Lambda Legal, ACLU to sue N.C. over discriminatory law

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North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, left, and Georgia Gov. Nathan Dean

Lisa Keen | Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

Lambda Legal and the ACLU announced Monday they are filing a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of a law passed by North Carolina last week to prevent local governments from protecting LGBT people against discrimination.

The announcement came the same day that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced that he will veto House Bill 757, a so-called “religious freedom bill” passed earlier this month by the Georgia Assembly. HB 757 would have allowed religious officials to refuse to perform “marriage ceremonies in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion.”

The North Carolina law also prohibits transgender people from using a public restroom for the gender they are living, is one of two anti-gay measures under consideration by several other states.

The state’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, on March 23 signed the two-punch law that effectively bars transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender identity and bars any local government from having an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Kansas’ Republican Gov. Sam Brownback on March 22 signed a bill that prohibits colleges and universities from denying to any “religious student association” any benefit available to other student groups because the religious group requires members to “comply with the association’s sincerely held religious beliefs” and “standards of conduct.”

The North Carolina law drew the most media attention and response, going to a new extreme to limit the civil rights of LGBT people. The National Basketball Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association have both issued statements saying the state’s new law might prompt them to withdraw upcoming major events from Charlotte. Carolina’s National Hockey League team issued a statement saying it is “devoted to providing a welcoming and respectful environment for all fans.”

American Airlines, which has a hub in Charlotte, said, “Laws that allow such discrimination go against our fundamental belief of equality and are bad for the economies of the states in which they are enacted.” Even the mayor of San Francisco has banned city employees from any publicly funded travel to North Carolina on city business.

Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and Equality North Carolina issued a press release Sunday night, March 27,saying they would challenge the law in federal court.

The Carolina law requires that all public schools facilities have bathrooms or changing facilities “designated for and used only by students based on their biological sex.” Biological sex is defined by what gender is indicated on a person’s birth certificate.

It also declares that state law concerning “discriminatory practices” will “supersede and pre-empt any ordinance” or regulation of any local government. North Carolina state law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“This outrageous new law not only strips away the ability of local jurisdictions to protect LGBT people from discrimination, but it goes further and targets transgender students who deserve to be treated equally at school — not harassed and excluded,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.

McCrory allowed the state legislature to hold a special session just to consider the measure, aimed specifically at an ordinance approved by the Charlotte City Council in February. The city sought to prohibit discrimination based on their gender identity. But the new state law, “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act,” prohibits any local government from passing non-discrimination ordinances.

HRC said legislators had only five minutes to review the bill before voting on it and that Democrats in the Senate walked out, rather than vote on the measure.

In a statement released Wednesday, McCrory called Charlotte’s ordinance a “radical breach of trust and security under the false argument of equal access” and said it endangered the “basic expectation of privacy in the most personal of settings, a restroom or locker room.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said 76 percent of transgender people do not have an updated birth certificate. Jenny Pizer, law and policy director for Lambda Legal, said the law makes it impossible for transgender people to stay in school, hold jobs or access public services because “as a practical and safety matter” they are barred from using bathroom facilities.

The legislature’s debate echoed remarks heard frequently during the recent battle over a non-discrimination ordinance in Houston, where a referendum overturned the city’s non-discrimination law, HERO, which prohibited numerous categories of discrimination, including race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

But in Houston, the referendum simply repealed the ordinance. In North Carolina, the new law repeals all existing local ordinances that prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination and forecloses any future local ordinances.

According to HRC, North Carolina is the first state “to enact such a law attacking transgender students.” Kansas is bucking to be next. Kansas legislators on March 16 introduced bills to the House and Senate that call for all public schools to label restrooms by gender and enables students who encounter “a person of the opposite sex” in their restroom or locker to sue the school for $2,500 for “each instance” and monetary damages for “all psychological, emotional, and physical harm suffered.”

Earlier this month, South Dakota’s Republican governor, Dennis Daugaard, vetoed a bill similar to North Carolina’s, though it required transgender people to use “single-occupancy” restrooms or locker rooms.

But a number of states are still considering such legislation. The Illinois legislature has a similar bill pending before a House committee. Other states considering laws relating to gender identity and/or religious justifications for discrimination against LGBT people include Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Washington and Wisconsin.

Two bills seeking to limit use of public bathrooms by transgender people failed in the Virginia legislature last month, including one that sought to fine students $50 if they used the wrong bathroom.

Similar bills died in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Massachusetts is considering a pro-trans bill; to provide “equal access to public places regardless of gender identity.”

