Hearing set on anti-LGBT HB 3859, a ‘religious refusal’ bill

The Texas House State Affairs Committee is holding a hearing tomorrow (Wednesday, March 29), at 10:30 a.m. in Room 140 of the John H. Reagan Building, on HB 3859, which would allow child welfare providers that contract with the state to discriminate against LGBT families in foster care and adoptive placements.

So if you care about the well-being of children in the Texas foster care system and those up for adoption, and if you care about the rights LGBT Texans, you might want to think about heading to Austin tomorrow for that hearing.

The bill was introduced by Wichita Republican Rep. James Frank.

Ali Lozano, outreach and field coordinator for Texas Freedom Network, said that HB 3859 is one of “at least 17 bills” filed in this session of the Texas Legislature that would allow people to use their personal “religious beliefs” to discriminate against LGBT people.

“This is our first chance to reject this perversion of religious freedom,” Lozano said in an email message. “If we are going to stop this and other ‘religious refusal’ bills, we’ve got to turn out and resist in the same numbers and with the same fervor as we did for SB 6 (aka, the ‘bathroom bill’).”

Equality Texas CEO Chuck Smith reiterated that urgency.

“Using religion to refuse service to LGBTQ people is discrimination,” Smith said in a separate email. “The primary consideration for a child welfare agency or organization and its employees should always be the best interests of the child — not advancing the interests or beliefs of a state contractor. HB 3859 would allow the religious beliefs of child-placing agencies to be placed above the needs of our most vulnerable children. That could jeopardize the health and well-being of children in our system.”

Smith also pointed out that HB 3859 would allow state contractors to discriminate against single or divorced people, interfaith couples people of different religious faiths or denominations.

“This is morally wrong and legally problematic,” Smith said, ending with a plea to those that oppose the bill to “come to the Capitol complex … and register in opposition to HB 3859.”

Go here to watch a short video on how to register in opposition to the bill.

Equality Texas offers these talking points for anyone interested in testifying against the bill.

This page allows you to rush a message to members of the State Affairs committee urging them to oppose HB 3859, and this one lets you send a message urging your representative to oppose all of the anti-LGBT religious refusal bills.

—  Tammye Nash

Trump signs order creating loophole for anti-LGBT discrimination

Lisa Keen | Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

President Trump on Monday, March 27, signed what Lambda Legal calls a “very disturbing” order giving federal contractors a large loophole through which to discriminate against LGBT people.

The White House released a copy of the executive order, signed by Trump, on Monday afternoon. The order revokes all or part of three previous executive orders concerning federal contracting.

Of greatest concern to LGBT people, Trump’s executive order revoked President Obama’s 2014 Executive Order 13673, the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order, that required that companies receiving large federal contracts be able to demonstrate that they have complied for at least three years with 14 federal laws, several of which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender stereotyping or gender identity.

By taking away the requirement that federal contractors be able to demonstrate that they have not violated these federal laws, according to Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Camilla Taylor, “this administration has made it extremely difficult to enforce these federal laws as applied to federal contractors.”

“It’s sending a message to these companies…that the federal government simply doesn’t care whether or not they violate the law,” Taylor said.

Among those 14 laws implicated are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex in employment. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission argued that discrimination based on “sex” included discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The ADA and Rehabilitation Act prohibit discrimination based on HIV infection and other disabilities. And the Family and Medical Leave Act, under the Obama Department of Labor, was held to include employees caring for a same-sex spouse, even if the employee lived in a state that did not recognize marriage of same-sex couples.

The 14 affected federal laws and regulations affected by the new Trump executive order also includes Executive Order 11246, signed in 1965 by President Johnson, which prohibited federal contractors from discriminating in employment based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Four years later, President Nixon added discrimination based on disability and age.

In 1998, President Clinton added sexual orientation. And in 2014, President Obama added gender identity, plus prohibited federal contractors, too, from discriminating against their employees based on these categories.

President Obama’s signing of what was called Executive Order 13672 was hailed by many LGBT activists as protecting “millions” of LGBT workers from discrimination. It applied to companies who sought federal contracts in excess of $500,000.

Taylor said that companies seeking such contracts had to demonstrate that they had not violated the federal laws listed in the previous three years. And federal agencies could not award contracts to such companies unless the companies were able to “explain mitigating factors.”

Taylor said “the substance of the laws are still there” and Lambda would do everything it can to “make sure companies understand their obligation not to discriminate.”

© 2017 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

 

 

—  Tammye Nash

Robo-calling for hate (so we need to ask Jane Nelson to vote against SB 6)

This is the “cartoon” posted on the homepage of CRTXNews.com today, just so you get an idea what kind of website it is.

 

Dr. Steven Hotze

I just got word from a friend that, as hearings on Dan Patrick’s bathroom bill get underway before the Senate State Affairs Committee in Austin, robo-calls are going out from Houston GOP activist Dr. Steven Hotze encouraging constituents to call Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to urge her to vote for SB 6.

