BREAKING: Dallas County Schools amends policies to protect LGBT employees, students

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Larry Duncan

Officials with Dallas County Schools have announced that DCS revised its policies today (Thursday, Aug. 29) to include protections for LGBT employees and students in its nondiscrimination policy.

The new rules apply to both DCS’ 3000 employees and to the 440,000-plus students it serves, officials said.

DCS is a pupil transportation provider that also provides student safety programs, technology solutions, online instructional services, psychology services and risk management solutions to schools throughout Texas.

Officials said the new policy takes “the broadest comprehensive approach” nu prohibiting “all discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, military status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information or on any other basis that is prohibited by applicable law and these policies.”

The policy also expressly prohibits retaliation against anyone who complains that they have suffered such discrimination.

DCS officials acknowledged that the policy is “not enforceable on employee health care and retirement benefits because DCS is bound by Texas law to the state Teachers Retirement System for both.”

DCS Board President Larry Duncan said, “We are committed to dealing with all our employees and students on a fair and equal basis. There are no excuses.”

DCS Trustee Omar Narvaez said that DCS had asked Lambda Legal to review its policies and procedures and make recommendations, and that all of Lambda Legal’s recommendations are included in the policy revisions.

“Today, we took a vital step forward in our continued commitment to creating an inclusive, safe and respectful workplace,” Narvaez said.

Duncan and Narvaez noted that DCS has had an anti-bullying policy on the same comprehensive basis since 2011.

 

—  Tammye Nash

Know Your Rights at Work

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Greg Nivens

As we get ready to celebrate the Labor Day weekend holiday, Lambda Legal is launching the newest section of its “Know Your Rights” information hub, this time focusing on workplace rights for LGBT and HIV-positive people.

Greg Nevins, a Lambda Legal counsel and Workplace Fairness Project strategist based in the agency’s Atlanta office. said that workplace issues continue to be a major concern among those who call Lambda Legal’s Legal Help Desk. The new Know Your Rights Workplace site “will help people advocate for themselves as well as assist them if issues arise,” Nivens said.

He said the hub will soon be mobile-friendly and translated into Spanish. It includes legal and advocacy guidance on a wide array of issues, including what to do if you experience discrimination, what laws protect you, HIV discrimination in the workplace, what to do if you are fired, gender identity discrimination. job searches, immigrant rights, good company policies, how unions can help and same-sex spousal and partner benefits.

This is Lambda Legal’s third Know Your Rights hub. The other two are Know Your Rights: Teens and Young Adults, and Know Your Rights: Transgender.

—  Tammye Nash

16 LGBT rights organizations express grief over Michael Brown death

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An undated photo of Michael Brown, an 18 year old black killed by a police officer, in Ferguson, Mo.

Sixteen LGBT organizations signed onto an open letter decrying the tragic murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18 year old black man killed by a police officer this week in Ferguson, Missouri. The accounts ofd the incident of the events, but it’s a sobering reminder, according to the August 12 letter, of the all too familiar experience of harassment and violence toward marginalized communities.

Among them are the Human Rights Campaign, Soulforce and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The 16 organizations denounced the brutality and called on “the national and local media to be responsible and steadfast in their coverage of this story and others like it — racialized killings that have marred this nation since the beginning of its history.” See a copy of the letter here.

The St. Louis suburb has been in turmoil following his death. Numerous leaders and organizations have called for investigations amidst the ongoing anger and violence sweeping the city. Attorney General Eric Holder said he has opened an investigation.

 

—  James Russell

Michele Bachmann: Gays want to legally marry multiple partners and rape children

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Michele Bachmann

Failed Republican presidential candidate and right-wing nutjob Michele Bachman was back at it this week, warning on the conservative Christian radio talk show “Faith and Liberty” that gays and lesbians are gaining ground in our efforts to enact hate speech laws that promote “tyranny” and intolerance of any dissenting points of view, to enact laws allowing polygamy and to abolish age of consent laws so that we can freely “prey on” children sexually.

Bachmann also proudly displayed her ignorance of history with this claim: “For all of the thousands of years of recorded human history, about 5,000 years, there is no instance of any culture, nation or tribe ever having as the established standard for marriage anything other than between man and woman. It may have been multiple women and a man, it may have been something like that, but it was always between men and women.”

Right Wing Watch has this audio clip of the interview:

—  Tammye Nash

New report calls marriage equality in Texas a “gold mine”

domareact_0627met001A report released by the LGBT think tank Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law estimates that legalized same-sex marriage in Texas would give new meaning to the phrase “Texas Miracle.”

According to the report, if same-sex marriage was legalized today, wedding planning would bring jobs, tourists and lots of cash.