© 2016 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  David Taffet

Georgia gov vetoes discriminatory bill and Lambda Legal sues North Carolina

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Gov. Nathan Deal

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a discriminatory “religious protection” bill that’s been sitting on his desk for several weeks after passing both houses of the Georgia legislature.

“This is about the character of our state and our people,” Deal said. “Georgia is a welcoming state full of kind and generous people.”

Well, actually it was about money. The state’s major corporations — OK, not Chik-fil-A — but the state’s other major corporations and employers threatened to pull business from the state. Disney, for example, which does quite a bit of filming in the state, said it would move production elsewhere.

“Our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to,” Deal said according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.”

North Carolina

Lambda Legal is representing Equality North Carolina in a suit against that state’s new anti-LGBT law, House Bill 2, signed by Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this month.

Lambda Legal represents Joaquín Carcaño and Payton Grey McGarry, who are trans, and a lesbian named Angela Gilmore.

“This outrageous new law targets them for no reason other than prejudice and puts them at risk every day for simply living their lives — for going to work and school,” Lambda Legal Legal Director Jon Davidson wrote in a press release. “Let’s be clear: HB2 violates the constitution and federal law.”

Once this gets to the Supreme Court, the discriminatory law will be thrown out and the LGBT community will be given more rights than the North Carolina legislature ever thought of taking away. That will take several years. In the mean time, I reached out to Lambda Legal to find out if they’ll be filing an injunction preventing the law from going into effect while the lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

—  David Taffet

Telecom company threatens to leave Georgia after state senate passes anti-gay bill

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373K Co-Founder Kelvin Williams

Bigotry hurts. Georgia is about to find out how much.

373K Inc., a Decatur, Ga.-based telecom company announced plans, via Twitter, to leave the state after the Georgia Senate passed the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act,” which would give special legal protections to both individuals and corporations — including taxpayer-funded non-profits — who claim they have a sincerely held religious belief that prohibits them from serving LGBT people or same-sex couples, according to NewCivilRightsMovement.com.

Legal experts have already said the legislation is probably unconstitutional. But it still passed the Senate by a huge majority, 38-14. The House has already passed an earlier version of the Senate bill will likely approve the Senate’s version this week. GOP Gov. Nathan Deal hasn’t said whether he will sign it, but he is expected to.

In a Twitter post on Friday, Feb. 19, 373K declared: “We are very saddened by the Georgia Senate which passed #HB757, also known as #FADA. It’s time to relocate.”

373K Co-founder Kelvin Williams has since says he and the company stand by that message. Williams told New Civil Rights Movement on Saturday, Feb. 20, “I’m gay, our CFO is gay, we have people from every walk of life working here. I’ve got Muslims, Buddhists, atheists here. We’ve got great Christians working for us. They’ve never thought of not serving anyone — that’s not the message of Christ. We don’t tolerate that crap [discrimination].”

Williams has called on other companies in Georgia to also speak out against the legislation, including the 130-year-old, $44 billion Coca-Cola Company, which is based in Atlanta.

Hundreds of top corporations that do business in Georgia have already spoken out by signing the Georgia Prospers pledge, which declares a commitment to creating “workplaces and communities that are diverse and welcoming for all people, no matter one’s race, sex, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

Watch the video below as Georgia Sen. Emanuel Jones, a black man, ask the bill’s white author, Sen. Greg Kirk, whether the legislation would also protect the KKK. Kirk acknowledges that it probably would, and admits that he has no problem with that:

—  Tammye Nash

This week in marriage equality: Republicans are all over the place

Marriage-Equality-Bumper-Sticker-(7423)A Republican Senate candidate in Oregon supports marriage equality, Georgia’s Republican attorney general wants to avoid it while Indiana’s Attorney General wants it figured out already.

OREGON:

Oregon Republican Senate Candidate Monica Wehby released a TV ad declaring her support for marriage equality. She is the only Republican Senate candidate this cycle to declare her support for marriage equality. She is running against the pro-LGBT equality incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley (D). Should she be elected to the Senate, she would join four other Republicans senators in supporting marriage equality. The incumbent has consistently lead Wehby in the polls. Watch the video here.

GEORGIA:

Down south, Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olen has asked that Inniss v. Aderhold, which challenges Georgia’s ban on marriage equality, be dismissed. Lambda Legal, which brought the suit, responded in a brief: “Our democracy functions and prevails because we promise liberty and equality for all. Our judiciary exists to enforce that promise. Plaintiffs turn to this Court to vindicate their families’ rights to liberty and equality.” Read the whole response here.