My source, who said he has gotten several calls at work since about 11 a.m., says the calls say encourage Nelson to support SB 6 “to keep men out of women’s restrooms.” He said the calls are going out under the guise of being from CRTXNews.com, “a Brietbart-esque bullshit website.” Hotze is listed as the website’s publisher.

Hotze, in case you are wondering, is the right-wingnut who in July 2015, announced the founding of “Real Marriage: One Man/One Woman for Life,” a group he said would campaign against the cultural influence of “homo-fascists.” He said the organization was necessary to fight same-sex marriage because the homosexuals “want to intimidate individuals, churches, schools and families to celebrate those that participate in anal sex. That’s what they love and enjoy: anal sex. And that’s bad, that’s evil. It’s a terrible thing to try to do and they want to try to teach it to kids in schools. Kids will be encouraged to practice sodomy in kindergarten.”

Hotze, founder of Hotze Health and Wellness Center in Houston, is a high-dollar GOP donor and a longtime conservative leader in the party.

So, maybe Sen. Nelson needs to hear from some folks about how SB 6 is nothing but hatefulness and discrimination and encouraging her to vote against it. Her number is 512-463-0112,

—  Tammye Nash

HEADS UP: TFN warns that CPS reform bills could include anti-LGBT discrimination

 

The Texas Freedom Network today warned that conservatives in the Texas House of Representatives are likely to try to amend bills aimed at reforming the states Child Protective Services agency to allow discrimination against LGBT foster and adoptive parents.

Ali Gorczynski, outreach and field coordinator for TFN, said that there is “a concerted effort behind the scenes to amend legislation reforming CPS with language that would permit discrimination against LGBT individuals in the state’s child welfare system,” and that HB 4 and HB 5, both scheduled for debate today, are being targeted.

According to a warning posted on the TFN website, “We understand there may be an effort to amend the bills to allow child welfare providers contracting with the state to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against LGBT families wishing to adopt or offer a foster home to a child in need.”

HB 4, authored by Mesquite Republican Rep. Cindy Burkett, would allow the Department of Family and Protective Services, “subject to the availability of funds, [to] enter into a caregiver assistance agreement with each relative or other designated caregiver to provide monetary assistance and additional support services to the caregiver,” based on the family’s need.

HB 5, authored by Wichita Falls Republican Rep. James Frank, would, in part, amend the Texas Family Code so that rules governing adoption decisions would fall under the purview of the Family and Protective Services commissioner, rather than the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission.

TFN urged Texans to “call your state representative and tell them to oppose any amendments permitting discrimination” as soon as possible.

“This effort is being masked as ‘religious freedom.’ But no matter what they call it, allowing faith-based child welfare providers that receive taxpayer funds to refuse to serve same-sex couples is discrimination. Let’s stop this before it goes any further,” Gorczynski wrote.

If you aren’t sure exactly who represents you in Austin, check here for names and contact information.

—  Tammye Nash

Paxton gets injunction allowing medical professionals to discriminate against transgender people

Texas AG Ken Paxton

Well, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton started off the new year in the same old homophobic vein, issuing a Jan. 1 press release crowing over a federal district court’s decision to issue an injunction against portions of the Affordable Care Act that prohibited health care professionals from discriminating against transgender people.

The regulation was set to go into effect on Sunday, Jan. 1.

Paxton filed suit against the regulation prohibiting discrimination against transgender individuals in some health programs back in August on behalf of Texas, two other states and the Franiciscan Alliance, a religious hospital network. The suit claims that the regulation redefines term “sex” to “thwart decades of settled precedent” and impose “massive new obligations” on health care providers.

Paxton and his cohorts argued that the rule violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act because by compelling religiously-affiliated health organizations to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by “forcing them to choose between federal funding and their livelihood as healthcare providers and their exercise of religion.”

Of course, folks who aren’t right-wing homo/transphobes have a different view of the regulation. As Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow told the Texas Tribune back in August, the regulation “doesn’t force an individual to do anything in particular” but instead clarifies that health care providers can’t deny services or insurance to someone because they’re transgender.

“The example unfortunately used by individuals who oppose this is that this is going to force doctors to provide transition surgeries to children [but] this doesn’t take away a doctor’s ability to make informed decisions in the best interest of their patients. What the doctor can’t do is say, ‘I won’t treat you because you’re transgender.’”

Paxton’s Jan. 1 press release announcing the injunction, claims that “Not only does it require taxpayers to fund all treatments designed to transition to a different sex, it also forces health care workers, including physicians, to provide controversial services. Under the new rule, a physician that believes that certain treatments are not in a patient’s best interests may be in violation of federal law. And a physician that, for religious or conscientious reasons cannot perform a particular procedure, chooses to instead refer a patient to another health care provider may also be determined to be in violation of this new rule.

The press release quotes Paxton as saying, “This striking example of federal overreach under Obamacare would force many doctors, hospitals and other health care providers in Texas to participate in sex-reassignment surgeries and treatments, even if it violates their best medical judgment or their religious beliefs. I will always fight to protect the constitutional rights of Texans.”

