New report shows rise in support of nondiscrimination laws

PRRI-AVA-Nondiscrimination-laws-heat-map-640x532A new report released by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute shows seven in ten, or 71 percent, of Americans support LGBT nondiscrimination laws.

The survey, based on more than 42,000 interviews conducted between May 2015 and early January 2016, explores Americans’ attitudes on same-sex marriage, nondiscrimination laws for LGBT people, and religious exemptions to those laws.

“Despite the fact that there are 28 states that have no LGBT nondiscrimination laws, there is near consensus support–across partisan, religious, geographic, and demographic lines–for laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public accommodations,” said PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “Even among groups that are more opposed to same-sex marriage, solid majorities nonetheless favor LGBT nondiscrimination laws.”

Nearly six in ten, or 59 percent, of Americans oppose allowing small business owners to refuse to provide products or services to LGBT people if doing so violates their religious beliefs. But there are stark partisan divides. Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans to oppose such religious exemptions (74 percent vs. 40 percent, respectively).

“There is notably strong opposition to religiously-based refusals to serve gay and lesbian people among groups who have historically experienced discrimination,” said PRRI Research Director Dan Cox. “African Americans are one of the most religiously active groups in the country, but they are also strongly opposed to policies that would allow small business owners to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people on religious grounds.”

Currently, 33 states, including Texas, lack fully inclusive LGBT non-discrimination protections. Without statewide or federal protections, people at risk for being fired, denied a job or apartment, or refused service because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

In a statement, David Stacy, Government Affairs Director at the Human Rights Campaign, called on Congress to listen to the majority of Americans who believe in LBT nondiscrimination laws.

“It’s long past time for Congress to end a status quo where LGBT people remain at risk in a majority of states of being denied services or fired because of who they are or who they love,” Stacy said in a statement. “A majority of Americans agree, whether they are living in red states or blue. Americans across the country get it, and understand that everyone should be able to live free from fear of discrimination and be able to have a fair chance to earn a living and provide for their families, including people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,”

Last year, a bipartisan coalition introduced The Equality Act, which would establish protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in matters of employment, housing, access to public places, federal funding, credit, education and jury service. In addition, it would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in federal funding and access to public places.

Nine of Texas’ eleven Democrats have signed on sponsors or co-sponsors of the bill. They are Reps. Joaquin Castro, Lloyd Doggett, Al Green, Ruben Hinojosa, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Sheila Jackson Lee, Beto O’Rourke, Marc Veasey and Filemon Vela. Recently two Illinois Republicans, Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Bob Dold, became the first Republicans to co-sponsor the bill.

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Amendment to Indiana RFRA would include gender identity and sexual orientation

IndianaRepublican legislators in Indiana have proposed changes to the state’s controversial new Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would bar discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, the Associated Press reports.

The amendment would also bar discrimination by private businesses based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or United States military service.

The changes come amidst increasing vocal opposition to the state’s new law, signed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence.

But not all groups are happy.

Eric Miller, CEO of Advance America, a group that backs the current bill, denounced the move in a statement.

“The Indiana General Assembly should not destroy in less than 36 hours the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that took over 65 days to go through the legislative process earlier this year,” Miller stated. “The proposed change to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not a ‘fix’ but a hammer to destroy religious freedom for Hoosiers around the state – and it was all done behind closed doors!”

Miller added if the amendment passed, it would discriminate against “Christian bakers, florists and photographers [who] would no longer have the benefit of Indiana law to help protect them from being forced by the government to participate in a homosexual wedding.”

Others opposed it for different reasons.

“This bill reduces the threat but is far less than this situation requires. It recognizes there are problems, but does not fix it as LGBT Hoosiers and others urgently need. Now that there’s broad public understanding that gay and transgender people in much of Indiana are terribly vulnerable to arbitrary discrimination by businesses, refusal of housing, and being fired just for being who they are — and even Gov. Pence has agreed that that is wrong — that unacceptable situation requires a full solution,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, national director of Lambda Legal’s Law and Policy Project, in a statement.

