U.S. Supreme Court: Religious groups exempt from employment discrimination laws

U.S. Supreme Court Building

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, Jan. 11, issued a ruling exempting religious groups from nondiscrimination in hiring laws when it comes to ministers and those who teach religious subjects, according to this report in The New York Times.

“The interest of society in the enforcement of employment discrimination statutes is undoubtedly important,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote. “But so, too, is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith and carry out their mission.”

The ruling came in the case Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in which former teacher Cheryl Perich claimed she was fired from her job at a Lutheran School in Redford, Mich., because she pursued a discrimination complaint based on a disability (Perich suffers from narcolepsy).

School officials said Perich — who was called a teacher that had completed religious training and who taught mostly secular classes but did also teach a religion class and attend chapel with her class — was fired because she violated church doctrine by pursuing litigation rather than trying to resolve the dispute within the church.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he fears the court’s decision this week will make it harder to combat the “social evil” of “blatant discrimination,” and suggested the ruling could prevent pastors who are sexually harassed from filing suit against their harassers.

But Bishop William E. Lori, chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops‘ ad hoc committee for religious liberty, told the Times the ruling was “a great day for the First Amendment.” The Catholic Church has in some cases shut down programs to avoid having to abide by state and federal nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT people, including the decision in December by bishops in Illinois to close most of their church’s adoption and foster care services rather than allow same-sex couples to adopt or foster children, as per new state requirements for agencies that receive state funds. Catholic Church officials in Washington, D.C., and Massachussets had made similar decisions previously.

Although this particular case had nothing at all to do with issues of sexual orientation or gender identity, it’s not hard to imagine how easily it can be used against the LGBT community. As Florida Courier columnist Charles W. Cherry II writes: “Can predominately white churches and religious schools now fire black ‘ministers’ (who are also teachers) because of their race and be legally protected from a race discrimination lawsuit? Sounds like it to me — and the court ruled unanimously. Could this case be interpreted to mean that black churches can now legally fire effeminate (or openly gay) ‘ministers’ of music without worrying about a lawsuit in places where sexual orientation is legally protected?”

—  admin

UPDATE on NBA’s new nondiscrimination policy

After posting the earlier notice about the National Basketball Association’s new nondiscrimination policy that includes protections based on sexual orientation, I got an email from Rafael McDonnell, communications and advocacy manager from Resource Center of Dallas, reminding me that RCD has been communicating with NBA officials for sometime now, encouraging the association to adopt just such a policy. In fact, McDonnell sent a letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBA Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter, urging them to include an gay-inclusive nondiscrimination policy in the association’s collective bargaining process. He then followed up with a seconed entreaty in November.

Rafael McDonnell

On Wednesday this week, after NBA officials announced that they and the players had finally settled on a collective bargaining agreement, McDonnell sent an email to Michael Bass, executive vice president of communications for the NBA, asking why the gay discrimination protections were not included in that agreement. Bass replied earlier today, telling McDonnell that he would discuss the terms of the agreement once the NBA Board of Governors had ratified the agreement.

At 5:58 p.m. today, Bass followed up with a brief email to McDonnell: “Non-discrimination was added into the agreement that protects players from discrimination, including based on sexual orientation.”

Outsports has this brief notice about the change and RCD’s involvement.

I also want to note that in my initial post on this, I referenced policies protecting LGBTs from discrimination, and that isn’t accurate. According to Bass’ email to McDonnell, the new policy protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not against discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. AND since the policy offers protection for players in the NBA, the only people it will help is gay male pro basketballers, since there are no women of any orientation playing in the NBA.

—  admin

NBA announces new nondiscrimination policy including sexual orientation

You can now add the National Basketball Association to the ranks of professional sports organizations that specifically include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Around 5:30 tonight, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement applauding the NBA for making the move, but I haven’t found anything else online about the announcement, except this piece in the Windy City Times, an LGBT paper in Chicago, which is taken from the HRC release, and which notes that the NBA’s announcement came on the same day that HRC released its 2012 Corporate Equality Index.

HRC President Joe Solmonese said: “The NBA now joins the ranks of some of the most influential organizations and corporations in the country, who all believe that equality and inclusion are integral to a successful workplace, We are grateful to Commissioner Stern, the NBA and the Players’ Association for sending such a powerful message to society that what matters is a person’s talent, not their sexual orientation.”

