NEWSWEEK ON CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITIES REQUESTING ANTI-LGBT RELIGIOUS
EXEMPTIONS : Newsweek’s Morgan Mitchell takes an in-depth look into the growing trend by religious colleges and universities to quietly request exemptions from existing civil rights law in order to discriminate against LGBT students. Last month, the U.S. Department of Education announced that they would be publishing a searchable database in the coming month of institutions that have sought the exemption. HRC called on the Department to take action in a comprehensive report released in December called Hidden Discrimination: Title IX Religious Exemptions Putting LGBT Students at Risk. In the report, HRC 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. More here: bit.ly/1K2OnCY
OUR FAVORITE HEADLINES FROM YESTERDAY’S HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE HEARING ON RISING DRUG PRICES: Bloomberg, Mr. Shkreli goes to Washington and mocks Ghostface Killah… CBS News, ‘Pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli pleads 5th in congressional hearing… The Daily Free Press, Martin Shkreli pleads Fifth, still annoys… Latin Post, Martin Shkreli dodges every question during hearing; Internet's most hated men infuriates Congress members… Mashable, The 5 most absurd moments of pharama bro Martin Shkreli’s useless Congressional testimony… The Guardian, Martin Shkreli cites the fifth amendment when asked by congressman about Wu-Tang Clan… and Huffington Post, The 9 most punchable Martin Shkreli Faces (Just from Today).
CUOMO, BILL T JONES, WEAVER TO BE HONORED AT NY GALA: This weekend HRC will be honoring New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, award-winning actor Sigourney Weaver and multi-talented artist Bill T. Jones at the 2016 Great New York Gala. HRC will present Governor Cuomo, who has made LGBT equality a core part of his agenda during his tenure, with the National Equality Award, and Sigourney Weaver with the Ally for Equality Award, for her tremendous advocacy on behalf of LGBT equality throughout her career. Bill T. Jones will be honored with the HRC Visibility Award for his work to bring to light the struggles and resilience of those living with HIV. His revolutionary and visionary career in the performing arts has inspired people around the world. Accenture will receive the HRC Corporate Equality Award at the event for their long-term commitment to supporting its LGBT employees through inclusive corporate policies and practices, and their commitment to workplace fairness and equality across the globe. Learn more at HRCGreaterNY.org
THE COMPANY CRUZ KEEPS: In Ted Cruz’s caucus night speech in Iowa, he took the time to thank his two national co-chairs, Bob Vander Plaats and Rep. Steve King, along with his father, anti-LGBT Reverend Rafael Cruz. Cruz called them “men of principle” and commended them for speaking the truth and defending their values, despite our knowing that he tones that rhetoric down when schmoozing with donors. We’ve been tracking these so-called values throughout the campaign and not surprisingly, it’s outrageously offensive. Bob Vander Plaats runs Iowa’s leading anti-LGBT organization, the Family Leader, and has compared being LGBT to a public health risk, like smoking, and vilified transgender people, saying that they would assault people in restrooms. Steve King, an HRC “Hall of Shame” inductee, has spent the last decade fighting marriage equality, and notoriously compared marriage equality to marrying a lawnmower. Meanwhile, Ted’s father, Rafael Cruz, recently made headlines for a fiery tirade against LGBT equality at the World Congress of Families in Utah, suggesting that LGBT activists are looking to “legalize pedophilia.” Vander Plaats, King and Cruz’s father were all on stage with him, but that isn’t the limit to Cruz’s anti-LGBT allies. Cruz also took the time to thank fellow opponents of equality Rick Perry, Glenn Beck, and last but not least, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, during his speech. Get more on Cruz’s anti-LGBT record at hrc.org/2016RepublicanFacts
A NEW DAD WROTE TO HILLARY CLINTON, AND IT WAS BEAUTIFUL: The Clinton campaign released a beautiful letter from a gay new dad in Atlanta, where he describes his hopes that his son will grow up in a world that views their family as equal and worthy of the same rights, respect and dignity as all others. The letter reads in part, “You are the only person running who has declared that our family is real, valid and deserving. A Republican alternative to you will not look at our family and see all of that. I’m frankly scared of Grey turning on the TV and seeing a Republican president who is outspoken about his belief that gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry, or that gay parents are not adequate to provide all the opportunities that a heterosexual couple can provide.” Read the full letter here: bit.ly/1THgQ35
WEST VIRGINIA COMMITTEE ADVANCES BILL TO ENABLE DISCRIMINATION: On Wednesday, the West Virginia state legislature advanced a shameful anti-LGBT bill (HB 4012), that would put LGBT people -- and West Virginians of all walks of life -- at risk for discrimination. HB 4012 advanced in a committee earlier this week by a vote of 16-9. It is one of several anti-LGBT bills introduced this session in the West Virginia legislature. HB 4012 would allow any person to claim that their religious beliefs excuse them from following any state or local law. Not only could the bill allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT people, the broadly-written legislation would go even further, putting all minority communities at risk for discrimination. HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow sounded the alarm on the bill saying, “Freedom of religion is a core American value, which is exactly why it is already protected by the First Amendment. HB 4012 is vague and a recipe for abuse and frivolous lawsuits, flooding the courts with expensive legal challenges that will take years to resolve. Not only would HB 4012 put LGBT people at risk for discrimination, but it would go even further, allowing a person to use HB 4012 as a defense against child abuse or allow a pharmacist to argue he is not required to give birth control to a woman.” HRC and Fairness West Virginia will continue to monitor incoming legislation in the Mountain State, which is part of an onslaught on anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by activist groups and legislators around the country. HB 4012 is among three bills pending in the state legislature that would allow individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a legal reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people. Learn more here: hrc.org/2016legislature
WASHINGTON STATE LAWMAKERS ADVANCE SECOND BILL ATTACKING TRANSGENDER AMERICANS: The Washington Senate Committee on Law and Justice has voted 4-3 in favor of legislation that would specifically prohibit the state’s non-discrimination laws from protecting transgender people against discrimination in the use of sex-segregated facilities. The vote to advance SB 6548 comes shortly after a different Senate committee voted last week to advance legislation – SB 6443 – that would undermine long-standing, gender identity non-discrimination law by repealing regulations put into place by the state’s Human Rights Commission. Both pieces of legislation seek to allow discrimination against transgender Washingtonians using facilities consistent with their gender identity. SB 6443 is now headed to the Rules Committee who will decide if it will be placed on the Senate floor calendar. HRC is proud to join with the Washington SAFE Alliance and stand with the diverse coalition leading the way in Olympia against these extreme and discriminatory measures.
TWO ANTI-LGBT BILLS ADVANCE IN VIRGINIA: Two anti-LGBT bills advanced yesterday in a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee. HB 781 would make it illegal for transgender students to use restrooms and facilities that correspond with their gender identity, while HB 385 would prohibit public entities - including cities, counties, and school districts - from enacting their own non-discrimination ordinances or policies protecting LGBT residents and citizens. This comes after several school districts moved to adopt policies protecting transgender students from discrimination in accordance with Title IX. A third anti-LGBT bill, HB 773, remains on the subcommittee’s docket - it would allow taxpayer-funded agencies to discriminate in providing taxpayer-funded services to LGBT people. Three weeks into the 2016 legislative session, at least 10 bills attacking LGBT Virginians and their families are already up for consideration. The good news is that the Virginia Senate recently passed two LGBT non-discrimination bills, SB 67 and SB 12. Similar legislation passed the Senate last year but failed to pass the House of Delegates.
