ALL EYES ON MISSISSIPPI: LGBT ADVOCATES RALLY AGAINST H.B. 1523: Today, the Mississippi House is scheduled for a final procedural vote on HB 1523 -- a discriminatory measure 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 schools, in their family life and more. HRC President Chad Griffin is on the ground with representatives from the ACLU of Mississippi, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood and more, for a press conference and rally where they will urge the Speaker not to take it up for a vote, and call on the governor to veto the bill when it reaches his desk. Under HB 1523, religion could be used by most any individual or organization to justify discrimination against LGBT people, single mothers, unwed couples and others. Taxpayer funded faith-based organizations could: refuse to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples for provision of critical services including emergency shelter; deny children in need of loving homes placement with LGBT families including the child’s own family member; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBT person -- even if the organization receives government funding. Governor Bryant has not said whether he will sign or veto the measure: bit.ly/1UOlf6u
BUSINESSES COME OUT AGAINST HB 1523: Following HB 1523's passage in the Mississippi Senate last week, some of the state’s largest employers are expressing concern over the measure. Nissan Group of North America which has 6,000 workers in the state said, “Nissan is committed to providing our employees with an inclusive workplace environment that supports diversity. It is Nissan’s policy to prohibit discrimination of any type, and we oppose any legislation that would allow discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.” Similarly, Tyson Foods Inc., MGM Resorts International,Toyota and the Mississippi Economic Council, the state chamber of commerce, have all shared that they value diversity and inclusion, and cannot support discriminatory legislation. AT&T, IBM, Levi Strauss, and MassMutual also condemned the measures on Twitter. Also, check out the Sun Herald’s editorial against the bill here: bit.ly/1UOlf6u
EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF MISSISSIPPI: OUR DOORS REMAIN OPEN TO ALL GOD’S CHILDREN: Reverend Brian Seage of the Episcopal Church of Mississippi released a statement saying he was “profoundly disheartened” by the advancement of the bill which legalizes discrimination. He writes of the LGBT community, “We respect their painful journey as they have sought full inclusion in our society. Many of them share a Christian faith that is deep and profound. We should embrace their quest for equality and justice rather than placing obstacles in their pathway.” The Jackson Free Press has compiled a list of companies, people and organizations that are asking the Governor to veto the bill when it reaches his desk.
DARK CLOUD HANGS OVER TONIGHT’S NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP: As the University of North Carolina (UNC) men’s basketball team heads to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship game tonight, its hard work and success are being overshadowed by the reckless actions of North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and state lawmakers. With his signature on the deeply discriminatory law, Gov. McCrory has placed North Carolina not only at risk of losing an estimated $4.5 billion of federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education, but also at risk of being denied the ability to host future NCAA and NBA events in the state. Jason Collins, the first active NBA player to come out as gay released the following statement, “I join other champions of equality in calling on Gov. Pat McCrory and the state’s elected leaders to repeal its grossly anti-LGBT law -- not only, and most importantly, to protect its own citizens, but also to assure the NCAA that North Carolina is welcoming to all and deserves to retain its historic role as a leading host of league events.” Tonight’s championship game is being played in a city that the NCAA has said is also at risk of losing future NCAA events because of November’s shameful referendum that repealed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) – a critical measure that provided non-discrimination protections for LGBT and other minority Houstonians and visitors. The campaign to repeal HERO at the ballot was fueled by lies, scare tactics, and fear-mongering about transgender people – the same tactics used by anti-equality activists in North Carolina to pass House Bill 2. While it was horrible that HERO’s critical non-discrimination protections were never allowed to go into effect, HB 2 is worse because it targets LGBT people, and particularly transgender people, and writes discrimination against them into law.
MUST WATCH VIDEO: GET THE FACTS ON NORTH CAROLINA’S HB2: Check out HRC’s newly released video that exposes the lies Governor McCrory has been peddling about HB 2. The bill, which was was rammed through the legislature on March 23, has eliminated existing municipal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people and prevents such protections from being passed by cities in the future. It also forces transgender students in public schools, as well as transgender adults in publicly owned buildings, to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity. McCrory has continued to claim that the law does not take away rights from any groups, a claim that was rated as false by PolitiFact. Also, if you thought things couldn’t get worse, the Liberty Counsel, the same organization that represented anti-LGBT Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, has offered to defend the law free of charge. Watch the video here: bit.ly/1TvMeSR
NORTH CAROLINA FEDERAL FUNDING AT RISK: The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration is officially looking into whether North Carolina will lose federal funding over anti-LGBT law HB 2. Specifically, the Departments of Education, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development are all doing evaluations on the bill that was introduced, debated, voted on and signed into law in less than twelve hours nearly two weeks ago. Perhaps if lawmakers spent more time adequately discussing the possible impact of the law, they would have realized what a terrible idea it was. More here: nyti.ms/1V3arks
NOW MORE THAN 120 MORE BUSINESSES AND CEOs SAY GOV. MCCRORY MUST REPEAL HB 2: Since it’s initial release last Tuesday, more than 120 leading CEOs and business leaders have signed onto an open letter calling on Governor Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the radical provisions in HB 2. Some of the latest signatories include executives from Hyatt, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Northrop Grumman, American Apparel and Pandora Media. The letter was released last week only a day after Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced he would veto anti-LGBT legislation in Georgia after facing a sustained outcry from a broad chorus of advocates and companies. Signers like Google Ventures have already stopped funding investments in the state, TV and film productions have said they are leaving the state, and renowned Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz announced that he was banning all productions of Wicked in the state over the law. Read the full letter here: bit.ly/1pRgBHf
ICYMI FRONT PAGE NEWS IN NORTH CAROLINA: DRUG MAKER RECONSIDERS $20 MILLION N.C. INVESTMENT: While Governor McCrory and his allies insist that there will be no fallout from writing discrimination into state law, the headlines are starting to insist otherwise. The Associated Press reported, “Some companies are already reconsidering doing business in the country's ninth-largest state.” Among them, New Jersey-based Braeburn Pharmaceuticals said it is "reevaluating our options based on the recent, unjust legislation" whether to build a $20 million manufacturing and research facility in Durham County. And Lionsgate had been hiring more than 100 workers in North Carolina for a shoot, but decided to shoot its pilot episode elsewhere. More here: abcn.ws/1MWFKpc and bit.ly/1qmisV1 Meanwhile, as businesses sound the alarm, Governor McCrory is fighting with -- the Governor of New York?
- N&O: HB 2 PUTS NC AT RISK OF BEING CUT OUT OF NCAA: The News and Observer reports that the debate over HB 2 comes just as the bidding process opens for the 2019-2022 NCAA tournaments, and North Carolina is hurting its chances of landing host spots. “Thursday, NCAA president Mark Emmert made it clear that House Bill 2 puts the state at risk of hosting future NCAA events, most notably the basketball tournament, which North Carolina has hosted 17 times in the past two decades.” More here: bit.ly/1qmisV1
HRC BRINGS TRANSGENDER CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES TO WHITE HOUSE EASTER EGG ROLL: HRC brought together three amazing families with transgender children for a morning on the White House lawn, where they joined President Obama and the First Lady for the 138th Annual Easter Egg Roll. The kids met movie characters, rolled eggs, and were in the front rows for story time with the Obamas -- and they were thrilled to get hugs from First Lady Michelle Obama! The families were featured in the president’s Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett’s blog, and you can read more about the families in this terrific article in Metro Weekly.