Pizer was joined by the Human Rights Campaign and more than 70 CEOs of technology companies in calling for changing, or outright scrapping, the bill.

“Though this legislation is certainly a step back from the cliff, this fight is not over until every person in Indiana is fully equal under the law. At the federal level and in all 50 states, the time has come in this country for comprehensive legal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people that cannot be undermined,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement.

“If anything can be learned from the battle for fairness and equality in Indiana, Arkansas, and other states, it’s that LGBT people deserve to be protected from unjust discrimination,” said Max Levchin, CEO of Affirm, and the organizer of the joint statement with other CEOs. “We are proud to stand on the side of liberty and justice and call on all legislatures to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in non-discrimination protections. This will ensure that no one faces discrimination while everyone preserves their right to live out their faith.”

—  James Russell

2014 Black Tie Dinner: The Night in Photos

The Sheraton Dallas hotel was wall-to-wall Saturday night for the 33rd annual Black Tie Dinner, which raised funds for local beneficiaries and the Human Rights Campaign.

The event featured the presentation of the Kuchling Humanitarian Award to Mike Anglin, the Black Tie Media Award to Dale Hansen and the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award to attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, along with special appearances by NBA star Jason Collins and the Prop 8 plaintiffs.

Comedienne Dana Goldberg emcees the evening, which also featured entertainment by Alex Newell and Steve Grand.

Dallas Voice photographer Cassie Quinn captured the evening in photos:

—  Tammye Nash

Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth top Texas cities in HRC Municipal Equality Index

MEI-2014-map-650x375The Human Rights Campaign released its third annual Municipal Equality Index today (Wednesday, Nov. 12) assessing LGBT equality in 353 cities across the nation, including 22 in Texas, according to a press release from HRC.

The MEI, the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy, assesses cities on a one to 100 scale.

The average score for the 22 Texas cities is 28 out of 100 points, far below the national average of 59. Only Austin achieved a perfect 100 score. Dallas came in second with 91 points and Fort Worth third with 83 points.

San Antonio, El Paso and Houston earned scores of 72, 52 and 54 respectively, the only other cities to score more than 50 points.

Other surveyed Texas cities included Amarillo: 14,  Brownsville: 20, Corpus Christi: 16, Killeen: 10, Laredo: 2, Lubbock: 0, McAllen: 0, Pasadena: 10, Waco: 24.

The MEI rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories: Non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage, contracting non-discrimination requirements, and other policies relating to equal treatment of LGBT city employees, inclusiveness of city services, fair law enforcement practices and leadership on matters of equality.

Check out the full list here and this week’s edition of the Voice for comments from local leaders.

—  James Russell

Cruz, Gohmert among Texas officials inducted into HRC’s Hall of Shame

Louie GohmertIf you didn’t know already, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Louie Gohmert aren’t LGBT allies. Today HRC enshrined their anti-LGBT legacies in its inaugural Hall of Shame, recognizing a bipartisan group of legislators who rank poorly on their annual congressional scorecard.

The latest scorecard will be released Thurs., Oct. 9, on the HRC website here.

Joined by Cruz and Gohmert are 16 other members of the 113th Congress, including two additional Texans, Reps. Randy Neugebauer and Randy Weber. While there are a lot of anti-LGBT members in the Texas delegation and in Congress, HRC notes this list is not solely based on votes but clear vitriol and rhetoric lobbed at the LGBT community.

“HRC identified these elected officials … by looking at their voting records in this and previous Congresses, their introduction and co-sponsorships of anti-LGBT legislation and their public statements. These elected officials’ legislative actions, votes and anti-LGBT vitriol unfortunately marks them with a modern day scarlet letter,” said David Stacy, HRC’s Government Affairs Director in a statement. “Although Congress is beginning to catch up with the American people in supporting LGBT equality, Representative Gohmert [and Sen. Ted Cruz] record stands in stark contrast to the views of the majority of Americans,” Stacy added.

Gohmert is a vitriolic, right-wing lightning rod with a law degree representing a chunk of East Texas. HRC cited his colorful allusions of the LGBT community in explaining its choice. “Gohmert always has negative things to say about LGBT people.  Not content to falsely blame gay men for pedophilia, or state with certainty that same-sex marriage will lead to bestiality, his outrageous comparison this Congress was to compare LGBT advocates to Nazis.”

Gohmert recently passed on the opportunity to run in the GOP primary against incumbent Sen. John Cornyn. He didn’t, and instead Texas got to see his fellow Republican Rep. Steve Stockman crushed.

Cruz is a vitriolic, right-wing lightning rod with a law degree (hah, see that?) who was elected to the Senate in 2012 who is considering a presidential run. Stacy did not hesitate to ding the feisty Cruz. “[He] likes to stand out in a crowd.  As the author of the federal ‘State Marriage Defense Act’ introduced in February, he collaborated with his Texas colleague Rep. Randy Weber to make sure his same-sex married constituents would have no federal protections.  He is actively working to prevent marriage equality from becoming a reality for all Americans. Following the Supreme Court’s action on Monday to reject the appeals requests of five states with same-sex marriage bans ruled unconstitutional by lower courts, Senator Cruz announced he will introduce a constitutional amendment barring the federal government and the courts from overturning state marriage laws.”

Joining Gohmert, Neugebauer and Weber in the House are: 2012 GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachman (R-MN), Andy Harris (R-MD), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Walter Jones (R-NC), Mike Kelly (R- PA), Steve King (R-IA), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Steve Pearce (R-NM) and Tim Walberg (R-MI). Bachmann and McIntyre are not running for re-election.

Cruz is joined by Michael Enzi (R-WY), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Enzi, Inhofe and Sessions are all up for re-election this fall but are expected to cruise to re-election.

—  James Russell

W Hotel launches gay happy hour in support of HRC

Living Room BarThe W Hotel at Victory Park is weighing in on marriage equality, and — no surprise — is coming out in support. That’s worth raising a toast … which is exactly the plan.

Turn It Up for Change is a monthly happy hour on the first Sunday of each month for the next year, starting Oct. 5. Guests can enjoy craft cocktails and music from a rotating slate of DJs from 4–7 p.m. in the Living Room Bar, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Human Rights Campaign. Valet is even complimentary for the mixer. You can RSVP here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

HRC endorses ‘champion for equality’ Wendy Davis for governor


The nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, is endorsing state Sen. Wendy Davis in her gubernatorial bid, the organization announced Wednesday.

“Wendy Davis has been a champion for equality for all, whether it is the working poor or LGBT Texans,” HRC President Chad Griffin said. “Her dedication to the underdog and commitment to fairness for all Texas families make her the right choice for Governor.”

Davis has a proven record on LGBT issues in the state Legislature.

She authored the only LGBT-inclusive version of anti-bullying legislation in 2011. That same year she co-sponsored youth suicide prevention legislation and lobbied to kill an anti-transgender marriage bill.

Last year’s session was just as impressive with her co-authoring the Senate version of a statewide workplace nondiscrimination bill and co-authoring inclusive insurance nondiscrimination legislation. And when a different version of the anti-trans marriage bill came up, she was one of only two senators to vote against it.

HRC endorsed Davis because of her “stellar record on LGBT equality” and ” history of putting Texas’ families first,” compared to anti-gay Greg Abbott, her likely opponent in November.

“Wendy Davis’ energy and courage are needed in Austin,” said Julie Johnson, a Texas attorney and HRC board member emeritus. “I’m proud to be one of the tens of thousands of HRC members in Texas, and I know that Wendy will fight for all our families when elected. Wendy has proven herself an effective leader — and that’s exactly what the people of Texas need.”

But, surprisingly, she wasn’t connected to any of the three pieces of legislation dealing with marriage equality last year, HJR 77, HJR 78 and HB 1300. Davis has never made a public statement in support of marriage equality, and when asked by Dallas Voice during a press conference about how she would approach it as governor, she replied that she would leave it in the Legislature’s hands.

