Indiana Repubs admit anti-LGBT discrimination is legal

Posted on 31 Mar 2015 at 5:08pm

Despite Gov. Mike Pence’s insistence that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is all about protecting religious freedom and not about discriminating against folks, two Indiana lawmakers have admitted that even without the RFRA, businesses in their state can legally post “no gays allowed” signs.

Raw Story reports that Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, acknowledged that because the state has no law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, such discrimination is legal in most parts of the state.

The admission came during the two lawmakers’ press conference  during which they said they plan to “clarify” that the RFRA doesn’t allow businesses and individuals to deny service to LGBT people on religious grounds. But one reporter pointed out glaring lack of protections:

“You guys have said repeatedly that we shouldn’t be able to discriminate against anyone, but if you just ignore the existence of this law, can’t we already do that now? Can’t so-and-so in Richmond put a sign up and say ‘No Gays Allowed?’” the reporter asked. “That’s not against the law, correct?”

Bosma admitted that unless the local community has a local ordinance protecting LGBTs such discrimination would, indeed, be allowed, and when pressed further by the reporter, he admitted that most areas of the state have no such ordinances.

The fact of the matter is, the same is true in Texas. Unless you are lucky enough to live in a town or county that has passed a non-discrimination ordinance prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination, if you are LGBT, you have no protections because there is no statewide nondiscrimination law that includes LGBTs. AND, even worse, Republicans have introduced bills in this current legislative session to negate such local ordinances that already exist and prohibit the passage of any such local ordinances in the future.

Maybe folks need to boycott our state, too. Maybe then the Republicans will pull their heads out of their asses.

Watch the Raw Story video above.

And in more Indiana RFRA news, Duke University — whose men’s basketball team is headed to Indianapolis for the Final Four — has joined the NCAA in speaking out against the law, according to Human Rights Campaign.

Duke, the University of Kentucky, Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin are headed to Indianapolis this weekend for the final three March Madness tournament games, including the championship game. Wisconsin and Michigan State both released statements relating to the passage of the bill but Duke is the only Final Four contender to publicly come out against RFRA.

Michael Schoenfeld , Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations said in a statement issued Monday (March 30), that “Duke University continues to stand alongside the LGBT community in seeking a more equal and inclusive world, and we deplore any effort to legislate bias and discrimination. We share the NCAA’s concern about the potential impact of the new law, and will be vigilant to ensure that our student-athletes, supporters, and indeed all citizens and visitors are treated fairly and with respect.”



Trans Day of Visibility is a day of celebration

Posted on 31 Mar 2015 at 4:37pm

trans flagToday (March 31) is International Transgender Day of Visibility.

Trans activist Monica Roberts writes on her TransGriot blog, “We need to remind you cispeeps that we are not only are we part of the diverse mosaic of human life, our humanity is not up for discussion. You WILL accept us as the men and women of trans experience we are, and we will not tolerate any attempts to dehumanize us or strip us of human rights coverage.

Human Rights Campaign writes on its blog, “to celebrate the courage it takes to live openly and authentically, while also recognizing the leadership of transgender and gender nonconforming trailblazers who have led the charge in the fight for equality.”

Trans Student Educational Resources celebrates the day by writing, “Unlike Transgender Day of Remembrance, this is not a day for mourning: this is a day to be empowered and get the recognition we deserve.”

Rachel Crandall, the head of Transgender Michigan, created Transgender Day of Visibility “to focus on all the good things in the trans community, instead of just remembering those who were lost,” according to TransGriot.


NASCAR condemns Indiana’s RFRA

Posted on 31 Mar 2015 at 4:10pm

In most people’s minds, “NASCAR” means “redneck.” And if that’s true, then Indiana is WAY behind the times with its Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law last week by Gov. Mike Pence, because even NASCAR is condemning the law.

Screen shot 2015-03-31 at 4.01.31 PMNASCAR, the second most-viewed sports franchise, next only to the NFL, today (Tuesday, March 31) issued a strongly worded statement against the law — which is “important for a sport almost synonymous with Indianapolis,” noted (Indianapolis Motor Speedway, anyone?).

Brett Jewkes, senior vice president and chief communications officer for the racing organization, said, “NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race.

“For 105 years the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has engaged millions who want to celebrate the true spirit of American racing. IMS will continue to warmly welcome all who share our enthusiasm for motorsports — employees, participants and fans,” Jewkes said.

Pence — who has steadfastly maintained the law is intended to protect religious freedom and not to discriminate against anyone — today called for follow-up legislation to “clarify” the RFRA. I guess that means he wants a bill that specifically says it is alright for so-called “Christians” to discriminate against LGBTs (or anyone else who offends their religious sensibilities), but it’s not ok for anyone to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against Christians; I mean, after all, that IS what he the the Indiana lawmakers meant when they passed the RFRA, right?