The HRC statement also points out that Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash — formerly with the Dallas Mavericks — is one of several pro athletes who have made videos recently to speak out in support of marriage equality. Nash’s video, which you can watch below, was part of the campaign to pass the marriage equality law in New York State.

Like I said, I haven’t found anything on this yet from the any source other than HRC, not even on the NBA website. But we’ll keep looking, and tell you more when we find it.

—  admin

Council member Jones to be first cisgender reader at Houston Day of Remembrance

Jolanda Jones

Jolanda Jones

Houston City Council member Jolanda Jones is scheduled to be the first cisgender reader in the history of Houston’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. Lou Weaver, president of the Transgender Foundation of America, one the events sponsors, says that Jones was originally approached to be a speaker at the event because of her advocacy for trans children, but that she requested to read instead.

“I begged to read, I begged them,” corrects Jones, “they asked me if I wanted to speak and I begged them to read instead because it’s profound and it touches you. I think it’s better to read because it’s important.”
Jones said she was particularly moved at last year’s Day of Remembrance by the story of 17 month old Roy A. Jones who was beaten to death by his babysitter for “acting like a girl.” “I was so touched when they read about the baby that was killed,” said Jones, “the readers tell the story.”

Jones led efforts this year to encourage local homeless youth provider Covenant House to adopt a nondiscrimination policy that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. She used her position on City Council to threaten to cut Covenant House’s funding unless they addressed accusations of discrimination. That threat persuaded the organization to overhaul their policies and begin regular meetings with community leaders to discuss their progress in serving LGBT youth.
The Houston Transgender Day of Remembrance is Saturday, November 19, from 7-9:30 pm at Farish Hall on the University of Houston Campus.

—  admin

Teacher accuses TC College of discrimination

Gill says English Department chair at Northeast Campus told her the state and the school ‘do not like homosexuals’

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill
Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

HURST — Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed suit Wednesday, Sept. 7, against a professor and a dean at Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst, claiming that she was denied the opportunity to apply for a permanent, full- time teaching position there because of the English Department chair’s bias against what he perceived her sexual orientation to be.

Tarrant County College adopted a nondiscrimination policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation on March 9 of this year.

Frank Griffis, director of public relations and marketing for Tarrant County College, said it “would not be appropriate” for school officials to comment on pending litigation. He also said school officials had not yet been served with papers and therefore had not read the complaint.

Gill said she had worked as a full-time temporary English professor for about a year at the Northeast Campus. But when the position was to be made permanent, English Department Chair Eric Devlin refused to allow her to apply for the permanent position.

Gill said when she complained about Devlin to Northeast Campus Humanities Division Dean Antonio R. Howell, he initially seemed to side with her, but after speaking to Devlin, Howell refused to communicate further with her. Gill said although she is a lesbian and has never tried to hide that fact, she had never talked about her orientation with Devlin or anyone else at the school.

Both Devlin and Howell are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

Gill is represented in the lawsuit by Lambda Legal South Central Region staff attorney Ken Upton, joined by pro bono counsel Benjamin D. Williams from the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

Gill and Upton held a press conference Wednesday to announce that the lawsuit had been filed earlier that morning in U.S. district court in Fort Worth. The press conference was held at a Hurst hotel located just a few blocks from the Tarrant County College campus where Gill had taught.

According to the complaint filed Wednesday, and statements Gill made during the press conference, Gill was first hired on a full time, temporary basis as an English professor on Aug. 21, 2009. A little more than a month later, at the end of October, a female “dual-enrollment” student — a high school student who was also taking college classes — in Gill’s distance learning class cheated by stealing an exam and skipped some classes.

The student’s high school counselor told Gill that the student has a history of disruptive behavior, and when the student dropped the class, Gill was told the situation was closed.

On Nov. 9, however, Devlin called Gill into his office and told her the student had accused Gill of “flirting” with female students. Gill denied the accusations, noting that there was always another teacher in the class at the same time.

That’s when Devlin responded with “a lengthy diatribe about homosexuals and how the Texas public views them,” according to the complaint. Gill said Devlin went on to say that Texas is a conservative state and TCC is a conservative school, and that “Texas and Tarrant County College do not like homosexuals.”

Gill continued to teach at TCC, receiving high praise and compliments from students and staff alike, including from Devlin. Then in May 2010, she and other full-time temporary professors were told by Howell that all seven temporary full- time positions were being made permanent, and that they were being re-designated as adjunct faculty until the permanent positions were filled.

Gill said Howell also encouraged her and the other temporary professors to apply for the permanent jobs. Gill applied for all seven but was the only one of the seven temporary professors not hired for the permanent positions. Gill said that she was, in fact, not even allowed to interview for any of the positions, even though her experience and credentials were as good as or better than those who were hired.

Gill said she met with Howell and told him about Devlin’s anti-gay comments and refusal to allow her to interview for the permanent positions. She said Howell promised her to discuss the situation with Devlin immediately, but that he never got back in touch with her.

She said she also got no response when she tried to discuss the situation with the vice president and president of Tarrant County College.

Gill continued to teach as an adjunct professor at the campus through December 2010, although, she said, Devlin’s attitude toward her became “even more hostile.”

And she said that although she was originally assigned classes for the 2011 spring term, as she was preparing for those classes she discovered she had been removed as the professor. When she inquired about the status of the class, Gill said, she was told that Devlin had specifically instructed that those classes be taken away from her.

Upton said that Devlin and Howell violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to allow Gill to apply for the permanent teaching position. He said Gill’s suit is asking that she be allowed to complete the application process and that she be compensated for the time she has been unemployed.

Gill, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Arlington, said she would love to get a teaching job with TCC, and while she would prefer to work at another campus, she is willing to go back to the Northeast Campus and work again in Devlin’s department.

“I worked hard. I earned it,” Gill said of the permanent position. “I have nothing to be ashamed of. If it [her working in Devlin’s department again] would be awkward for anyone, I think it would be awkward for him [Devlin] because he is the one who was in the wrong.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

What’s Brewing: Maryland Senate kills gender identity bill; anti-gay hate crime at UNC

Quinn Matney was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime at the University of North Carolina.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. For a third straight week, LGBT advocates plan to speak during the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s meeting today and call on commissioners to add transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. Last month, commissioners voted to add sexual orientation but not gender identity to the policy. The Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. in the County Administration Building, 411 Elm St.

2. The Maryland Senate on Monday voted to kill a measure that would have protected transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment and credit — but not public accommodations. The vote marks the second major disappointment this year for LGBT advocates in Maryland, where the House thwarted a marriage equality bill last month.

3. A University of North Carolina freshman says he was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime on the school’s campus last week. The UNC administration, which failed to notify students until a week after the attack occurred, now says it plans to report the incident as an anti-gay hate crime to the federal government.

—  John Wright

CORRECTION: All major candidates for Dallas mayor vied for LGBT vote in 2002

In my cover story for this week’s paper, I made a minor mistake. Actually it was fairly major. The opening paragraph of the story, as originally written, stated that 2011 marks the first time in history that all major candidates for Dallas mayor have actively courted the LGBT vote.

As former DV staff writer David Webb pointed out in the comments to the story, that’s not true. In 2002, Laura Miller, Tom Dunning and Domingo Garcia — the three major candidates for mayor — all courted the LGBT vote.

From The Dallas Mornings News on Jan. 15, 2002:

Dallas gays and lesbians, who used to hope that they could just find a candidate who wouldn’t be hostile to their interests, find themselves for the first time being wooed from all directions in what boils down to a three-way citywide race – and disagreeing about whom to support.

“It’s the first time I haven’t had to go vote for the lesser of two evils,” said Deb Elder, a Laura Miller supporter and political organizer. “Nothing has piqued my passion like this mayoral vote.”

Put another way, with major candidates Ms. Miller, Tom Dunning, and Domingo Garcia all touting their support for including gays in a nondiscrimination ordinance, a sector of voters that was shunned not long ago can’t lose this time around.

“It’s historic. I knew it would happen, but I didn’t know it would be this soon,” said Michael Milliken, one of the city’s first publicly identified gay appointees. “The gay community is in a unique position this year.”

I had based my report on statements by openly gay former City Councilman Ed Oakley, who called the 2011 mayoral election “a watershed moment for the community” and “unprecedented.”

While that may be true in some other respects, this isn’t the first time all major mayoral candidates have sought the LGBT vote, and I apologize for the error.