INDIANA:

Indiana’s Attorney General Greg Zoeller is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state’s marriage equality ban, Baskin v. Bogan, also filed by Lambda Legal.“Only the highest court in the country can provide the secure relief that same-sex couples and their children need, and it’s extremely important that these families are able to count on the protections of marriage as soon as possible,” said Paul Castillo, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal.

—  James Russell

Texas defies defense secretary’s order to register same-sex partners

Chuck Hagel

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

After Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered national guards in all states to register same-sex partners of military personnel for identification cards, three states including Texas continue to defy the federal government.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin responded by telling Hagel and President Barack Obama to “stop using the National Guard as a pawn in a larger social agenda.”

When the Department of Defense decided same-sex spouses would receive all of the same benefits as opposite-sex spouses in September, Texas refused to register same-sex partners and directed them to federal facilities. Eight other states followed Texas’ lead.

“Unfortunately, officials from at least three states, including Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia, have so far responded with open and blatant defiance of his [Hagel] order and have stated their intention to continue discriminating against gay and lesbian couples serving in the national guard,” said Stephen Peters, president of American Military Partner Association.

Oklahoma state Sen. Al McCaffrey was in Dallas over the weekend for the Black Tie Dinner. He suggested a way to get his state to comply was to threaten to pull equipment out of the state. While the National Guard is run by the state, most of the equipment it uses, including tanks, planes, guns and even the computer used to register military partners belongs to the federal government, he said.

—  David Taffet

Georgia governor is too homophobic to use the word ‘homophobia’

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Nathan Deal

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is taking a page right out of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ For-You-But-Against-You book.

That’s right, Dallas may have the mayor who supports marriage equality yet somehow doesn’t, but Georgia can now rightfully stake its claim to the governor who’s too homophobic to use the word “homophobia.”

The Georgia Voice reports that Deal has issued a proclamation requested by organizers of the International Day Against Homophobia — but only after sanitizing it into “Mistreatment Awareness Day.”

This has prompted activists to launch a Change.org petition calling for Deal to call IDAHO by its name:

In Georgia, well-known activist Betty Couvertier has been the IDAHO organizer for the last four years. For the second year in a row, Governor Nathan Deal’s office has issued a proclamation per Betty’s request to recognize the annual Atlanta and Georgia-wide events. Herein lies the problem – the Governor’s office refuses to officially address a day against homophobia, instead issuing the vague recognition of “Mistreatment Awareness Day,” as they did last year.

By sanitizing the word “homophobia,” Governor Deal’s office has quite literally engaged in it, by refusing to address the specific concerns of Georgia’s LGBTQ citizens. The Georgia House of Representatives recognizes the importance of this event by issuing a correct proclamation, as should the Office of the Governor.

Please join us in petitioning Governor Deal’s office to immediatley reissue a proclamation for “International Day Against Homophobia” as it was originally requested. To issue a proclamation as anything else, is to do disservice to the very purpose of IDAHO events, and feed the homophobia worldwide organizers seek to advocate against.

The petition also calls for Deal to “mail the official proclamation in an appropriate certificate envelope, to ensure it does not arrive a second time folded and tattered, signifying diminished value by the Governor’s office.”

Sign it by going here.

And by the way, if anyone wants to start petition on Rawlings, we’ll be glad to post it as well.

—  John Wright

Remembering John Lawrence, the man behind Lawrence v. Texas

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John Lawrence and Tyrone Gardner

Metro Weekly reports that one-time Houstonian John Geddes Lawrence, the “Lawrence” in Lawrence v. Texas, passed away last month at the age of 68:

“In the facts underlying the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested under Texas’s Homosexual Conduct Law after police entered Lawrence’s home on Sept. 17, 1998, and saw them “engaging in a sexual act.” The couple challenged the law as unconstitutional”

I was 22 and living in Dallas in 2003 when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lawrence declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional. A group of over 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Resource Center of Dallas as Dennis Coleman, then with Lambda Legal, read excerpts of the decision. I remember the exuberant electricity in the air, the crowd bubbling with joy and the relief of centuries of official oppression finally coming to an end. Similar get-togethers took place across the state, as an entire community breathing a collective sigh of relief.

That relief has turn to frustration over the years. Although the Supreme Court decision rendered Penal Code Section 21.06 unconstitutional, the law remains on the books, and efforts to remove it have met with significant resistance. During a hearing this spring on finally removing the unconstitutional law, Rep. Jose Aliseda, R – Pleasanton, lamented that repeal of the law would entail removing portions of the Health Code requiring that HIV education efforts include information that “homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.”

