HRC PRESIDENT CHAD GRIFFIN: “WE ENDORSED REPUBLICAN SENATOR MARK KIRK. HERE’S WHY”: In a post for the Independent Journal Review, HRC President Chad Griffin proudly defends the endorsement of pro-equality Republican Senator Mark Kirk -- and the importance of HRC remaining a bipartisan organization: “..[W]hen members of Congress vote the right way and stand up for equality—regardless of party—we must stand with them. We simply cannot ask members of Congress to vote with us, and then turn around and try to kick them out of office.” Mark Kirk has an exceptional record on LGBT issues: He’s the first Republican in the Senate to cosponsor the Equality Act, a bill that would ensure full federal equality by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to existing civil rights laws that ban discrimination in employment, housing, public spaces, education, credit, federal funding and jury service. He supports marriage equality and has voted time and again in favor of critical bills, from HIV/AIDS funding, efforts to combat bullying in schools to repeal of, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and hate crimes legislation. Read the full op-ed here: bit.ly/1WIcI23
NC GOV AND STATE LEG BEGIN COSTLY SPECIAL SESSION TO OVERTURN LGBT EQUALITY MEASURE: This morning, the North Carolina State Legislature reconvened for a radical and costly special session in which they will specifically work to pass legislation that will undermine crucial LGBT non-discrimination protections approved by the Charlotte City Council earlier this year. Their reckless efforts not only sanction discrimination, but undermine the entire democratic process--and at $42,000 a day, waste thousands of taxpayer dollars. According to reports, lawmakers are considering legislation that could have far-reaching consequences for all North Carolinians, as well as visitors to the Tar Heel State. Early drafts of proposed legislation include municipal preemptions language that would void Charlotte’s ordinance and take away local control from other towns and cities seeking to implement their own non-discrimination protections. Since the ordinance passed in a 7-4 vote last month, dozens of Republican North Carolina lawmakers have made baseless claims about the transgender community by referring to the ordinance as a “bathroom bill” that is a threat to “public safety” and “privacy.” Lawmakers appear hell-bent on trampling all over the rights of LGBT people. More here: bit.ly/1UG45Hw and check out the Charlotte Observer’s editorial rightfully calling out North Carolina lawmakers for playing political games with people’s rights.
BROWNBACK SHAMES KANSAS: SIGNS FIRST ANTI-LGBT BILL OF 2016: Last night, Gov. Brownback signed SB 175 -- a bill that would put LGBT college students at even greater risk of discrimination on campuses across the state. With one shameful stroke of his pen, Kansas officially became the first state to enact an explicit stand-alone anti-LGBT bill this year. The atrocious legislation forces public universities to fund student organizations that discriminate by restricting their membership and denying LGBTQ students from participating under the guise of “religious beliefs.” The new law jeopardizes non-discrimination policies that are already in place at many of Kansas’ educational institutions, including the Kansas Board of Regents and the University of Kansas. These policies require that student organizations which receive financial and other support from the school do not discriminate against students based on race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. SB 175 blows a hole right through them -- and allows discrimination against any of these groups if one cites a “religious belief” as a justification. These policies are incredibly important because they allow all members of the student body to participate in student groups and prevent such groups from discriminating against students with state funding. Upon signing Brownback said, “You can’t prevent litigation from happening … but I think it is pretty narrowly tailored and balanced to be able to try and address those issues that come up.” That’s not how the LGBTQ kids being discriminated against will see things. More here: bit.ly/1MlUrY2
GEORGIA HB 757 SPONSOR DOUBLES DOWN ON “RELIGIOUS LIBERTY” RHETORIC: Despite massive opposition from major companies and sports teams, the sponsor of Georgia’s HB 757 has urged Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to sign the discriminatory bill into law. Greg Kirk, who introduced the so-called “religious freedom” bill as a response to last summer’s Obergefell U.S. Supreme Court decision, questioned if Georgia and the United States were “going forward to be a state and nation that is intolerant of those who express the sincerely held belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.” We’d like to remind State Senator Kirk that that belief is already protected by the First Amendment. More here: on-ajc.com/25movZM and bit.ly/1Uksu5X
DISCRIMINATORY “RELIGIOUS LIBERTY ACCOMMODATIONS ACT” ADVANCES TO FULL SENATE IN MISSISSIPPI: HRC is calling on lawmakers in the Senate to reject H.B. 1523, an anti-LGBT bill that would allow individuals, religious organizations and private associations to use religion to discriminate against LGBT Mississippians, in some of the most important aspects of their lives, including at work, at school, in their family life and more. The bill, which has passed the House and Senate Judiciary A, will now move to the full Senate for a vote. Under H.B. 1523, religion could be used by most any individual or organization to justify discrimination against LGBT people, single mothers, and unmarried couples, among others. Faith-based organizations could refuse to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples; deny children in need of loving homes placement with LGBT families; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBT person -- even if the organization receives government funding. Today, HRC Mississippi is hosting a press conference at the Mississippi State Capitol where advocates will urge lawmakers to put a stop to this reckless attack on the LGBT people. More here: on.thec-l.com/1Shr6gE