Unless, of course, it’s a constitutional right or a doctor’s “best medical judgment” he doesn’t agree with, like the right to marriage equality or reproductive decisions. And Kenny-boy is always going to fight “federal overreach,” but that doesn’t mean that he and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick can’t reach out and tell local school districts how to handle their business.

The injunction came from U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas, in Fort Worth. This is the same judge who issued the injunction against the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance on how school districts should treat transgender students (you know, not discriminate against them).

We’re not saying that Paxton and his cronies hand-picked O’Connor to hear these two cases regarding regulations banning discrimination against transgender people because they know he’s a right-winger who would rule in their favor — but then, we don’t need to say that because Law.com said it for us.

—  Tammye Nash

Out Tongan swimmer speaks his mind on outing, Daily Beast, Nico Hines

Fonua selfie

Selfie taken by Amini Fonua at Olympic dining hall.

Tonga is made up of 170 islands just west of the International Date Line, 3,200 miles east of Australia and 1,400 miles northeast of New Zealand. In Tonga, homosexuality is still illegal, with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. But that hasn’t stopped out Tongan swimmer Amini Fonua from speaking his mind.

NicoHines

Daily Beast reporter Nico Hines

When Nico Hines, a straight, married reporter from the Daily Beast, used Grindr to find out which Olympic athletes were gay and outed some who were from countries where the penalty could be death, Fonua took to Twitter and Instagram to call Hines out.

“Shame this inhumane CREEP who thought it’d be funny to endanger people’s lives in the village @NicoHines,” he wrote on Twitter.

He explained, “It is still illegal to be gay in Tonga, and while I’m strong enough to be me in front of the world, not everybody else is. Respect that.”

He had a number of other messages for Hines and others:

“No straight person will ever know the pain of revealing your truth, to take that away is just… I can’t. It literally brings me to tears,” Fonua wrote.

And: “Imagine the one space you can feel safe, the one space you’re able to be yourself, ruined by a straight person who thinks it’s all a joke?”

And this: “As an out gay athlete from a country that is still very homophobic, @thedailybeast ought to be ashamed #deplorable.”

The Daily Beast post has been removed.

Kudos to Fonua for standing up for LGBT athletes around the world. We’d like to think he learned to stand up to injustice in college. Fonua is a graduate of at Texas A&M University.

—  David Taffet

North Carolina has until Monday to repeal or lose millions

McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory

Department of Justice determines North Carolina’s HB2 violates the Civil Rights Act and Title IX. They want a determination by Monday, May 9.

HB2 is the law that requires transmen to use ladies rooms and transwomen to use a men’s room and stopped a Charlotte nondiscrimination law from going into effect.

Although the legislature passed the law in one day during a special session, the repeal legislation is going to drag through the current session. Leaders in the legislature said they will not meet the Justice Department’s Monday deadline.

In an interview with the Charlotte News & Observer, Gov. Pat McCrory said, “This is no longer just a North Carolina issue.”

He said every state is going to have to comply with a new definition of gender for locker room, shower and bathroom facilities. He called it Washington overreach and blamed Houston’s HERO law on creating the controversy.

The state is in danger of losing millions of federal dollars if it doesn’t repeal the law. Here’s the interview the Charlotte News & Observer did with McCrory:

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: HB2 repeal bill filed

McCrory.Pat

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

Missouri discrimination bill stalled in committee

MissouriCapitol

Missouri Capitol

A bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people in Missouri has stalled in committee, according to the Kansas City Star.

The bill would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that voters would decide in November.

While the story doesn’t refer to whats’s going on in North Carolina or Mississippi as a result of anti-LGBT discrimination bills passed in those states, boycotts by businesses and entertainers have taken their toll and are making lawmakers in other states wary of going down the same path.

Businesses around the state formed a group called Missouri Competes to denounce discriminatory legislation. In Texas, a group called Texas Competes formed more than a year ago but so far has fewer than 1,000 businesses signed on. Equality Texas President Steve Rudner said earlier this week the goal for Texas Competes is 2,000 businesses before the Texas legislature meets next year.

Missouri Competes kicked off with 100 companies including Google Fiber, Pfizer, MasterCard and Monsanto signing an anti-discrimination pledge.

Amendments to the bill would limit protections to churches and clergy, who are already protected under federal law, and remove religious protections for private companies.

—  David Taffet

Hate gays? Then put a lesbian on the cover of your tourism guide

Robin RobertsMississippi’s new tourism guide is out.

Come visit Mississippi, the state that signed into law a bill to prevent trans people from peeing and to allow religious people to not do business with you.

Hate gays that much? So who do you put on the cover? Your most famous local lesbian.

Lucky for her, she got out.

Oh, and how did the Family Research Council react to Paypal withdrawing its plan to expand in North Carolina and add 300 jobs to Charlotte’s economy. They encouraged people to boycott Paypal. Hopefully their followers did just that. No surprise, but to make a donation on FRC’s website, you did it through Paypal.

—  David Taffet