Before Lawrence several attempts were made to remove the law against “homosexual conduct.” The Texas legislature voted to remove it from the penal code as part of a complete rewrite of the code in 1971, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Preston Smith. In 1973 the Legislature again undertook a rewrite of the code, keeping “homosexual conduct” a crime but making it a class C misdemeanor. In 1981 a U.S. District Court ruled in Baker v. Wade that the law was unconstitutional, but as that case was winding its way through an unusually torturous appeals process the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that a similar law in Georgia was constitutional, making the questions in Baker moot. Similarly, in the 90’s there was hope that Texas v. Morales might finally prevail in defeating the “homosexual conduct” prohibition, but the Texas Supreme Court decided that since, in their opinion, the law was rarely enforced, there was no reason for them to rule in the matter.

Lawrence’s legacy lives on in a scholarship named after him and Garner administered by the Houston GLBT Community Center. The scholarship “recognizes outstanding leadership shown by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Texas high school seniors and college
students by contributing to the cost of their continuing education. Selection is based upon character and need.” Tim Brookover, president of the community center, expressed sorrow at Lawrence’s passing “John was a hero, the community owes a great debt of gratitude to John and Tyrone for taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Brookover. “They could have easily allowed it to slip away, but they decided to stay and fight and that makes them heroes and role models.”

The application deadline for the John Lawrence/Tyrone Gardner Scholarship is March 2, 2012.

—  admin

Georgia: Megachurch pastor comes out of the closet

And he was married for 21 years and has children, but he decided to come clean after the rash of very public gay teen suicides. (WSBTV.com):

The pastor of a Rockdale County megachurch has publicly announced he is gay. Jim Swilley, bishop of Conyers’ Church in the Now, said he hopes his coming out will change attitudes toward homosexuality.

“I know a lot of straight people think it is a choice. It is not,” Swilley told Channel 2’s Diana Davis. I think some women marry gay men because they really think they can change them,” Swilley said.

He says he’s received support from many in his congregation, but at least one conservative Christian blog has called him sick, twisted, unclean and an instrument of the devil.

“I know all the hateful stuff that’s being written about me online, whatever,” Swilley said. “To think about saving a teenager yeah, I’ll risk my reputation for that.”

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

GEORGIA: Megachurch Pastor Comes Out

The pastor of a massive Georgia church has come out, saying the recent rash of gay teen suicides made it impossible to continue living a lie.

Jim Swilley, 52, founded Rockdale County’s Church in the Now 25 years ago. His wife, Debye, was the associate pastor, and together they had four children. Swilley says he’s known that he’s gay since he was a boy, and his wife knew when they got married. Jim and Debye are now divorced, but they kept his secret for more than 21 years. Earlier this year, Swilley says, Debye told him she thought it was time he stop living a lie. Swilley says he decided she was right after reading stories about kids being harassed by antigay bullies and committing suicide.

The below news story notes that some Christian websites and blogs are condemning Swilley, calling him “sick, twisted, and a tool of Satan.”

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Tragedy waiting to happen? Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, and Virginia allow loaded guns in bars

Looking at the states in question, perhaps we should not be surprised, but seriously, how is this a good idea ANYWHERE in this gun-loving, hair-trigger temper, liquored-up society? (NYT):

Happy-hour beers were going for at Past Perfect, a cavernous bar just off this city’s strip of honky-tonks and tourist shops when Adam Ringenberg walked in with a loaded 9-millimeter pistol in the front pocket of his gray slacks.

Mr. Ringenberg, a technology consultant, is one of the state’s nearly 300,000 handgun permit holders who have recently seen their rights greatly expanded by a new law – one of the nation’s first – that allows them to carry loaded firearms into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

…The new measures in Tennessee and the three other states come after two landmark Supreme Court rulings that citizens have an individual right – not just in connection with a well-regulated militia – to keep a loaded handgun for home defense.

…State Representative Curry Todd, a Republican who first introduced the guns-in-bars bill here, said that carrying a gun inside a tavern was never the law’s primary intention. Rather, he said, the law lets people defend themselves while walking to and from restaurants.

The purported mitigating factor here is the gun-toter cannot drink alcohol in the establishment. If these laws are challenged in states with big urban city centers and gun restrictions fall by the wayside, you can imagine the chaos that will ensue.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright