Boy Scouts nondiscrimination policy is in print

ScoutsDallas Voice publisher Leo Cusimano, an Eagle Scout, enrolled his younger son in the Cub Scouts this week, but not before reading the application.

On the page headed Boy Scouts of America Information for Parents, he found the Policy of Nondiscrimination:

Youth membership in the BSA is open to all boys and young adults who meet the joining requirements. Membership in Scouting advancement and achievement of leadership in Scouting units are open to all youth without regard to race, ethnic background, or sexual orientation, and are based on individual merit.

But Cusimano wanted to double check and make sure the Den Father understood his son has two fathers.

“Yeah, this is Kessler Park,” he said. “No problem.”

—  David Taffet

Ask Lambda Legal: The Executive Order and You

A few details may have gotten lost in all the hoopla surrounding the executive orders President Obama signed last month prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. So here’s some info from Lambda Legal that may help clear up some questions:

By Greg Nevins, counsel for Lambda Legal

Question: I work for a local social service agency and read about President Obama’s executive order protecting LGBT workers. What does this mean for me?

Answer: President Obama’s historic executive order banning employment discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors and protecting transgender federal government employees was a needed step towards equality.

The executive order will provide explicit protection against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination for millions of hard-working, tax-paying Americans, and Lambda Legal applauds President Obama for taking this important action.

The order is very important because federal statutes concerning job discrimination don’t explicitly use the words “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” This leaves vulnerable to discrimination those workers in states that don’t provide separate legal protections.

With a stroke of his pen, the president changed the legal landscape for employees of federal contractors, especially those in states without LGBT-specific protections, but also for those workers in states that already have good non-discrimination statutes, because, to use a football analogy, discrimination now doesn’t result in just a penalty but may get a contractor tossed out of the game.

One of the major advancements of equality contained in the executive order is that it also will make explicit the protection against gender identity discrimination for federal government employees. This will clarify that executive branch policies are consistent with federal court decisions and the position of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Clarity and consistency about non-discrimination requirements are crucial. It is important that employees have a policy and remedy in place that protects them when they endure discrimination. But what we all really want is for the discrimination not to occur in the first place, and the executive order’s clear language furthers that goal.

Unfortunately, the order does not protect all employees of private companies and businesses, and explicit protections for LGBT workers in the private sector vary from state to state. We have increasing recognition and obvious momentum towards nationwide workplace fairness, but there is still a ways to go.

Over the last several years, the EEOC has ruled that employees alleging anti-LGBT discrimination had legitimate Title VII sex discrimination claims; similar rulings have come from federal district courts in cases involving lesbian or gay workers, and from numerous federal district and appellate courts in cases brought by transgender workers.

Additionally, 18 states, the District of Columbia, and more than  200 jurisdictions — from small towns to large cities — have inclusive non-discrimination laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

In the meantime, we are deeply grateful to President Obama for continuing his administration’s progress toward full equality for LGBT workers, and Lambda Legal will continue to fight to expand protections for LGBT employees across the country.

If you have any questions, or feel you have been discriminated against because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk by calling 1-866-542-8336 go online to www.lambdalegal.org/help.

—  Tammye Nash

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

Houston pastor pleas for right to discriminate … against Jews

Cohen.Ellen

Houston Councilwoman Ellen Cohen

Pastor Becky Riggle of Grace Community Church in Houston stood before Houston City Council this week to give her opinion on HERO, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

Pastor Riggle thinks it’s OK to discriminate, as long as you’re doing it in the name of religion. Let’s be clear, when Pastor Riggle suggests a need for a religious exemption, she’s not just talking about discriminating against gays, lesbians and transgenders.

City Councilwoman Ellen Cohen asked the good pastor if it was OK to discriminate against her since she’s Jewish. Cohen had to ask several times and Pastor Riggle said yes, but that’s not the issue.

The good pastor didn’t explain why it wasn’t the issue since the ordinance protects people from discrimination based on a list of categories, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion among them.

Bigots like Riggle weren’t the majority of people who came to City Hall and the proceedings weren’t as contentious as those in San Antonio last year.

Equality Texas Field Organizer Daniel Williams was at Houston City Hall.