Of the state’s 46,000 same-sex couples, 23,200 would marry over the next three years, the report estimates. That means:

• Total spending on wedding arrangements and tourism by resident same-sex couples and their guests would add an estimated $181.6 million to the state and local economy of Texas over the course of three years, with a $116.2 million boost in the first year alone.”

• This economic boost would add $14.8 million in sales tax revenue to state and local coffers.

• Spending related to same-sex couples’ wedding ceremonies and celebrations would generate 523 to 1,570 full- and part-time jobs in the state

The study follows a federal ruling in February striking down Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage.

You can read the full report here.

—  James Russell

San Antonio City Council appoints new interim mayor

ivytaylorThe San Antonio City Council appointed Councilwoman Ivy R. Taylor as its interim mayor today following Julian Castro’s resignation in the wake of his appointment as the new U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Taylor was one of the three “no” votes against amending the city’s non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to the San Antonio News-Express, she voted no over concerns that it would stifle religious freedom.

At her swearing in today, however, Taylor said she looks forward to working with the entire community.

Chuck Smith of Equality Texas said in a statement he looks forward to working with Taylor “to ensure that the equal opportunities envisioned by the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance (NDO) can become a reality for the 1.3 million people who make San Antonio their home.”

Taylor, who has been on the council since 2009, will be the city’s first African-American mayor. She will serve until the May 2015 elections and has said in the past she would not run for the open position.

—  James Russell

Vulture.com: Before visiting Texas, read this book

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If you’ve ever wondered what to read before visiting a state, Vulture.com, the online entertainment portal owned by New York Magazine, just made the list for you. In choosing 50 nonfiction books to read about 50 states, the website includes both national treasures like James Agee and Walker Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (Alabama), Zora Neale Hurston’s Dust Tracks on the Road (Florida) as well as some kitschier choices like Vice President Joe Biden’s Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics (Delaware).

Before even scrolling down, I assumed their choice would be kitschier, if not dismissive. (Think Rick Perry’s presidential manifesto Fed Up.)

Nope.

If you want to learn about Texas, Vulture.com suggests the groundbreaking Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by the late Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua, a well-known Chicana lesbian activist and writer born in the Rio Grande Valley. Released in 1987, the semi-autobiographical book challenges and explores, through poems and prose, concepts like borders and identity.

If you’re interested, the book is available at Amazon.com and if you’re lucky, your neighborhood library.

—  James Russell

Obama signs executive order banning discrimination

Barack ObamaPresident Barack Obama signed an executive order this morning barring federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law estimates that the order would protect nearly 34 million employees nationwide, or about one-fifth of the nation’s workforce.

A fact sheet provided by the White House cites wide-ranging public support for barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

You can read the full text of the order here.

Check out the video here:

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Obama will sign executive order banning discrimination

Barack ObamaPresident Obama announced today he will sign an executive order on Monday that bars federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The president said last month that he planned to sign the two orders.

The announcement follows the recent collapse of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — ENDA — in Congress. LGBT groups withdrew their support for the bill in opposition to its sweeping religious exemptions, which many feared would basically gut protections  following the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. The Huffington Post’s Gay Voices editor-at-large Michelangelo Signorile has more on the collapse here.

UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute’s research suggests that up to 34 million employees, or one fifth of the national workforce, will be included.

Senior White Officials noted that President Obama will not include exemptions for contractors based on their religious beliefs, as many activists initially feared. But he will keep intact an amendment signed by George W. Bush in 2002 allowing religiously affiliated contractors to discriminate on the basis of religion.

—  James Russell

Bipartisan bill would protect global LGBT rights

Rep. John Tierney introduced a bipartisan bill to protect LGBT people worldwide.

Rep. John Tierney introduced a bipartisan bill to protect LGBT people worldwide.

A bill recently introduced by a bipartisan group of representatives in Congress would protect and advance the global rights of LGBT people if passed.

Reps. John F. Tierney, D-M.A., Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., and Richard, R-N.Y., introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act Wednesday, July 16. Sen. Edward Markey, D-M.A., introduced the bill in the Senate on June 3.

If passed, the bill would direct the Department of State to prioritize protecting LGBT people worldwide. The bill would require the department to develop a strategy to promote and protect LGBT rights worldwide and also appoint a “Special Envoy on the Human Rights of LGBT People” to oversee the strategy.

According to American Jewish World Service, a chief proponent of the bill, 77 countries jail people for having same-sex relations. Five of those countries allow LGBT people to be put to death.

“Defending the rights of LGBT people worldwide is crucial, as many governments are passing punitive laws and sanctioning acts of hate against LGBT people,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. “As American Jews, we are members of a minority whose rights have been trampled in the past, and we understand fully that neither nor our government can stand by as the rights of vulnerable minorities are trampled in other parts of the world.”

—  James Russell