Mark Schauer Supports the Issues That Matter to LGBT Americans

The following comes from HRC Associate Director of Membership Operations, Jason Lott. Jason is just one of 30 HRC staff that will be on the ground in 16 states by Election Day, working with HRC-endorsed candidates and engaging our membership about the upcoming elections:

I just returned from a fantastic trip to Jackson, Michigan, where I was deployed to engage our membership for the upcoming fall elections. While out, I had the opportunity to talk with our members each day, making sure that they had everything that they needed for Election Day, and filling them in on HRC-endorsed candidates. My trip was a lot of hard work, but it is always worth it to be able to talk to our membership around the country to hear first hand the stories of LGBT Americans and our straight allies.

The election in Michigan’s 7th District is an important one. Tim Walberg has proven himself to be a complete opponent of equal rights for LGBT Americans. That is one of the reasons why I have joined volunteers in Michigan to support Mark Schauer. Schauer has been a strong supporter of LGBT rights – He voted for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the House, he voted for the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and he was a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Michigan voters want pro-equality candidates like Schauer representing them in Washington.

To me, the most memorable part of the experience was an afternoon conversation that I shared with a fellow volunteer. Having overheard me speaking of HRC during one of my phone conversations, a young man working on the campaign came over and struck up a conversation with me about HRC. During our conversation, he was excited about meeting someone from our organization and was eager to show me that he had a copy of our Resource Guide to Coming Out for African Americans. I was so excited to see that he not only had used this resource, but that he carried it in his bag with him. He told me that he was so glad to see that we were on ground in places like Michigan, and that he was grateful for the work we do, because it is still so hard for many in his community.

It is moments like these that I am so proud of the work that we do; not just support of pro-equality candidates during the fall, but of all of our work, and the real impact that we have on the lives of Americans across the nation.

Paid for by the Human Rights Campaign PAC and authorized by Schauer for Congress


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Audio: ‘It doesn’t matter what society does’ says duo that claims gays don’t matter in society

Tony Perkins is a man who tells church congregations that gays are being “held captive by the enemy,” who tells the military that the open service-supporting Commander in Chief is “willing to jeopardize our nation’s security to advance the agenda of the radical homosexual lobby,” and who daily says to the public, through his position as head of the conservative behemoth Family Research Council, that LGBT people should remain unequal, unprotected, and unworthy of a slice of America’s proverbial pie.

Peter Sprigg, FRC’s Senior Policy Fellow, has gone even further than Tony:



*SOURCE: Gays seek immigration reform [Medill Reports]



*SOURCE: [MSNBC]

But don’t you DARE blame either of these two men for fostering the sort of world that causes gay people to internalize negative messages. You know, because it doesn’t matter what society does:

(click to play audio clip)

(Tony Perkins speaks first, Sprigg second)

*AUDIO SOURCE: Washington Watch Weekly [FRC]

Wash, wash, wash those hands of responsibility all you want, boys. Your heart, mind, and lips are all over the historical record.




Good As You

—  John Wright

Why Fred Phelps’s Free Speech Rights Should Matter to Us All

By Chris Hampton, Youth and Program Strategist, ACLU LGBT Project

The first time I saw those signs, with their vivid neon colors and crude images of stick figures, was 16 years ago. "Fags Die, God Laughs." "No Tears for Queers." "God Hates Fags." Like most people seeing a Westboro Baptist Church picket for the first time, I was shocked, then outraged. It happened at the funeral of a friend who had died of AIDS. Seeing those signs left me in tears.

I came out in the early 90′s in Lawrence, Kansas, just 25 miles from the home of Fred Phelps and his followers. As I became increasingly involved in local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activism, I started seeing the Westboro picketers on a regular basis. They showed up anytime we put on an event and sometimes at completely incongruous ones — the annual production of The Nutcracker in Topeka, for example. In 1994 they traveled to my Arkansas hometown to protest at the funeral of President Clinton’s mother. My mom called me, asking, "Who on earth are these crazy people from Topeka?"

Phelps was mainly known locally in those days but his views eventually started getting more national attention. He grabbed broader notice in 1998 after Matthew Shepard was brutally killed in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming. Shepard’s murder garnered national attention and Westboro’s picketers showed up at the funeral, shocking and upsetting thousands of mourners. So I wasn’t at all surprised a few years ago when Phelps and his followers began picketing at the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq, nor was I surprised at the hurt and fury his presence at these heartbreaking moments caused to those who had just lost loved ones. I understood firsthand how they felt.

Many years after first seeing those signs, I started working at the American Civil Liberties Union. One of the things that becomes clear as you look at the ACLU’s work over the years is that government censorship has long been used to silence unpopular minorities, including LGBT people. The ACLU’s first gay rights case was in 1936, when we defended the play The Children’s Hour after it was banned in Boston because of its "lesbian content." From our defense of a San Francisco publisher and bookstore owner who was charged with printing and selling indecent books for releasing Alan Ginsberg’s Howl, to our case just last year standing up for the right of students at a public high school in Florida to wear rainbow t-shirts or the one this year defending Constance McMillen’s right to take her girlfriend to her senior prom, we have successfully fought back when government has sought to silence LGBT people. We would have never been able to make the tremendous progress we have made in the struggle for LGBT equality without being able to talk openly about what it means to be who we are. Who can doubt that had it been up the government in the 1950′s — or to many state governments today — we wouldn’t be able to come out at all.

It’s because you simply can’t blindly trust the government with the power to censor that the First Amendment grants all Americans, regardless of their views, the right to express themselves. The ACLU has defended the free speech rights of many types of groups, from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness to the KKK. We don’t do that because we agree with either. We do it because we believe in the principle, and because we realize that once you chip away at one person’s rights, everyone else’s are at risk. It’s because of this that the ACLU submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday about an appeal being brought by Westboro Baptist Church. The appeal comes after a federal jury awarded .9 million (which the judge later reduced to million) to a father of Matthew Snyder, a Marine whose funeral was picketed by Westboro Baptist Church. In the brief, we pointed out that the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech guarantees that no one can be found liable for merely expressing an opinion about a matter of public concern, regardless of how hurtful those opinions might be.

I can imagine the pain and the anger that Matthew Snyder’s family felt upon seeing those signs. Those feelings are real and valid, and I feel nothing but sympathy for that family’s suffering. But free speech doesn’t belong only to those we agree with, and the First Amendment doesn’t only protect speech that is tasteful and inoffensive. In fact, it is in the hard cases that our commitment to the First Amendment is most tested and most important. As one federal judge has put it, tolerating hateful speech is "the best protection we have against any Nazi-type regime in this country."

In this case, we believe that the jury verdict violated First Amendment principles that protect the free speech rights of everyone. We want to protect those principles, which have always been essential to the advancement of civil rights, including the civil rights of LGBT people. Allowing Fred Phelps to speak his mind may be difficult, but chipping away at one of the fundamental principles on which our country was founded is far, far worse for all of us in the long run.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Court: Professor Calling You A ‘Fascist Bastard’ For a Pro-Prop 8 Speech Is Not a Legal Matter

collegelecturehall

Jonathan Lopez is the Los Angeles City College student whose professor John Matteson cut short, in the days after 2008's Prop 8 decision, Lopez's classroom speech on the definition of marriage and what the Bible thinks of homogays. Lopez sued for financial damages, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated after Mattseon berated him and called him (and anyone who voted for Prop 8) a "fascist bastard." And while a lower court approved Lopez's suit, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals just told him to get the F out of their stack of paperwork in a unanimous decision to dismiss the case, saying Lopez, represented by the gasbags at the Alliance Defense Fund, failed to show he was harmed by Mattseon, uh, speaking the truth.

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

—  John Wright

DART accused of transphobia

Judge reversed order after transit agency fought longtime employee’s gender-marker change last year

John Wright | News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

TRANS FRIENDLY? | Judge Lynn Cherry, right, is shown alongside drag performer Chanel during Stonewall Democrats’ 2008 holiday party at the Round-Up Saloon. A few months later, Cherry ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

DART stands accused of bigotry and transphobia after attorneys for the local transit agency intervened in family court last year to challenge a gender-marker change granted to an employee.

According to court records, a transgender DART employee obtained a court order in February 2009 directing all state agencies to correct their records by changing her gender-marker from male to female, including on her birth certificate.

As Dallas Voice reported last week, many Dallas County judges have been routinely granting gender-marker changes to transgender people who meet set criteria — including documentation from licensed medical personnel — since the Democratic sweep of 2006.

The DART employee, who’s name is being withheld to protect her anonymity, later presented the court order to the transit agency’s human resources department and requested that her personnel records be changed to reflect her new gender.

But DART’s attorneys objected to the gender-marker change and responded by filing a motion seeking a rehearing in court. DART’s objections prompted 301st Family District Court Judge Lynn Cherry to reverse her order granting the gender-marker change.

“Where does this stop when an employer can start interfering with your personal life and family law decisions?” said longtime local transgender activist Pamela Curry, a friend of the DART employee who brought the case to the attention of Dallas Voice. “She was devastated. This should be a serious concern to a lot of people — everybody — and I just think this story needs to be told.”

Judge Cherry, who received Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ Pink Pump Award for her support of the group last year, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment this week.

Morgan Lyons, a spokesman for DART, noted that Cherry reversed her order before the agency actually filed its motion for a rehearing. However, Curry alleges that DART’s attorneys met with Cherry privately and pressured her into reversing the order.

As is common with gender-marker changes, the case file has been sealed, but Dallas Voice obtained copies of some of the court documents from Curry.

In their motion for a rehearing, DART attorneys Harold R. McKeever and Hyattye Simmons argued that Texas law grants registrars, not judges, the authority to amend birth certificates. They also argued that birth certificates could be amended only if they were inaccurate at the time of birth.

“It’s not a DART issue, it’s a point of law,” Lyons told Dallas Voice this week, in response to the allegations of bigotry. “The lawyers concluded that the birth certificate could not be altered by law, unless there was a mistake made when the birth certificate was completed, and again, the judge changed the order before we even wound up going into court with it.”

Asked about DART’s LGBT-related employment policies, Lyons said the agency’s nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression. The agency, which is governed by representatives from Dallas and numerous suburbs, also doesn’t offer benefits to the domestic partners of employees.

Lyons didn’t respond to other allegations made by Curry, including that the agency has fought the employee’s transition from male to female at every step of the way.

Curry, who helped the employee file her pro se petition for a gender-marker change, said the employee has worked for DART for more than 20 years and has an outstanding performance record.

The employee began to come out as transgender in 2003 and had gender reassignment surgery more than three years ago, Curry said. Curry said DART supervisors have at various times told the employee that she couldn’t have long hair, couldn’t wear skirts to work and couldn’t use women’s restrooms at work.

The employee has responded by showing up at work in her uniform so she doesn’t have to change and using public restrooms on her bus route, Curry said.

Supervisors have also told the employee she can’t talk to the media and can’t join political groups, such as Stonewall Democrats, Curry said.

“She’s intimidated and she’s scared,” Curry said. “One supervisor even suggested to her that if she doesn’t lay off it, they will mess up her retirement.”

Elaine Mosher, a Dallas attorney who’s familiar with the case, also questioned why DART intervened. Mosher didn’t represent the employee in the case but has handled gender-marker changes for other clients.

Mosher said the employee’s gender doesn’t have any bearing on her ability to do her job at DART.

“My argument in any gender marker matter is, the birth certificate was wrong, that’s why they had to go through the transition surgery, in essence to put them in the correct gender,” Mosher said. “All I can tell you is that it seems strange to me that DART would care one way or another what the gender marker of anybody that works for them is.”

Moster added that she believes someone at DART may have been “freaked out” by the employee’s transition from male to female and developed a “vendetta” against her.

“I wish I had a good explanation for why [DART got involved] other than the fact that I know there are people out there who are utterly blind and prejudiced for no other reason than they are,” Mosher said. “I compare it to some of the nonsense African-Americans had to live through in the ’60s.”

Mosher also said she’s “very surprised” that Cherry reversed the order granting the gender marker change.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats, said she’s heard “bits and pieces” of the story but isn’t sure of all the facts.

Moore said in response to her questions about the case, Cherry told her she couldn’t talk about it because it’s still within the timeframe for a possible appeal.

“Lynn is a longtime supporter of Stonewall and I would think she would be fair in the case,” Moore said. “I’m confident she’s an ally to this community.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.

—  admin