—  John Wright

Study: Gays earn less, suffer more in Oklahoma

Men in same-sex couples in Oklahoma earn 26 percent less than their straight married counterparts, according to a new study on employment discrimination against LGBT people in the Sooner State.

The study, released today by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, also concludes that LGBT Oklahomans are frequently subject to harassment and discrimination in the workplace because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The study estimates that there are between 43,000 and 57,000 LGB people working in Oklahoma, along with as many as 6,800 transgender people.

Expanding the state’s nondiscrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender identity would have little impact on state agencies, resulting in only 21-29 additional complaints per year, according to the study.

“Laws that provide protection from discrimination not only benefit employees, but also help businesses recruit and retain highly-skilled employees,” said study co-author Lee Badgett.

To read the full study and press release, go here.

—  John Wright

VA: Nondiscrimination bills to be heard in Senate on Wednesday

Senate Bill 747 (McEachin) and SB 797 (Locke) will be heard in the Senate General Laws Committee on Wednesday, January 26th at 2pm. 

SB 747 would codify protections against discrimination for all state employees, including protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

 


  • Governors since Linwood Holton have signed executive orders protecting state employees from discrimination in employment.  Warner and Kaine extended this protection to GLBT employees; Governor McDonnell did not include this protection in his equal opportunity executive order substituting an executive directive without the force of law.  It is now time to make nondiscrimination against GLBT employees a codified state policy and extend the protection to all state employees.
  • It is a fundamental American and Virginian value that people who do their jobs, pay their taxes and contribute to their communities should not be singled out for unfair workplace discrimination.
  • 90% of Virginia voters support ending discrimination against GLBT people in government employment.
  • Of Virginia’s 50 largest employers, 24 of the 27 private employers on the list (88%) have nondiscrimination policies.

SB 797 would simply and clearly state that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is against the public policy of the Commonwealth.

  • The Virginia Human Rights Act states that it is the “policy of the Commonwealth” to “safeguard” all individuals in certain enumerated classes from discrimination.  Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the Virginia Human Rights Act will make clear that it is against Virginia’s public policy for its gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) residents to be subjected to discrimination just because of who they are. 


What You Can Do
Call or send an email to the offices of the Senators on the General Laws Committee today telling them that you support SB 747 and SB 797!

The names and contact information for the Senators on the Committee are available on live links here.

If you are available and want to testify before the committee on Wednesday, please let our lobbyist, Claire Gastañaga, know by calling her office at 804-521-4067.   That will help us organize our presentations, since we will only have a limited time for our side to present our case.  Keep in mind that you will want to prepare your testimony in advance and limit it to no more than 250 words.

To make a contribution to support our direct lobbying at the General Assembly, click here.

Thanks for your help!

For Equality,

Equality Virginia

Equality Virginia | equalityvirginia.org
403 N Robinson St, Richmond, VA 23220
T: 804.643.4816 F: 804.643.1554
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—  admin

Fla. governor says it’s OK to discriminate based on sexual orientation, age, handicap, religion

Rick Scott

New Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican and teabagger, has issued a non-discrimination order for state employees that not only fails to include sexual orientation and gender identity, but also leaves out some categories that are already protected under state law.

The South Florida Gay News reports that Scott’s nondiscrimination order includes only “race, gender, creed, color and national origin.” The Florida Civil Rights Act – which is state law and trumps Scott’s order — includes “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.”

Gay-rights advocates had lobbied Scott to include sexual orientation and gender identity in his nondiscrimination order. Needless to say, they are disappointed:

“Governor Scott’s limited view of diversity is very discouraging,” said Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. “Governor Scott did not even include all of the classifications listed in the Florida Civil Rights Act — let alone sexual orientation and gender identity.”

More on Scott from the Wonk Room:

Scott positioned himself as a social conservative during his election campaign, although he rarely addressed equality issues on the stump. He reiterating his support for the state’s now defunct anti-gay adoption law, saying he opposed to “single sex adoption” and insisting that “Children should be raised in a home with a married man and a woman.” His campaign website also says that marriage should be between one man and one woman. During his well publicized brawl with primary challenger and former Attorney General Bill McCollum, Scott attacked McCollum for endorsing the “pro-homosexual rights candidate Rudy Giuliani for president in 2008.″

—  John Wright