Alabama town passes anti-Target bathroom ordinance

Oxford Alabama

Welcome, unless you’re transgender

The Anniston [Alabama] Star reports that the Oxford City Council has passed an ordinance making it illegal for anyone to use a public bathroom other than one that corresponds to their sex assigned at birth. Violators could be fined $500 or sentenced to six months in jail.

The reason for the ordinance? Oxford, population 21,232, has a Target and, apparently, a rapidly growing, quite visible and militant transgender population of approximately — well, we’re not sure if there are any trans people in town. Oxford is located along I-20 between Birmingham and Atlanta, so it would be quite easy for trans citizens to get the hell out traveling either east or west.

After passing the law, a spokesman for the council read a statement saying the law wasn’t meant to be discriminatory, but “to protect our women and children.”

Target’s unchanged-for-years-but-recently-restated policy that’s causing hysterics says: “We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”

It’s unclear how Oxford will enforce its new ordinance inside Target. Will they post police officers at the restrooms in the stores? Will those officers be doing strip searches of anyone going into a Target restroom?

Will Target just decide its store in a small town — that provides a large portion of that town’s sales tax revenue — isn’t worth keeping open? We’ll find out on the next episode of As the Toilet Flushes.

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: HB2 repeal bill filed


Gov. Pat McCrory

Four North Carolina state representatives have filed a bill to repeal HB2, better known as the North Carolina bathroom law. The four primary sponsors listed on the bill, all Democrats, are Susi Hamilton, Darren Jackson, Graig Meyer and Grier Martin.

In addition to completely repealing the law that requires trans women to use a men’s room and trans men to use a ladies room and blocks cities from having nondiscrimination ordinances, the new law would fund a state Human Rights Commission. The bill retroactively repeals the law. That means Charlotte’s nondiscrimination law, which had recently passed and prompted HB2, would go back into effect.

HB2 passed with little discussion in one day and Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill that evening. State Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat running against McCrory for governor, called the law unconstitutional and said he would not defend the law in court.

Since the law passed, North Carolina has lost millions of dollars in business from canceled conventions and concerts to canceled job expansions in the state.

—  David Taffet

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signs ‘religious freedom’ bill

Screen shot 2016-04-05 at 12.03.32 PM

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant

You would think that what is happening in North Carolina — boycotts, etc. — after Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law discriminatory legislation would have served as a lesson to other states considering similar laws. But apparently not. It seems that — at least in some places — bigotry continues to outweigh fairness, business sense and common sense. Case in point, Mississippi:

“Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the state’s religious freedom bill Tuesday, according to a statement tweeted to his account. Watchdog groups have decried the bill as discriminatory against the LGBT community, while proponents say it’s intended only to protect those with strongly held religious beliefs. Bryant said he signed the law ‘to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government.'” (Breaking news just posted online by WAPT Channel 16 in Jackson, Miss.)

—  Tammye Nash

Progressive responds to one of its agents promoting bigotry in Plano

Plano hatredProgressive Insurance sent a response — really a non-response — to one of their agents promoting hatred in Plano.

Although the Plano nondiscrimination ordinance has religious exemptions that include not only churches, but also nonprofit organizations and just about anyone else who really, really wants to discriminate, extremists have begun a recall campaign.

Plano residents found a flyer on their doors sponsored by a church located in neighboring Wylie. A Progressive insurance agency located in Plano is collecting signatures for the recall petition. Just 3,700 signatures are required to place the ordinance on the ballot. Progressive is one of Human Rights Campaigns large donors and received 100 percent on the Corporate Equality Index.

Over the weekend, Progressive sent a response to my inquiry about whether this represents their values or if they were even aware one of their agents was promoting bigotry. Here’s the answer I received:

“At Progressive, we’re committed to creating a diverse work environment where all of our employees can successfully thrive, and where their uniqueness is celebrated. The views of our more than 35,000 independent agents are their own and do not always reflect the views of Progressive.”

—  David Taffet

Forced to wear ‘gaytard’ name tag, Gay South Dakota teen files complaint

act14-tacojohns-500x280-v01A gay South Dakota teenager who was allegedly forced to wear by his boss to wear a name tag reading “Gaytard”  filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this week alleging discrimination by his former employer, according to the Sioux, Falls, S.D. Argus Leader.

Tyler Brandt, 16, of Yankston, S.D., resigned from his job at Taco John in June after the manager made wear him the name tag. Brandt told Keloland at first he wore the name tag because he feared for losing his job.

“I would always stay behind the till so they couldn’t see the name tag, I didn’t want them to see it, but even though they couldn’t see it, he would still call me by the name across the store and customers would notice,” the teen said.