“Fortunately Pastor Riggle does not represent the vast majority of Houston clergy,” Williams said. “In public testimony supportive clergy have outnumbered those in opposition two to one and more than 70 faith leaders in Houston have signed a letter in support of the HERO.”

The vast majority of clergy understand that all forms of discrimination are wrong. They understand they could be the next target. Perfect example: Pastor Riggle thinks she has the right to discriminate against Councilwoman Cohen because the councilwoman is Jewish.

A vote on HERO is delayed two weeks and in the mean time, I think good Houstonians should demonstrate to the pastor just what discrimination looks like. The checker at the supermarket should tell her he’s not going to ring up her groceries. The dry cleaner should refuse to take her clothes. The waitress at her favorite restaurant should refuse her service. Each should explain they’re religion requires them to refuse service to bigots.

Here’s the video of the good pastor’s ugly comments:

—  David Taffet

Is someone at Liberty University going to hell for hiring a gay?

Goldberg

Liberty University hired this gay

The Christian Post reported that Liberty University — What? Yes, I read the Christian Post, so you don’t have to, now stop interrupting.

The Christian Post reported yesterday that Liberty University — the school Jerry Falwell founded — hired gay dancer Geoffrey Goldberg to choreograph its production of Mary Poppins.

As the Christian Post put it, “the conservative Christian school’s stage company had sought the services of an ‘open homosexual advocate.’”

The school, to its credit, issued this statement to blogger Benjamin Corey:

“The choreographer in question is an independent contractor supplied to the university through a third party association and has never applied for employment at Liberty University and has never been an employee of Liberty. Liberty has never required vendors who provide goods and services to the university to adhere to the university’s doctrinal beliefs.”

To make things worse, Liberty’s stage company director Linda Nell Cooper told Christian News Network, she hired Goldberg “based on his professionalism and his talent like everyone else.”

And just what makes Goldberg so qualified?

He was in the original Broadway production of Mary Poppins.

The world is certainly coming to an end when theater is taken over by the gays — even at Liberty University. What makes this even more delicious, and The Christian Post  seems to have missed this, the school not only got a gay, but they got a gay Jew.

Mary Poppins opens tonight, in case you happen to be in Lynchburg, Va.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: Abbott changes mind, unlikely to sue for right to discriminate in San Antonio

Texas AG Greg Abbott

Greg Abbott

UPDATE: Here is the response that came from the Attorney General’s office:

We will continue to review and monitor the ordinance.  I’ve attached the letter sent to Mayor Castro before the vote was taken.  The final ordinance did not include the most problematic language, which led to our response:

“We are pleased the city council heeded our advice and deleted this provision, which surely would have been grounds for a constitutional challenge to the ordinance.  We will continue to review the ordinance and monitor the situation.”

I have requested information on what will be monitored, how the AG views this ordinance differently than the Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin ordinances and why he threatened to sue after the ordinance passed without the offending language.

ORIGINAL POST: Attorney General Greg Abbott now says it is unlikely he will file suit against the San Antonio nondiscrimination ordinance. As reported in Dallas Voice when the ordinance passed, the issues Abbott had with the law were removed before the final version went before the council.

Abbott’s office has not returned a call from Dallas Voice but a spokesman told Texas Tribune and other news outlets that the AG is unlikely to sue.

“We are pleased the city council heeded our advice and deleted this provision, which surely would have been grounds for a constitutional challenge to the ordinance,” Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for the AG’s office, said in a statement.

Except the threat of a lawsuit came after the provisions preventing someone accused of discrimination from holding office or sitting on a board or commission were removed.

“We will continue to review the ordinance and monitor the situation,” Strickland said.

It’s unclear what the spokesman meant by continuing to “monitor the situation.” There’s no situation and once passed, ordinances don’t freely change, requiring constant monitoring.

What bothers Abbott is that in San Antonio, as in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and El Paso, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is now illegal. The only thing to monitor is that this sort of discrimination doesn’t happen. Anywhere. But that’s probably not what Abbott’s office will be doing.

—  David Taffet

Mayor Annise Parker says it’s time for LGBT protections in Houston

Mayor-Annise-Parker-300px

Mayor Annise Parker

When San Antonio passed its nondiscrimination ordinance, Houston became the only major city in Texas without such protections for its LGBT community.