Since filing for governor, Davis has publicly applauded San Antonio’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Davis supported a similar ordinance in 2000 when she served on the Fort Worth City Council. But her campaign has since been silent on LGBT issues. Davis was a surprise speaker at HRC’s Black Tie Dinner in November, and she’ll be attending a Dallas LGBT fundraiser at a lesbian couple’s home this Friday, which is closed to media. Despite showing up at fundraisers and events where she appeals to LGBT voters, her campaign has refused several requests for an interview with Dallas Voice for the reason that she is too busy.

—  Dallasvoice

Austin, Fort Worth, San Antonio top Texas cities on HRC’s Municipal Index


This year’s Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index released Tuesday ranked 16 Texas cities, compared to seven last year.

Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio saw a score increase, while Arlington saw a 5-point decrease. Fort Worth, which ranked higher than Dallas last year, is again ahead of Dallas in the report. Dallas, however, saw a 9-point increase.

San Antonio received a score of 86, jumping from a 48 last year, despite the controversy this summer over a nondiscrimination ordinance.

Resource Center spokesman Rafael McDonnell said Grand Prairie’s score of 21 impressed him. He said the city’s leaders quietly adopted a nondiscrimination policy for city employees in 2008 and later implemented Dallas Independent School District’s LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policy in 2011.

“It shows that the quest for equality isn’t just a city of Dallas or a county or quasi-governmental issue,” he said. “There’s a lot of work that’s available to be done throughout the area.”

The report ranked 291 cities this year, compared to 137 cities last year, on a scale of 0 to 100, which reflects their commitment to LGBT equality.

For more on the 2013 MEI, see Friday’s paper.

Below is a list of Texas cities included in the report from highest to lowest score.

—  Dallasvoice

10% of LGBT workers have quit jobs due to non-inclusive work environment

Deena Fidas, deputy director of HRC’s Workplace Project, spoke about inclusive practices in the workplace Degrees of Equality Luncheon Workshop at Thanksgiving Tower Monday.

Deena Fidas, deputy director of HRC’s Workplace Project, spoke about inclusive practices in the workplace at a Degrees of Equality Luncheon Workshop at Thanksgiving Tower on Monday. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Ten percent of LGBT workers have left jobs because the work environment wasn’t inclusive, according to a new Human Rights Campaign study.

Deena Fidas, deputy director of HRC’s Workplace Project, spoke about the study’s unpublished results at a Degrees of Equality Luncheon Workshop at Thanksgiving Tower in downtown Dallas on Monday.

Fidas said the study was first done in 2009 where LGBT workers were asked about the workplace climate. That study showed that 51 percent of workers were closeted on the job.

The study was redone last year and its results will be made public in a couple of weeks, but Fidas gave a few of its findings at the luncheon. In addition to the 10 percent of workers who leave over the climate, she said one in four workers have stayed with a company because of an inclusive environment.

—  Dallasvoice

Dallas’ Cd Kirven played role in Supreme Court rally controversy

Cd Kirven at Supreme Court - High Res

Cd Kirven at Supreme Court (Photo courtesy Cd Kirven)

Dallas activist Cd Kirven says she played a role in the much-publicized controversy involving a transgender pride flag at a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court last month.

Kirven said that after an HRC staffer told transgender activists to remove a transgender pride flag from behind the podium,  she picked it up and tried to make sure it was in every camera shot.

On March 26, about 8,000 people rallied for marriage equality outside the Supreme Court while justices heard oral arguments in a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. The rally was organized by United for Marriage, a coalition of 180 groups, but Kirven, who was a scheduled speaker, said HRC was in control of the stage and the event. Kirven is a national board member for GetEQUAL.

Kirven said she had to submit her speech and got it back about 15 minutes before she was about to speak with sentences blacked out and words changed. She said she stumbled through parts of it because it wasn’t her words.

“They said I was too aggressive and dark,” Kirven said.

—  David Taffet