HOPE ACT DELIVERS LIFE: Last week, physicians at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, announced they had successfully completed the nation’s first-ever transplant of an HIV-positive organ from a deceased individual to an HIV-positive individual. The landmark medical procedure was made possible thanks to the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act that lifted a twenty-five year federal ban on the use of such organs. The legislation was shepherded through Congress in 2013, with incredible bipartisan leadership from Reps. Lois Capps (D-CA), and Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Rand Paul (R-KY). More on this historic step here: n.pr/1TogHlD
MISSOURI’S MISERABLE BILL: Over the weekend, the St. Louis Post Dispatch published another editorial making clear that religious freedom does not justify discrimination against the LGBT community. The board urges the state legislature to stop its attack on LGBT people by rejecting SJR 39 -- a measure that would place on the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment to allow discrimination against LGBT people and their families. Taking notes from Georgia, the editorial board made clear that Missouri’s values are those of inclusion, not hate and discrimination. Senate Republicans passed the resolution after the Senate Democrats led a historic filibuster effort to stop the anti-equality majority. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, St. Louis Regional Chamber, Dow Chemical Company and Monsanto, as well as Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have all come out against the measure, which will be considered in the House this week. Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly LGBT player to be drafted took a stand against this discriminatory bill as well. As a reminder, if it passes, it would go directly to the ballot for final consideration by voters later this year. Governor Nixon would have no opportunity to veto it. Read the full editorial here: bit.ly/1S2PX4M
SAME-SEX ADOPTION FOR ALL 50 STATES!: Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III in Mississippi declared the state’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples unconstitutional, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling in the historic case Obergefell v. Hodges. The federal lawsuit, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Mississippi Department of Human Services, challenged the constitutionality of a statutory ban on adoption by same-sex couples in Mississippi -- the only state in the nation that still had an absolute ban preventing same-sex couples from adopting regardless of their qualifications. Roberta Kaplan, the lead lawyer in Windsor v. United States, the Supreme Court case that led to the demise of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2012, represented the Mississippi plaintiffs along with Robert McDuff of the Mississippi-based law firm McDuff & Byrd. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four same-sex couples seeking to adopt or foster children in Mississippi: Kari Lunsford and Tinora Sweeten-Lunsford; Jessica Harbuck and Brittany Rowell; Donna Phillips and Janet Smith; and Kathryn Garner and Susan Hrostowski. More here: bit.ly/1SFs7iF
BILL PERMITTING ONE MARRIAGE LICENSE FORM PASSES KENTUCKY HOUSE: Following Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s endorsement of Senate Bill 216, which would create one marriage license form for all Kentuckians, the House voted unanimously in favor of the bill on Friday. SB 216 is considered a fix to SB 5, which passed the Senate last month but drew sharp criticism. Since Kentucky clerk Kim Davis garnered national attention last year for refusing to comply with numerous court orders related to the landmark Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, legislators in Kentucky have been debating changes to marriage certificates in the state. Senate Bill 5 would have created two separate forms from which couples would choose when applying for a marriage license. One would list a “bride and groom” and the other, intended for same-sex couples, would list "first party and second party." Senate Bill 216 gives marriage license applicants the option of checking "bride," ''groom" or "spouse” and does not include the clerk’s name on the form. The bill now heads to the Senate. More here: abcn.ws/1otn7Tr
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST -- ANTI-LGBT ADOPTION BILL DIES IN NEBRASKA: The Lincoln Journal Star reports that the main sponsor of a bill that would allow taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples withdrew his bill after threats of a filibuster in Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature. The bill had drawn outcry from child welfare organizations, and last month some of the most respected child placement organizations in the country released a letter urging senators to vote against the bill. The letter, from the Donaldson Adoption Institute, Voice for Adoption, North American Council on Adoptable Children and National Center on Adoption and Permanency, noted that more than two decades of research shows that children raised by lesbian and gay foster and adoptive parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexual parents and that qualified, eager parents should not be excluded because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. More here: bit.ly/1q01w6m
MASS. MOVEMENT ON TRANS INCLUSION: Massachusetts, the home of the Red Sox, Patriots, and marriage equality trailblazing, has been considering legislation that would explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in public accommodations. Some are concerned that with only four months left in this legislative session, and no official thumbs up or down from Governor Charlie Baker, the non-discrimination train could be coming to halt. Let’s not forget that professional sports teams out of New England -- the New England Patriots, New England Revolution, Boston Celtics, and Boston Bruins, as well as the TD Garden arena -- have all thrown their weight behind the bill, which already has support from the Boston Red Sox, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, and Attorney General Maura Healey. Perhaps the fallout from North Carolina can help move the needle in favor of equality. More here: wbur.fm/25GjFH3
LOUISIANA GOV CONSIDERING RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION IN LGBT EXECUTIVE ORDER: Newly-elected Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ long-awaited executive order protecting LGBT state workers is finally coming, but not without a few changes. According to The Times-Picayune, the order will likely include religious exemptions for state contractors that have religious affiliations. His spokesman has said, “The executive order is still in its drafting phase. But he wants to be mindful of religious organizations.” While it remains to be seen what these exemptions will entail, it should be noted that once elected, Edwards wasted no time announcing plans to issue the order that would protect LGBT state employees and government contractors from discrimination. More here: bit.ly/23aG2lQ
SCHOOL LESSONS ON LGBT TOLERANCE PROMPT PROTEST PETITION - YES, YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY: Teaching tolerance elicits the most interesting reactions, no? In San Ramon, Calif., plans by Windemere Ranch Middle School to offer lessons in safety and respect during a week of tolerance awareness leading up to a National Day of Silence on April 15 aren’t sitting well with some parents. They’re petitioning to stop a plan by school leadership to delve into issues including bullying and acceptance, with a particular focus on the LGBTQ community. Characterizing the tolerance lesson as an “extended promotion of LGBTQ,” the petitioners are threatening to organize a walkout. The school says parents can just have their children opt out. Read more here: bit.ly/1Y41eqe
AROUND THE WORLD
FOOLS IN LOVE: Greenland was not fooling around on April 1st. After a long wait, same-sex couples could finally begin tying the knot on April 1st. Though marriage was supposed to come to Greenland in October, due to some political issues, same-sex couples in Greenland had to wait a little longer. Congrats you April love birds! More here: bit.ly/1W5htEI
YASSS QUEEN: Politicians from Queensland, Australia have passed a law recognizing same-sex partnerships and civil unions. Now, many are calling on the federal government to follow their lead but take it a step further by granting full marriage rights to same-sex couples. With over 70 percent of the country in support, we can’t help but wonder why the parliament continues to delay. Love cannot wait, and Australians are ready for marriage equality. Can’t we just do this?: bit.ly/1UYsLLA
COMING OUT IN KOSOVO, SERBIA AND BOSNIA: In light of ongoing rampant discrimination, advocacy organizations are using new data to support LGBT people in Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia. Trying to draw attention to the plight of LGBT people in the region, supporters of equality are highlighting that not only do LGBT people exist, they deserve their basic rights. Momentum for human rights is growing as pressure from the European Union mounts.It is time to respect the rights of all people. More here: bit.ly/21Tn7cE
Washington Blade covers a LGBT primary care clinic opening in Portland… Detroit Free Press shares a local school’s debate on trans policies… Out Magazine shared an inspirational video for Transgender Day of Visibility… Argus Leader strikes horror as they look at a South Dakotan lawmaker’s praise of North Carolina HB 2... The Los Angeles Times shares how Democrats can fight against anti-LGBT state bills… Time asks why so many anti-LGBT state bills are being proposed… Tucson News Now looks at the housing needs of the local LGBT community… The Asahi Shimbun interviews an openly-gay IBM employee in Japan’s fight for LGBT rights at work... The New York Times interviews U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster and highlights his work promoting human rights despite the discrimination he faces as an openly gay man in the D.R… NBC News gives an overview of the trial for slain transgender woman Islan Nettles… The Advocate showcases how Wells Fargo celebrated Transgender Day of Visibility in North Carolina… ABC News shares a six-year-old’s adorable reaction to learning that her dad is transgender… Oregon Live introduce us to some of the transgender people who call Oregon home… NPR breaks down exactly why Mississippi’s religious refusal bill is so controversial… The Clarion Ledger talks to the same-sex couples in Mississippi who are finally able to adopt… Fortune looks at how Corporate America is stepping up for LGBT equality… The Huffington Post documents the Mississippi wedding of “Mad Men” actor Kit Williamson who hopes it can be a political statement against HB1523… The Tennessean shares an opinion piece about how anti-LGBT bills hurt people’s health… Associated Press covers a LGBT parental rights case in Massachusetts… and Advocate looks at the scary LGBT rhetoric of Ted and Rafael Cruz.