#AM_Equality Tip Sheet: January 21, 2016

HRC staff

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION ANSWERS HRC’S CALL FOR GREATER TRANSPARENCY ON ANTI-LGBT RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS: Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education announced plans to publish a searchable database in the coming months of religious educational institutions who have sought and/or received an exemption from federal civil rights law in order to discriminate against LGBT students. To help increase transparency and accountability, HRC called on the Department of Education in December to take action in light of this growing and disturbing trend by some religious colleges and universities. HRC President Chad Griffin praised their decision saying, “We are encouraged that the Department of Education is answering our call for greater transparency to help ensure no student unknowingly enrolls in a school that intends to discriminate against them. We believe that religious liberty is a bedrock principle of our nation, however, faith should never be used as a guise for discrimination." HRC first called on the Department of Education to take action in a comprehensive report released in December which spotlighted 56 colleges and universities based in 26 states across every region of the country – which collectively have nearly 120,000 students - that have requested religious exemptions under Title IX since 2013. Senator Wyden (D-Ore) and 7 other senators also urged the Obama Administration for more transparency in a letter saying, “[it] will ensure that institutions controlled by religious organizations publicly account for their motives and justifications for seeking these waivers.” These institutions have utilized a little-known provision in the law that allows educational institutions controlled by a religious organization to request an exemption from full compliance with the law if the “application of the law would conflict with specific tenets of the religion.” More here: bit.ly/1lyZNlQ

TRANSGENDER WOMAN WINS DISCRIMINATION CASE: Yesterday, a Minnesota federal judge approved a settlement of $115,000 that Deluxe Financial Services, Inc. must pay to Britney Austin for discriminating against her on the basis of her gender identity in 2011. The national check-printing company must also issue Austin a personal apology and change its policies regarding transgender employees. According to Austin, she was the target of anti-transgender slurs in the workplace, banned from the restroom that corresponded to her gender identity, refused a name change on company records and denied severance pay and COBRA benefits after being laid off. Congratulations to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and attorney Jillian T. Weiss – who represented Austin -- on their excellent work advocating for transgender people. More here: bzfd.it/20fyPzq

GROWING BACKLASH OVER CRUZ’S “NEW YORK VALUES”: Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has now joined the chorus of those on both sides of the aisle who’ve called out Ted Cruz for attacking “New York values,” while gladly taking New York money. Huckabee followed Trump’s lead by tweeting an article from last April that describes Cruz’s meeting with gay businessmen in New York, despite his abominable record on LGBT issues. More here: http://bit.ly/1S7aXLD

SHKRELI’S BACK IN THE NEWS!: Yesterday, universally-abhorred Martin Shkreli was subpoenaed by the House Oversight Committee for a congressional hearing on January 26, where lawmakers will investigate drug companies for unconscionable price hikes. Last September after Shkreli became infamous for increasing the cost of the life-saving drug Daraprim by a ridiculous 5000%, HRC called on and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to fully investigate and put a stop to Turing’s actions. Though Shkeli stepped down from his post as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals in December, the company still has not lowered the price of the drug. More here: nyti.ms/1NkIYBz

ERIC FANNING CONFIRMATION HEARING TODAY: After months of waiting for a confirmation, Eric Fanning, the first openly gay man to be nominated as Secretary of the Army, finally got a hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee today. This comes after Fanning stepped down from the position earlier this month, due to concerns from some Senate Republicans regarding a possible violation of the Vacancies Act if Fanning served as acting secretary, while waiting to confirmed. More here: huff.to/1ZEisu2

KEEPING UP WITH KIM DAVIS: Kim Davis is a busy woman. When she’s not attending the State of the Union, Kim Davis is in court fighting for her “right” to discriminate against loving and committed same-sex couples. Yesterday, she and her lawyers appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, that she was “a prisoner of conscience” whose personal beliefs were violated when she was asked to do her job. Dawn Ennis of the Advocate breaks down what Davis is asking for in this seemingly never-ending saga. Read her piece here: bit.ly/1V9xk2a

NEW FOUNDATION TO SUPPORT LGBT ATHLETES: The Sports Equality Foundation, an organization created to support and encourage LGBT athletes, coaches and team leaders, launched yesterday. The goal of the Foundation is to empower athletes to come out as LGBT, and promote more LGBT-inclusive sports communities. Less than a third of LGBT youth say they play sports very often or sometimes for their school or community league/club, while about half of non-LGBT youth say they do. The Foundation was created with the help of some big names in LGBT sports like Billy Bean, Howard Bragman, Jason Collins, Christina Kahrl, Conner Mertens and Brian Sims. More here: usat.ly/1OwNdhn


GEORGIA STATE SENATOR INTRODUCES BILL TO ENABLE DISCRIMINATION AGAINST SAME-SEX COUPLES: Yesterday, anti-LGBT Republican Senator Greg Kirk introduced the so-called First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia, legislation that would go far beyond protecting the right to practice one’s religion – which is already firmly established in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – and would promote state taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex couples and their families in Georgia. HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow blasted the legislation saying, “Fair-minded Georgians must not be fooled by Rep. Kirk’s despicable attempt to mask discrimination against LGBT Georgians and their families with religious freedom.” The outrageous legislation goes far beyond protecting the right of free exercise of one’s religion. While falsely framed as prohibiting the state government from making funding or tax status decisions based on an organization’s views on marriage that are driven by religious belief, in reality it threatens to create a breakdown of state government services, opening the door to discrimination against same-sex couples, their families, and those who love them. With salaries paid for by Georgia taxpayers, state employees would be enabled to refuse to fully perform their duties if they claim they conflict with their objection to marriage equality. It is important to note that no religious organization or clergy is required to sanction or perform same-sex marriage under any federal or state law. Learn more here: bit.ly/1V9sd1