Brandt is represented by American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. His complaint alleges that Taco John’s of Yankton and its parent company, Taco John’s International, violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“What happened to me was so incredibly humiliating. My hope is that this filing results in a policy to ensure that no other Taco John’s employee will ever experience this kind of harassment,” he said in a statement.

The Argus Leader reported that the store’s manager saw the story differently.

John Scott, the franchised store’s  manager, said over the summer that Brandt had asked for the name tag. “He asked [a different] manager to make that name tag for him,” Scott said in June. “He [the manager] didn’t tell him he had to wear it. [Brandt] put it on himself and created the situation.”

Taco John International released a statement in June saying that the company “has a strict anti-discrimination policy and does not tolerate harassment.” However, Patricia Hays, The corporation’s counsel, said  the company would not investigate the incident because it happened at an independently-owned store.

“We think what happened to Tyler is deplorable, and this is a chance for Taco John’s International to make it right,” said Heather Smith, head of the ACLU of South Dakota.

—  James Russell

BREAKING NEWS: HERO petition rejected but city will delay implementation

Parker.AnniseThe Houston Equal Rights Ordinance will not appear on the November ballot, Mayor Annise Parker announced at a press conference today.

“The petition is simply invalid,” said David Feldman, the city’s attorney.

Officials said there were too many irregularities in the petition. Some of the pages weren’t notarized, and too many of the signatures were not registered voters, they said. Feldman said, essentially, that there were so many problems with the petition as it was submitted that the city couldn’t accept it.

Mayor Annise Parker predicted that opponents will take legal action. Because of expected legal action, she will then delay implementation of the ordinance.

The petition was submitted by opponents of the ordinance, which added protections for the LGBT and other communities.

The decision came as proponents of the ordinance questioned the legitimacy and tactics of the petition drive lead by opponents, putting in to doubt whether or not the drive would succeed.

Late last week, an anonymous group published the names of the signatories, calling for transparency and independent reviews of each signature. Among the names found by this reporter are State Rep. Dwayne Bohac and Ryan Patrick, the son of Republican lieutenant governor nominee and state Senator Dan Patrick.

Under state law, petitions submitted to government agencies are public record.

—  James Russell

Is someone at Liberty University going to hell for hiring a gay?


Liberty University hired this gay

The Christian Post reported that Liberty University — What? Yes, I read the Christian Post, so you don’t have to, now stop interrupting.

The Christian Post reported yesterday that Liberty University — the school Jerry Falwell founded — hired gay dancer Geoffrey Goldberg to choreograph its production of Mary Poppins.

As the Christian Post put it, “the conservative Christian school’s stage company had sought the services of an ‘open homosexual advocate.’”

The school, to its credit, issued this statement to blogger Benjamin Corey:

“The choreographer in question is an independent contractor supplied to the university through a third party association and has never applied for employment at Liberty University and has never been an employee of Liberty. Liberty has never required vendors who provide goods and services to the university to adhere to the university’s doctrinal beliefs.”

To make things worse, Liberty’s stage company director Linda Nell Cooper told Christian News Network, she hired Goldberg “based on his professionalism and his talent like everyone else.”

And just what makes Goldberg so qualified?

He was in the original Broadway production of Mary Poppins.

The world is certainly coming to an end when theater is taken over by the gays — even at Liberty University. What makes this even more delicious, and The Christian Post  seems to have missed this, the school not only got a gay, but they got a gay Jew.

Mary Poppins opens tonight, in case you happen to be in Lynchburg, Va.

—  David Taffet

For Valentine’s Day, a resonant tale of ‘Loving’ and marriage

lovingstory03The very title of the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia is almost too perfect not to respect the irony of what it represented.

In 1958, Richard Loving married a half-black, half-Native American named Mildred in D.C., then returned to their home in rural Virginia. A month later, sheriff’s deputies entered their bedroom as they slept, arresting them for violating the state’s anti-miscegenation law, which forbid mixing of the races. They were jailed, convicted and eventually banished from the state in a manner more akin to ancient Rome than modern-day America.

Virginia was hardly unique — as Barack Obama’s parents could probably tell you, 21 states banned mixed-race marriages in 1958. It would take nine years, following protracted legal wrangling, before the Lovings could live openly and legally as Virginians.

It is impossible to watch The Loving Story — which debuts on HBO, again ironically, on Valentine’s Day — and not consider it (especially in light of the events this week) as it relates to Proposition 8 and the rights of gays to wed. Indeed, the statement by one of the lawyers representing the Lovings that “marriage is a fundamental right of man” — spoken more than 40 years ago — resonates sharply for any gay person who has felt a lesser person because of the bigotry and antiquated thinking of considering a fellow man as being “other” … whether by race or sexual orientation.

There’s surprisingly little directorial commentary in this documentary, which is made up substantially of real-time newsreel and other footage of the Lovings at home and on TV, and their lawyers strategizing. Little comment is needed, especially when the offensive language of the courts speaks volumes: The races were meant to stay on separate continents, the Virginia county judge opined, cuz that’s how God wanted it.

Two things especially stand out in The Loving Story. The first is the couple at the center of it: A man and a woman of modest means and humble background who simply and truly were in love and wanted to live as man and wife and couldn’t understand what they were doing wrong. The second is that the arguments made — back then and now, on both sides — apply equally to same-sex marriage issues. We’ve come a long way, but damn, we still have so far to go.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Four stars. Airs Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. on HBO.

—  Kevin Thomas

Why do I attract all the crazies?

I got the follow press release recently:

GREENVILLE, NC. – CHRISTIANITY: Soon to be illegal? …. That’s exactly what author Bill Arcand predicts in his inspiring fictional story that gives readers a look into the near future of Christianity in the United States.

Sometimes all it takes is one man’s divinely inspired written word to make the much-needed changes to society. Arcand’s fictional story, The Recurring Dream, is a cautionary tale of what could happen if America continues down the treacherous road it is on. This divinely inspired book gives readers hope and provides direction to Christians throughout the United States.

Author Bill Arcand received literary direction from God, which resulted in his book, The Recurring Dream. The book warns readers about the repercussions of taking Christianity out of American’s everyday lives through an intricately weaved story highlighting both real life and a character’s dream.

“In 2008, as I was praying and very concerned on where our country was heading, I asked God to have mercy on America and asked what I could do to help,” Arcand says. “That’s when I was inspired by God to write a book. I said ‘Okay Lord,’ and I just started writing.”

I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say, if there is one religion that doesn’t need to worry about being outlawed in the U.S., it is Christianity. But the way they Far Right has usurped the discussion is frightening. The argument is: We have radical ideas (often not biblically based, but try tell them that) which preach hatred, bigotry and bias against those who feel differently, and have an absolute right to have to government condone our hatred with tax exemptions and other benefits. Then, when some of the non-partisan citizens of this country complain that we are hate-mongers and shouldn’t be entitled to discriminate, we are labeled the “bad guys.” But since our hatred is religiously centered, denying us these biases destroys who we are!

Funny thing is, these are the same folks who pass laws in Oklahoma forbidding the recognition of Sharia law in any context, and who want to use the (secular) marriage licensing function of the state to deny public benefits to gays. The irony is, no one on the (so-called) radical left wants to do away with any religion — in fact, it’s a precept of liberalism to live and let live, and to allow people their First Amendment right to practice their religion… just not to force that religion on others who disagree.

To these kinds of Christians, disagreement is subversion, equality is anti-God-communism draped in tolerance and anyone who opposes the fire-bombing of abortion clinics hates Jesus. Have we entered the Middle Ages — no, the Dark Ages — again? Would God really tell this moron to write a book condemning secularism? As I understood my catechism, God loves all His children, believers and non-believers alike. What could it possibly matter to Him if America goes down one “path?” Aren’t we saved no matter what?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Did Rick Perry come out in support of gays? (No, of course not, don’t be an idiot)

This is what frustrates me the most about dealing with hypocrites: They can’t keep their bigotry and their demagoguery straight.

Last month, the Texas Governor and GOP hopeless (let’s face it — he can’t be hopeful) ran an ad in Iowa in which he expressed a degree of disgust that “gays can serve openly in the military” but children can’t celebrate Christmas (huh?). He was taken to task by an Iowa teen, and again reiterated his hate-mongering.

But now that the Iowa caucuses are down to the wire, Perry is desperate to show his conservative roots. So all weekend, he’s been touting his serious commitment to supporting veterans who deserve our help — for instance, through care at VA hospitals and with job assistance and family services — after they return from overseas.

Well, since he obviously knows gays actually do serve — one of the few facts he’s gotten right in a while — then it logically follows Perry would condemn any employers who discriminate again a gay serviceman applying for a job, or would endorse an extension to same-sex spouses of veterans of  health another benefits for their injured spouses.

Only I’m sure he doesn’t.

So basically, it means you can believe a word Perry says, because his rules have a litmus test: You must first share his perverse religious faith that teaches hatred toward our fellow man in order to understand who, exactly, is entitled to our support. It seems to me a little like Orwell’s “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.”

So give us a straight answer, Rick: Do you unconditionally support returning veterans, or did you lie yet again? Because logic demands it be one or the other… though logic never seemed to matter to folks like him before.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones