Villarreal again files Texas ENDA. Now where’s that City Council resolution?

State Rep. Mike Villarreal

State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, has again filed a bill that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Texas.

“An overwhelming majority of Texans believe that everyone should be judged on their capabilities and job performance,” Villarreal said in a press release sent out Monday by Equality Texas announcing the introduction of HB 238. “Hardworking, high-performing employees should not be fired just because they are gay or transgender.”

According to a 2010 Equality Texas poll, more than 70 percent of Texas voters support banning employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Villarreal has carried identical legislation in previous sessions, but the bill has never made it out of committee. Frankly, given a solid Republican majority in the House, its chances aren’t a whole hell of a lot better in 2013 — despite those poll numbers as well as an unprecedented recent endorsement from GOP Dallas Sen. John Carona.

And that’s extremely unfortunate, because the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, is also unlikely to pass the new Congress, meaning at least two more years during which LGBT Texans can be legally fired. Just. For. Being. LGBT.

“Most people incorrectly assume that it is already against the law to fire someone solely because they are gay or transgender,” Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said in the group’s release. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that there is no statewide law in Texas to prohibit someone from being unfairly fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance. HB 238 would help protect hardworking Texans from being unfairly fired.”

Three cities in Texas — Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth — prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, those city ordinances are widely regarded as toothless because they lack the force of state or federal law.

A few years ago, Fort Worth passed a resolution in support of a statewide ban on anti-LGBT job discrimination. The Dallas City Council has failed to do so — despite the fact that Mayor Mike Rawlings is purported to have been working on this issue — costing the city points in the Human Rights Campaign’s recent Municipal Equality Index.

—  John Wright

Study shows high rate of discrimination against transgender people in Texas

Mara Keisling

Transgender Texans generally face even higher levels of discrimination than transgender people nationwide, according to a state-level breakout from a national study conducted last year.

Equality Texas and the Transgender Education Network of Texas released the state-level figures Tuesday from the study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality. The full national study is available online, and results from the Texas study are below. The national study included 266 Texas respondents.

In Texas, transgender people faced higher rates of harassment and assault in school. Nationally, 78 percent reported being harassed, but in Texas 85 percent faced harassment. Physical assault was also higher in the state at 46 percent compared to 35 percent nationally. Sexual assault in school was comparable at 12 percent nationally and 9 percent in Texas.

Texas doesn’t have LGBT-inclusive employment nondiscrimination or anti-bullying laws. The state’s hate crimes law covers gays and lesbians but not transgender people.

Equality Texas called the rates of workplace discrimination in the state “alarming.” Chuck Smith, Equality Texas interim executive director, said the report graphically demonstrates the discrimination faced by transgender Texans.

“In our state, where the right of self-determination is so valued, it is unconscionable that anyone would be denied the ability to earn a living, to live where they choose or to be educated,” Smith said. “Equality Texas calls on the members of the Texas Legislature to join us in working to ensure that all Texans are given the ability to live as their authentic selves.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said some states have made a lot of progress toward ensuring safety, jobs and homes for transgender people. But she said “this research points out persistent gaps in the fair and equal treatment of transgender people.”

According to the report:

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Anti-gay Congressman Louie Gohmert calls ENDA part of Obama’s ‘war on religion’

Louie Gohmert

Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert told a conservative radio show Tuesday that he thinks ENDA is a continuation of the Obama administration’s “war on religion.”

Gohmert spoke with Today’s Issues host Tony Perkins, Family Research Council president, saying the federal legislation that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is “a part of this administration’s ongoing war on religion, on particularly Judeo-Christian values,” Right Wing Watch reports. FRC has been labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

A Senate committee began a hearing on ENDA on Tuesday.

Gohmert went on to criticize religious groups that accept homosexuality and also said that ENDA’s passage would require Christian schools to hire LGBT people, a misguided theory as religious institutions would be exempt from the bill. He said it would be “kind of tough to teach biblical principles in Romans 1 in a school if you are of the persuasion of being homosexual.”

From the video:

Perkins: Today, in the Senate they are having a hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act…. What this would do is give special employment benefits and protections based upon their sexual behavior and orientation. What do you see as the outcome of this? I mean, are you concerned increasingly that this is a way to essentially punish religious freedom in the business environment, in the business sector?

Gohmert: It continues to be part of this administration’s ongoing war on religion, on particularly Judeo-Christian values. But of course this is one that even is extremely contrary to the Muslim religion as well. I mean, Islam, Judaism, although there are plenty of people in Judaism and Christianity who think despite the plumbing that God created, that as the Iowa Supreme Court said, there is no biological evidence of a preference for a man and a woman being married as opposed to a man and a man.

Watch the clip below.

—  Dallasvoice

BREAKING: ExxonMobil shareholders again reject LGBT employment protections (with photos)

ExxonMobil shareholders have again voted down a proposal to add gay and transgender employees to the Irving-based corporation’s nondiscrimination policy.

Meeting at the Meyerson Symphony Center in the Dallas Arts District, the ExxonMobil shareholders voted 80 percent to 20 percent Wednesday morning against a resolution asking the corporation to amend “its written equal employment opportunity policy to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to substantially implement the policy.”

The proposal has been introduced each year since Mobil and Exxon merged in 1999. The highest level of support came in 2008 at nearly 40 percent.

“It’s disappointing, but this isn’t the end of the issue for us,” said Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell, who has lobbied the company on the issue. “We’re going to continue to reach out and engage them. … I think the White House needs to go back and revisit this executive order.”

The proposed executive order would require contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies if they do business with the federal government, which Exxon does. However, President Barack Obama’s administration indicated earlier this year that he doesn’t plan to sign the proposed order anytime soon.

Mobil was one of the first companies in the world to include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy and offer benefits to the same-sex partners of gay employees. But ExxonMobil rescinded those policies after the merger.

Outside the meeting, dozens of protesters lined Flora Street in front of the Meyerson on Wednesday. About 50 people with organizations including Code Pink, United Steel Workers and Occupy Dallas joined GetEQUAL protesters to shout for equality and ending discrimination, while a handful of protesters parodied the CEOs that make the choices and profit from ExxonMobil.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, who helped organized the protest, said he wouldn’t be surprised by the vote regardless of the result.

“The people that are against it seem very against it. The people who are for it really done a good job of pushing it this year,” he said. “We’ve got a better shot than in the past.”

As for Exxon not voting in favor of adding the protections in the past, Cates said the company had not learned to change and be more inclusive, which would ultimately hurt business.

“They clinging to antiquated business practices,” he said. “It’s a matter of really learning that this is good for business.”

This year, the resolution was initiated by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who wants the company to not only amend the nondiscrimination policy, but also to begin offering health benefits to the spouses of employees married in the Empire State.

The comptroller controls the state’s pension funds. As of May 18, New York’s pension fund held more than 16 million shares of ExxonMobil worth more than $1 billion.

ExxonMobil has called the measure unnecessary. It says the company is a “meritocracy” for its 82,000 workers worldwide, and that it already prohibits all forms of discrimination.

This is also the first year ExxonMobil appealed to the Securities and Exchange Commission to have the shareholder resolution thrown out. The company based its claim on a nondiscrimination statement in its Corporate Careers publication.

The SEC refused to allow ExxonMobil to throw out the resolution, saying the publication doesn’t have the weight of a corporate nondiscrimination policy.

Meanwhile, ExxonMobil maintains the lowest possible rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, with a minus-25.

In response to Wednesday’s vote, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement noting that as of 2012, 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their EEO policy and 50 percent include gender identity.

“The shareholder resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity to ExxonMobil’s EEO policy was a non-binding referendum and the company still has the chance to do the right thing,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “As perhaps the largest corporation in the country, ExxonMobil has a responsibility to be a good corporate citizen; sadly they have fallen far short. The company has resisted offering basic employment protections for their LGBT workers for years and it’s time they treat all of their employees like the valuable assets they are.”

—  John Wright

NYT allows Republican to twist debate over nondiscrimination for federal contractors

Linda Chavez

The New York Times ran an editorial today by Linda Chavez, a Reagan White House adviser. In it, she praised President Barack Obama for not signing an executive order that would prevent employment discrimination by federal contractors.

With the Employment Non-Discriminiation Act stalled in Congress, LGBT rights leaders have been pressing the White House to issue an executive order that would require federal contractors to have nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Chavez misrepresents the executive order. She wrote:

When it comes to granting gays special preference, however, such as in the awarding of government contracts, most people draw the line.

Gays would not be granted preference. The executive order LGBT organizations want Obama to sign is about companies having nondiscrimination policies. It is not about the federal government adding quotas or requiring a certain number of contracts be written with LGBT companies.

She continues:

Anyone who has studied the issue of racial, ethnic and gender preferences in government contracting knows that such executive orders go far beyond simple nondiscrimination. Their purpose is to encourage preferences for certain underrepresented groups.

And concludes with this piece that sums up her totally irrelevant editorial:

There is little evidence that gays are being denied the right to compete fairly for government contracts now — and no reason to give them special preference.

No one has suggested anything like this. No one in the LGBT community wants the billion dollars of federal money that has gone to Exxon in the past few years to go to a gay-owned oil company. The LGBT community simply wants Exxon to stop discriminating against its own employees.

The Washington Post got it right on the executive order. Fox News simply ignored the issue. Does the New York Times suddenly feel the need to be so “fair and balanced” that it allows its editorial writers to lie?

—  David Taffet

Poll shows majority believe trans people should have equal rights

Encouraging poll results published Wednesday, Nov. 3, on the Public Religion Research Institute‘s website indicate that more than two-thirds of Americans are able to adequately explain what transgender means, and that an “overwhelming majority” of Americans across the political and religious spectrum believe that transgender people should have the same legal rights and protections as anyone else.

What’s unfortunate, however, is that results of a poll published back in June by the Center for American Progress shows most Americans already think there is a federal law giving transgender — and LGB — people protections against discrimination in the workplace. I say it’s unfortunate because as long as they think LGBTs have federal protections against workplace discrimination, they don’t see any reason to push for passage of such protections either at the federal or the state levels.

The Center for American Progress poll, conducted in the first two weeks of April, showed that 73 percent of the likely 2012 voters who were asked believe that LGBT people should be federally protected against workplace discrimination. It’s nice to see the Ts included with the LGBs in that data, since transgenders have previously been left out of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act legislation that has been considered (though not passed) by Congress.

The Ts keep getting left out because supporters of the bill think that including them will somehow torpedo the chances for getting protections for the LGBs. It’s been a “Well, let’s get what we can now for everybody else then come back later and pick up the Ts” situation. Funny thing though, those who would have voted against the bill if it had included transgenders voted against it anyway because it included lesbians and gays.

—  admin

BUSINESS BRIEFS: AA endorses ENDA, Allstate recognizes Long

AA endorses ENDA

FORT WORTH — American Airlines has again advocated the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The airline supported the bill in 2008 and 2009 in correspondence with congressional leaders. In its current letter of endorsement, American Airlines wrote:

“On behalf of our 80,000 employees, American Airlines is proud to express our strong support for S. 811 and H.R. 1397, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend basic job protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. We are proud to have been the first major airline to implement same-sex domestic partner benefits, first to implement both sexual orientation and gender identity in our workplace non-discrimination policies, and first to have a recognized LGBT employee resource group — GLEAM.

“Our endorsement of ENDA is consistent with our longstanding ‘Statement of Equal Opportunity.’ The principles fostered by ENDA are consistent with our corporate principles in treating all employees with fairness and respect.”

Allstate recognizes Long

Allstate Insurance Company has recognized Alex Long, one of its gay agency owners, with the Chairman’s Award for high standards in customer satisfaction, customer retention and financial services sales.

Alex Long Agency is one of about 14 percent of Allstate agency owners and personal financial representatives in Texas to reach this level of achievement.

Long participates in the Lone Star Ride, is a member of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce and volunteers with Resource Center Dallas. His agency is at 2700 N. O’Connor Road in Irving.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Rick Perry deluded; Okla. sees big jump in gay couples; American backs ENDA

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Gov. Rick Perry is apparently operating under the delusion that he’s a minister and the state of Texas is his church, according to the transcript of a speech Perry made to East Texas business leaders in May to raise money for his “day of prayer and fasting” in Houston on Aug. 6. “At 27 years old, I knew that I had been called to the ministry,” Perry said, according to the transcript obtained by the Houston Chronicle. “I’ve just always been really stunned by how big a pulpit I was gonna have. I still am. I truly believe with all my heart that God has put me in this place at this time to do his will.”

2. New Census data released today shows a big increase in the number of same-sex couples in Oklahoma. Anti-gay State Rep. Sally Kern says she isn’t surprised but finds the situation “regrettable”: “I think the influence of the church plays a factor here, we have more churches today … that are saying homosexuality does not go against biblical truth,” Kern said. “Another factor is homosexuality is being taught in our schools as a normal and acceptable lifestyle, so when that happens, you are going to have more young people coming out of school who have a more favorable attitude towards homosexuality.”

3. Fort Worth-based American Airlines has again expressed support for the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban workplace discrimination against LGBT people. In a letter to members of Congress, the airline writes: “On behalf of our 80,000 employees, American Airlines is proud to express our strong support for S. 811 and H.R. 1397, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend basic job protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. We are proud to have been the first major airline to implement same-sex domestic partner benefits, first to implement both sexual orientation and gender identity in our workplace non-discrimination policies, and first to have a recognized LGBT employee resource group – GLEAM. Our endorsement of ENDA is consistent with our longstanding ‘Statement of Equal Opportunity.’ The principles fostered by ENDA are consistent with our corporate principles in treating all employees with fairness and respect.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gay Marine from N. Texas reacts to court’s order halting DADT enforcement

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. In the wake of Wednesday’s order from a federal appeals court halting enforcmeent of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” we checked in with a gay active-duty Marine from North Texas whom we profiled last year to see what the development means to him. Here’s what he said:

“I was VERY happy to hear that. I’m not really sure about what will happen next. I hope that the president and justice department will leave it at this and not push it to the Supreme Court. This law has gone on entirely too long already. Why keep something hanging on by a thread that we know is so close to being over? It wouldn’t make any sense. But like I said before, I will not be satisfied until there is a full repeal. I have came out to most people in my unit. So I don’t think there will be too much of a change for me except that I won’t have the thought of discharge lingering over my head, and I won’t have to hide my partner (he isn’t currently open with his unit).”

2. New York City will open clerk’s offices in all five boroughs on a Sunday — July 24 — so same-sex couples can marry on the first day it’s legal, The New York Times reports. We kept waiting for the quote from some tea party homophobe about wasting tax dollars and defiling the Lord’s Day, but it never came.

3. Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill prohibiting workplace discrimination based on gender identity and expression on Wednesday, making Connecticut the 15th state to do so, Raw Story reports. As you can see from the map below, Texas remains one of about 30 states where you can still be legally fired for being gay or transgender. And let’s face it, that will never change until the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act is passed. Speaking of which, where the hell is ENDA?

—  John Wright

LISTEN: Gov. Beebe tells Stonewall Dems that Arkansas shouldn’t recognize their relationships

 

Gov. Mike Beebe became the first governor of Arkansas to address an LGBT group on Tuesday night, speaking to the Stonewall Democratic Caucus of Arkansas. Audio of Beebe’s speech is above.

Gov. Mike Beebe

On the question of relationship recognition, Beebe told the group he isn’t in favor of same-sex marriage or civil unions for Arkansas. Stonewall Arkansas President Eric McDaniel thanked the governor for his honesty.

The governor said he doesn’t believe employers should discirminatio based on sexual orientation, but he stopped short of endorsing a state law prohibiting it.

Someone also asked about a recent case of a family listing a same-sex partner in an obituary in an Arkansas newspaper. The paper removed the partner’s name before printing it. Beebe said he didn’t think a newspaper should be forced to print the name of a partner, even though obituaries in daily newspapers are paid advertisements.

It’s interesting to look at how news outlets in Arkansas treated Beebe’s speech in their headlines. The NPR affiliate referred to the governor speaking to a gay group. The more conservative newspapers touted the governor’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

—  David Taffet