Other businesses and governmental entities to come out against Indiana’s RFRA include Starbucks (which issued this statement Monday, March 30: “We join with others opposing any state or federal legislation that permits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and encourage policymakers everywhere to embrace equality”) and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (who on Monday signed an executive order forbidding state-funded travel to Indiana, saying his administration is “sending a message that discrimination won’t be tolerated”).

Check CNN Money for a list of other businesses, etc., who have spoken out against the bill, and what they said.



Advocates who will argue in Supreme Court marriage equality cases announced

Posted on 31 Mar 2015 at 1:32pm

Mary L. Bonauto is one of two advocates chosen to argue marriage equality cases before the Supreme Court in April.

Mary L. Bonauto and Doug Hallward-Driemeier will argue for the plaintiffs in the marriage equality cases being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in April 28, according to Lambda Legal.

Bonauto will argue the 14th Amendment requires a state to grant marriage licenses to a same-sex couple. Hallward-Driemeier will argue the 14th Amendment requires a state to recognize a same-sex marriage performed out-of-state.

Bonauto successfully argued for marriage equality before the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 2003. Currently she serves as civil project director for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a LGBT group based in Boston.

Hallward-Driemeier previously served as assistant to the solicitor general in the Justice Department, and provided pro bono representation in a number of other LGBT rights cases.

“I’m humbled to be standing up for the petitioners from Kentucky and Michigan who seek the freedom to marry,” said Bonauto in a statement provided by Lambda Legal. “The road that we’ve all traveled to get here has been built by so many people who believe that marriage is a fundamental right for all people. I believe the court will give us a fair hearing, and I look forward to the day when all LGBT Americans will be able to marry the person they love.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights praised the choices in a joint statement. “Mary Bonauto crafted and argued the case that made Massachusetts the first state with full marriage equality and she won the first rulings in federal court that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. As the legal team and advocates who have brought our community and our nation to this historic moment, we are proud to stand behind Mary and Doug, with all of our clients and all of the same-sex couples in this country who seek the freedom to marry and to have their marriages respected,” according to the statement.

“It is an incredible honor to represent these devoted couples, who have already been lawfully married and established new families, in arguing to vindicate their right to have the states respect their marriages,” Hallward-Driemeier said in the Lambda Legal statement. “The plaintiffs in these cases reflect the broad array of couples, from those together for three decades to those just starting young families, and the many instances in which married couples must cross state lines to work for a new employer, give birth at the nearest hospital, or seek out new opportunities. These couples deserve the same respect and stability that states grant other married couples and their families throughout every phase of life.”

The cases before the court are Kentucky’s Bourke v Beshear and Love v Beshear, Michigan’s Deboer v Snyder, Ohio’s Henry v Hodges and Obergefell v Hodges and Tennessee’s Tanco v Haslam.


Dallas County signs onto DACA amicus brief

Posted on 31 Mar 2015 at 1:05pm

Dallas County Commissioners Court

Dallas County commissioners voted today (Tuesday, March 31) to sign onto an amicus brief today supporting the U.S. government’s position on DACA, the deferred action for childhood arrivals that President Barack Obama initiated by executive order.

County Judge Clay Jenkins said Dallas County ranks as one of the top five counties nationally in number of people who may potentially benefit from the program. Taken as a whole, the DFW area ranks first in number of people who benefit compared to any county.

DACA permits undocumented immigrants who came into the U.S. as children before a certain date to stay and work in the country legally. The lawsuit was brought by Texas with support of about half the states.

Houston, El Paso and Travis County have already signed onto the brief. About 50 city and county governments including New York City have already signed onto the brief. Jenkins said he expected about 100 signatures before the brief is submitted to the court.

The motion passed by a 4-1 margin. Commissioner Mike Cantrell, the court’s only Republican member, objected at first because the commission had not seen the brief in its final form. Jenkins countered that briefs always change up until the time of their submission.

Cantrell then objected saying immigration should be debated in Congress and called DACA an “extreme overreach by the president.” He said with 254 counties in Texas, only three were signing the brief.


Check out the front page of today’s Indianapolis Star

Posted on 31 Mar 2015 at 9:43am

The front page of today’s Indianapolis Star.

The Indianapolis Star, the daily newspaper of Indianapolis, Indiana, does not like the state’s controversial new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. So much that they devoted their front page, demanding the legislature amend the bill to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The newspaper is just the latest to issue a big public proclamation against the law.

According to the paper, the city’s mayor and city council in a press conference yesterday (Monday, March 30) demanded the legislature either “repeal the divisive Religious Freedom Restoration Act or add explicit protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in state law.”

Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, also issued an executive order that requires anyone who receives money from the city must follow its human rights ordinance, which has had such protections in place for a decade.

“Our city thrives because we have welcomed and embraced diversity. And RFRA threatens what thousands of people have spent decades building,” Ballard said. ”Discrimination is wrong. And I hope that message is being heard loud and clear at our Statehouse.”

You can see the front page to the right and check out the paper’s blistering editorial here.


Twitter joins rising chorus of business voices against RFRA, other anti-gay legislation

Posted on 30 Mar 2015 at 9:24pm

In an “@Policy” Tweet today (Monday, March 30) hailed by Human Rights Campaign as a “bold move,” Twitter today declared its disappointment not just with Indiana’s newly-passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 9.21.42 PMwith the flood of similar bills and other anti-LGBT legislation being considered across the country.

The Tweet read: “We’re disappointed to see state bills that enshrine discrimination. These bills are unjust and bad for business. We support #EqualityForAll.”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to sign into law last week his state’s RFRA was the spark that lit a flame of outrage among some of the country’s leading businesses, including Apple, PayPal, Wal Mart, Yelp, Salesforce and Indiana’s own Angie’s List, officials of which last Friday (March 27) — the day after Pence signed the RFRA — announced they had decided to at least delay, if not cancel, plans for a $40 million expansion of its Indianapolis headquarters.

But in applauding Twitter’s tweeted statement today, HRC pointed out that Indiana’s RFRA is just one of more than 85 anti-LGBT bills under consideration in 28 legislatures, including Texas’, and in Arkansas a measure very similar to Indiana’s awaits Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s signature.

To see HRC’s list of pending LGBT legislation, go here. The bills fall largely into four categories: religious refusal bills, bills promoting conversion therapy, anti-transgender bills and bills nullifying local nondiscrimination statutes.

Texas lawmakers have introduced bills in three of those four categories: religious refusal bills, anti-transgender bills and bills to nullify local nondiscrimination ordinances. To see Equality Texas’ list of legislative alerts, go here.


DoJ charges Oklahoma university with trans discrimination

Posted on 30 Mar 2015 at 3:47pm
DENIED  |  Rachel Tudor, an assistant professor of English at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, believes she was denied tenure because of school administrators’ bigotry against her identity as a transgender woman.

Rachel Tudor

The Department of Justice filed discrimination charges today (Monday, March 30) on behalf of Rachel Tudor against Southeastern Oklahoma State University. They charge is gender discrimination.

Tudor claims she was denied tenure because she is transgender, according to Reuters.

Tudor was an assistant professor of English at the school and was denied tenure in 2011. The school claimed she hadn’t published enough, even though she had more peer-reviewed work than her department chair. School officials also claimed they couldn’t substantiate that Tudor actually did some of the work she claimed she did on her application for tenure.

Tudor told Dallas Voice at the time that the works in question were in the school library with her name on the cover.


Two ‘men dressed as women’ crash through NSA gate

Posted on 30 Mar 2015 at 12:35pm

NSATwo people tried to crash through a security entrance of the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Md. One was shot dead and the other is in critical condition and not expected to survive.

The SUV they were driving was stolen and drugs and a gun were found in the car.

NBC News reports the perpetrators were “two men disguised as women,” while ABC News describes them as “two men dressed as women.”

There is no word, at this time, whether the two people involved were transgender, drag queens or connected to the LGBT community in any way.

We’ll update when their identities are released.


Anti-gay amendment added to budget

Posted on 30 Mar 2015 at 9:43am

Rep. Drew Springer

Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, has proposed an amendment to the budget that will hurt LGBT families.

The legislature will debate HB-1, the general appropriations bill, in the Texas House on Tuesday, March 31. The Springer Amendment stops all state funding for a school district that, in the opinion of the Texas attorney general, has taken an action in violation of the Texas Constitution. (Those are new powers that would be granted to the attorney general.)

The school district would have 60 days to come into compliance.

The amendment targets Pflugerville ISD and Austin ISD, two school districts that have instituted “plus 1” benefit programs.

Dallas County extended Family Medical Leave using the plus 1 system that will benefit the districts’ single employees, as well as married and partnered gay and lesbian employees.

The benefit programs allow an employee to name a second person who is financially interdependent with them and co-resides with them to receive benefits, and the programs were constructed to comply with guidances issued by then-AG Greg Abbott.

Although Springer believes these programs to be in violation of the state Constitution, absent additional attorney general opinions, they would not be affected by the new level of bureaucracy his amendment attempts to create.

To contact your state representative and tell him or her to oppose the Springer Amendment on page 151 of their amendment packet, click here.