BLOW TO TENNESSEE ANTI-MARRIAGE EQUALITY BILL: Tennessee lawmakers of the House Civil Justice Subcommittee have rejected the vile Natural Marriage Defense Act, State Rep. Mark Pody’s (R-46) sad attempt to defy the Supreme Court’s ruling, by eliminating marriage equality in the state and requiring the state to defend marriage as “between one man and one woman.” According to the Tennessee General Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee, it would have cost the state a whopping $8 billion! A companion version of this bill is still alive in the Senate however, and lawmakers have until mid-February to file legislation this session, so we’ll still be watching closely. The Natural Marriage Defense Act is part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed this year by anti-equality activists around the country. The vote was the first in the nation during the 2016 state legislative session on over 100 anti-LGBT bills being considered across over 20 states. More here: tnne.ws/1P8423O

HEARING SCHEDULED FOR NON-DISCRIMINATION PROTECTIONS IN INDIANA: On January 27 at 4 P.M., Indiana will (finally) have a hearing regarding two non-discrimination bills. Unfortunately, both bills fall far short of the full protections needed for LGBT Hoosiers. SB 100 claims to update Indiana’s civil rights law to protect LGBT Hoosiers, but presents more problems than solutions. This bill would override existing municipal civil rights protections and write broad religious exemptions into law. SB 344 seeks to update Indiana’s civil rights law but excludes any and all protections for transgender Hoosiers. The hearing comes after Governor Mike Pence failed to come out for fully inclusive non-discrimination protections for LGBT Hoosiers and visitors, saying he would not support legislation that he believes would diminish “religious freedom” (code for he believes people should be able to use their religion as an excuse to deny goods or services to LGBT Hoosiers). Another anti-LGBT bill, a “Super-RFRA,” that would strip away the exemption for non-discrimination protections that Pence previously signed into law, trying to limit the damage of the state’s current RFRA, will be heard next Wednesday at 9 A.M. Meanwhile, a new poll finds that the damage inflicted on the state from last year’s anti-LGBT RFRA fight continues to linger. More here: bit.ly/1SxQpgI here: bit.ly/1Wvwyhn

NY FINALIZES TRANS NONDISCRIMINATION PROTECTIONS: Yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Administration finalized non-discrimination protections for transgender New Yorkers and visitors, that were announced last October. These vitally important protections, added to the pre-existing Human Rights Law, prevent discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. Transgender New Yorkers are frequently denied employment, evicted from their homes, or harassed in public because of their gender identity. According to the Empire State Pride Agenda, 74% of transgender New Yorkers have been harassed or mistreated on the job, 19% denied a home or apartment, and 53% harassed in public accommodations, such as a restaurant, library, store, or public transportation. The Governor’s important administrative action follows a lack of leadership from the New York State Senate which failed to consider and pass the state’s Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) – a bill that would explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in employment, housing, and public accommodations.Opponents of the protections used the eerily-familiar “bathroom bill” argument against it, proving that LGBT rights can stand up against sensationalism and lies. More here: on.rocne.ws/1nyH0bX and bit.ly/1RArYPo

MISSOURI GOVERNOR CALLS FOR LGBT PROTECTIONS: In his final State of the State Address last night, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon made a bold call for state legislators to pass the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect residents and visitors from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. Nixon, a democrat, said, “[N]o one should be discriminated against because of who they love…It is unacceptable that Missourians can still be fired for being gay. That’s wrong, it’s not who we are — and it must change.” Sadly, Senate President Ron Richard has already told that Kansas City Star that the Non-Discrimination Act has no chance this legislative session. Several anti-LGBT bills however, have already been filed and introduced. More here: http://bit.ly/1QgKadY


NOT SUCH A WARM WELCOME: The U.S. Special Envoy for LGBTI Human Rights, Randy Berry, is set to travel to Malawi. However, not everyone is rolling out the welcome mats. Malawi is one of 75 countries worldwide that criminalizes same-sex relationships. A couple of internet trolls, and real life bullies are worried that with Berry could come a new energy for human rights in the African nation. In recent months, however, Malawi President Peter Mutharika has expressed support for granting protections to the LGBT community by asking the government to temporarily suspend the enforcement of anti-LGBT laws. More here: bit.ly/1NmyUYF

FELICIDADES, SANDRA: Sandra Morán, the first openly LGBT member of Guatemala's Congress, took office last week. Morán is a strong supporter of underrepresented groups, especially women, the LGBT and the indigenous communities. She was sworn in along with the 158 other new members of the Congress outside the Congress building last week. Her goals while in office are to address poverty and violence in the country, especially among the LGBT community. More here: bit.ly/1JiQpOM


U.S. News & World Report explains how to come out to your doctor as LGBT…. Advocate breaks down a new GLAAD report on LGBT acceptance… Fox looks at a British independent school doing away with a 170-year old uniform code in order to support transgender students… the Atlantic looks at what happened when religious freedom and LGBT rights clashed in 1985… and India Today looks at a new taxi service run by India’s LGBT community called Wings Rainbow.

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