this weekend. So watch for updates and photos and anything I decide to share. Because I am in San Francisco. And the weather is wonderful; wish you were here.


Davis mug shot from Carter County, Ky. jail

Posted on 03 Sep 2015 at 4:48pm

Davis mug shotRowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ mug shot taken at Carter County jail.

Carter County is about 30 miles from Ashland, where the federal court is located.

In sending her to jail, U.S. District Judge David Bunning said, “Oaths mean things.”


A defiant Davis is going to jail after refusing plaintiffs’ compromise

Posted on 03 Sep 2015 at 3:26pm

kim-davis-barsCounty Clerk Kim Davis refused to tell U.S. District Judge David Bunning that she would allow her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses, so she is going to jail.

The plaintiffs in the case, gay and straight couples who were refused marriage licenses by Davis, suggested to Bunning that they would be happy with the result if she simply didn’t interfere with the deputy clerks issuing marriage licenses. Some might call that very Christian of them.

Rather than return to court, she sent a message to the judge through her attorney, refusing to authorize any of her deputies to issue marriage licenses in her absence.

Instead, she continued to sin by contradicting the oath of office she took on a Bible, and told the judge she would prevent her deputies from issuing the licenses.

So she’s off to jail, according to CBS affiliate WKYT.

Davis’ attorney’s questioned whether licenses issued in her absence would be legal without her signature. Bunning said couples applying for a license through her office would have to take the risk.

Court stands adjourned, so Davis will spend at least one night in jail. The longest anyone was ever held for contempt was 14 years. Davis could remain in jail for the next 3 1/2 years when her term as county clerk is up, if she doesn’t agree to do her job.


Davis returns to court for one last chance

Posted on 03 Sep 2015 at 3:08pm

kim-davis-barsU.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered County clerk Kim Davis back to court one last time.

Plaintiff’s attorney’s suggested she could be released from jail if she agreed not to interfere with her deputy clerks issuing marriage licenses. The judge agreed that was a fair settlement.

We’ll update when we hear whether she’s decided to martyr herself or keep her ass out of jail.


Five of six deputy clerks say they will issue licenses

Posted on 03 Sep 2015 at 2:36pm

kim-davis-barsOne of County Clerk Kim Davis’ deputies is apparently as pigheaded as she is. Five, however, told the judge they are ready to return to the County Clerk’s office and begin issuing marriage licenses. The only holdout, according to, is Nathan Davis, Kim’s son.

While Davis is a Democrat, Bunning is a Republican. He told her during the hearing that as a Catholic, he had his own religious beliefs, but public officials must uphold the law. Bunning was appointed to the bench by George W. Bush.

Next issue: doesn’t Kentucky have any laws about nepotism?