In a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Annise Parker said it was time for the Bayou City to follow suit.

“It is something we should do,” she said. “And the majority of council members have publicly stated they are in support of a nondiscrimination ordinance. This is an issue that requires all of the council to be engaged and agree it’s time to move it forward.”

However, in Houston, the council is unable to pass an ordinance without a voter approval. Because of a charter amendment, an ordinance similar to the ones in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin or the one recently passed in San Antonio would have to face a voter referendum.

“We watched what happened in San Antonio and we’ll certainly talk to them about the process and then we’ll make our own decision,” Parker said.

But the process in Houston would be quite a bit different than in the other Texas cities where ordinances passed without going to voters for charter amendments.

Parker is up for re-election for a third and final term as mayor. Jessica Michan, a spokeswoman in the mayor’s office, said she did not expect any action on an ordinance until after the election.

—  David Taffet

Resource Center calls on MLB commissioner to pledge support for gay players who come out

In November, Major League Baseball added sexual orientation to its discrimination policies, which was thanks in part to a letter from the Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell. But the latest news to come from both the gay and baseball fronts isn’t quite so encouraging. Last week, rumors swirled that Minnesota Twins player Carl Pavano, above, was being extorted by former high school classmate Christian Bedard, who reportedly had a same-sex relationship with Pavano.

In response to the incident, McDonnell drafted and sent the following letter calling for MLB commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig to do the right thing and “to use your voice and position to unequivocally state that any player who is gay and who wishes to come out will receive the support of your office and the league.”

Read McDonnell’s entire letter after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Ex-TCC professor’s anti-gay bias suit advances

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

FORT WORTH – In a preliminary victory for a lesbian former professor, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas denied a motion Monday by Tarrant County College administrators to dismiss her lawsuit alleging she was prevented from interviewing for a permanent teaching position based on her sexual orientation.

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed a complaint in September 2011 stating she was unable to interview for a permanent position in the English department after her yearlong temporary position had expired.

The co-defendants, English Department Chair Eric Devlin and Dean of Humanities Antonia Howell, sought qualified immunity, which guards state officials from liability unless there is an established law. However, discrimination by public employees based on sexual orientation violates the U.S. Constitution, said Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal who is presenting Gill.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has said that that’s not a valid basis for discriminating,” Upton said. “What we wanted to show is that it is clearly established that you don’t get to judge someone’s job performance based on sexual orientation. … (The court) ruled that it was clearly established when they treated Jackie differently presumably based on the fact that they thought she’s a lesbian.”

—  Dallasvoice

Oklahoma bill would ban local nondiscrimination policies protecting LGBT people

Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City

Last week, Oklahoma State Rep. Mike Reynolds failed to reinstate “don’t ask, don’t tell” — mostly because the state’s National Guard would have lost $300 million in federal funding. So after that defeat, Reynolds introduced new legislation this week that would eliminate nondiscrimination policies for municipal employees that include classes not protected by the state.

Such categories as marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and political affiliation are not protected by the state but are covered in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Del City, Miami, McAlester, Altus and Vinita. If passed, it would be legal to fire people for getting married, being straight or voting Republican. Of course, Reynolds’ intent is to discriminate against gays and lesbians … and if some Democrats lose their jobs in the process, that would just be a bonus for him.

The Equality Network Chair Laura Belmonte said, “Reynolds apparently thinks it is acceptable for the state government to run roughshod over local governments. Shouldn’t our cities, towns, and counties have the right to determine whom they wish to employ and to ensure the most productive, welcoming workplaces possible?”

“It is bad enough when short-sighted politicians and demagogues stand in the way of progress, but it is even more offensive when those same forces conspire to take away civil rights that have already been won,” said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma.

Nancy McDonald of PFLAG Tulsa and the organization’s former national president said: “It is extremely important that Oklahoma address the challenges of our state’s economy and have the ability to attract companies that will utilize our workforce, as well as bring new workers to Oklahoma. One of the factors that companies consider is whether or not our municipalities and counties have proactive and preemptive employment practices This must include nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. By doing so, a welcoming environment is created and all employees are empowered to contribute to the welfare of their company, their city, and their state. Let us move Oklahoma forward!”

—  David Taffet