SAVE THE DATE! HRC, NEA, NCAC TO HOST COMMUNITY READINGS TO SUPPORT TRANS YOUTH: HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program is joining with the National Education Association (NEA) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) to hold community readings of I Am Jazz across the country on April 28, 2016. Last year, legal threats from an anti-LGBT hate group forced a school in Mount Horeb, WI, to cancel plans to support a transgender student by reading I Am Jazz, a children’s book about transgender youth co-written by Jazz Jennings, an HRC Youth Ambassador and Jessica Herthel. Following the cancellation, the local community rallied, holding a reading at the local library that drew a crowd of more than 600 attendees––mostly parents with their children––all to show their support for one transgender student. Learn more: hrc.org/IAmJazz
HATE GROUP SUES VIRGINIA FOR PROTECTING LGBT STUDENTS: The notoriously anti-LGBT group Liberty Counsel has appealed the dismissal of a lawsuit against Fairfax County School District’s LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy. The original suit was filed in December 2015, claiming that the school district’s LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy was in violation of Virginia law. The Virginia Attorney General asserted that state law permits school boards to add such provisions to their nondiscrimination ordinances in March 2015, but the sore-loser Liberty Counsel (which the Southern Poverty Law Center has named a hate group) isn’t budging on their ridiculous suit. More here: bit.ly/1pI1MqY
TENNESSEE’S ATTACK ON TRANS STUDENTS SEES SETBACK IN COMMITTEE--BUT MAY COME BACK: Rather than advance it to the full House, yesterday the Tennessee legislature sent HB 2414 -- an outrageous bill targeting transgender students in public schools and universities -- to a summer study. The measure sought to force transgender students to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity. Dozens of transgender youth came out to the hearing yesterday in the House Education Administration and Planning Committee to testify before lawmakers. The proposal was very similar to an appalling bill vetoed recently by Republican South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam had expressed concern that the discriminatory, unconstitutional measure would compromise the state’s billions of dollars in federal funding for its schools and universities. His spokesperson also said the governor “trusts our teachers and local school boards to make necessary accommodations” for transgender students. We’re not out of the woods yet as there still may be attempts by lawmakers to reconsider the bill this session. HB 2414 is one of 45 anti-transgender bills introduced around the country this legislative session. More here: bit.ly/1RxOv0p and bit.ly/1Rkwey8
OPPONENTS MOUNTING ANOTHER EFFORT TO REPEAL ANCHORAGE’S LGBT-INCLUSIVE NON-DISCRIMINATION PROTECTIONS: Opponents of equality are set to continue their attempts to roll back protections for Anchorage’s LGBT community. In a letter of support last week, Alaska Commons reports that the Alaska Family Council plans to introduce “significant” amendments to the non-discrimination ordinance that will “bring back balance and create equal protections for people of faith who want to live and work in the public marketplace without fear of governmental intrusion and legal intimidation,” despite the fact that people of faith are already protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, federal law, state law and municipal law. In September, the Anchorage Assembly voted 9-2 in support the ordinance, which protects LGBT citizens in employment, housing and public accommodations. Anti-equality activists have been threatening to repeal the ordinance since it passed in September, even though polling shows that a majority of Anchorage voters support an LGBT inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. The Alaska Dispatch News reported “Of 311 registered voters, 70 percent said they either strongly or mildly supported adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes for employment and housing in city law.” More here: bit.ly/25miMmS
LGBT-INCLUSIVE SCHOOL POLICIES DISCUSSED IN MICHIGAN: The Michigan Board of Education is set to consider a sweeping policy that will put forward guidelines regarding LGBT students. According to WOOD-TV, “Allowing gay, lesbian and transgender students to determine which intramural sports teams with which they will participate, addressing students by the gender with which they identify and allowing those students to determine which restrooms they will use are among a list of proposed recommendations for Michigan school districts.” More here: bit.ly/1UFMNdt
AROUND THE WORLD
NEW STUDY OF LGBT IRISH SHOWS STARK CONTRAST BETWEEN ADULTS AND YOUTH: A new study has found that nearly 75 percent of all Irish LGBT teenagers have experienced suicide ideation, and nearly 33 percent have attempted suicide. The report, called the LGBTI Ireland Report, shows a stark contrast in the wellbeing of LGBT adults and youths in Ireland. This is the largest study to look at the mental health of LGBT people in Ireland, and the findings are harrowing. Among Irish LGBT students, two-thirds have witnessed anti-LGBT bullying in school, and half have experienced such bullying themselves. More here: bit.ly/1S2Tkcq
MORE BAD NEWS IN ACEH: Indonesia continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. An uptick in anti-LGBT rhetoric has the LGBT community fearing for their safety and their rights. The Bireuën Regency, which is part of the Indonesian province of Aceh, has told hair salons not to hire LGBT people. In particular the trans community is being targeted by this new order, which was administered by the head of the region’s Sharia agency. It is unclear if this type of blatant discrimination will spread, and what recourse LGBT people have in Indonesia. More here: bit.ly/1ZsiqH7
Lincoln Journal Star covers a rally for LGBT employment protections at the Nebraska Capitol; Washington Blade praises President Obama for mentioning LGBT rights during a speech in Cuba; Vice follows up on their 2014 coverage of a LGBT homeless shelter in Jamaica; Huffington Post sets its sails to Antarctica, which was just declared ‘The World’s First LGBT-Friendly Continent’; and OutSports highlights the St. Paul Saints baseball team, who have partnered with the local Pride celebration and announced an LGBT theme night.