JACKSONVILLE CITY COUNCIL TO MOVE FORWARD WITH HEARING ON NON-DISCRIMINATION BILLS: The Jacksonville City Council has voted 11-8, in favor of moving forward with hearings on bills that would prohibit LGBT discrimination in the city. The council was scheduled to start debating two bills yesterday, but Councilmember Lori Boyer proposed withdrawing them both: “Let us get our own house in order and implement the mayor’s directive before we take any potentially conflicting action or heighten the public controversy,” she said. The non-discrimination bill proposed by Council Member Tommy Hazouri would add LGBT protections in housing, employment and public accommodations to the city’s Human Rights Ordinance (HRO), while Councilmember Bill Gulliford’s bill proposes putting such an addition up to a public vote later this year. The City Council will move forward with hour long hearings on the bills over the next few weeks. Last week, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced plans to ban discrimination in city hiring and by city contractors, so that practices will comply with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) guidance regarding anti-discrimination policies. Given the EEOC's position that gender identity and sexual orientation are included under Title VII, we expect the Mayor's directive would therefore provide employment protections to LGBT city employees as well. More here: bit.ly/1K2DOQj and fcnews.tv/1QJhFpt
MONTANA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE DONATES TO HATE GROUP: Montana gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte was called out yesterday for donating money to the notoriously anti-LGBT hate group, the Family Research Council. The Montana Democratic Party pointed out that Gianforte gave the hate group $14,000 between 2009 and 2013. His response? A spokesperson for his campaign excused it as a support of “religious liberty,” and that “he believes that discrimination against anyone is wrong - and that includes discrimination against people of faith.” This is the same group that considers Kim Davis a “symbol of courage in the president’s war on religious liberty,” and does not consider “homosexuality, bi-sexuality, or transgenderism [sic] as acceptable alternative lifestyles.” Yeah… it doesn’t really seem like Gianforte knows what he’s talking about when he says he’s “against discrimination.” More here: bit.ly/20HIuyN
TEXAS JUDGE PULLS A KIM DAVIS: Bill Metzger, a Republican justice of the peace in Dallas County, has taken to Facebook to inform the world that due to his Catholic faith he will “only be conducting traditional marriages.” To justify the move, Metzger cited an opinion issued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in which Paxton wrote that justices of the peace “may claim that the government cannot force them to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies over their religious objections.” However, opposing opinions have been issued by Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan. Elected officials cannot continue to willfully refuse to only serve some people and deny the rights of others. Hopefully loving and committed same-sex couples come forward to challenge Metzger and ensure that he does his job. More from the New Civil Rights Movement here: bit.ly/1NU2y81
A CASE OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES?: A Seattle Catholic high school’s refusal to run the same-sex marriage announcement of 1997 graduate Jessie Gifford in its alumni magazine is galvanizing support for the former student body vice president and homecoming queen. Scores of classmates have been expressing support, and congratulating Gifford on her marriage, since her story was shared on Facebook by fellow alum, James Nau. “Go, James! Congrats Jessie!,” is a common sentiment on Nau’s page. Nau, who was the class of 1997’s student body president and homecoming king, told the Seattle Post Intelligencer that the Archdiocese of Seattle's decision banning the announcement has been“very alienating,” and, in a letter to the president of Bishop Blanchet High School asked, “What does it teach students whose parents are gay?” The Seattle Archdiocese has maintained church teachings, adhering to a firm stance against same-sex marriage in a city whose devout Catholic and openly-gay Mayor Ed Murray married his husband in an Episcopal church. More here: bit.ly/1TIGnc4
AROUND THE WORLD
STAMPS FOR EQUALITY: Yesterday, the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) released 6 new stamps promoting LGBT equality. Designed by artist and UNPA’s art director Sergio Baradat, according to the Associated Press, the historic stamps “are also meant to celebrate the diversity of the gay community and marks the first time the global body's post office has issued stamps with an LGBT theme.” At the unveiling ceremony at the U.N. General Assembly building, Charles Radcliffe, chief of the global issues section of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights talked about the progress we’ve made and the work ahead, specifically regarding decriminalization of same-sex relations and fighting hate crimes. Check out the beautiful stamps here: bit.ly/1S4hkAW
AUSTRALIA, DOES THIS LOOK FAMILIAR?: As Australians await marriage equality, a new measure in the federal government is being debated. The Recognition of Foreign Marriages Bill would ensure that throughout Australia, same-sex marriages performed outside of the country would be recognized. Many LGBT Australians travel to neighboring New Zealand to say “I do,” only to return home and have their state not recognize their union. Advocates are hopeful that this measure would at least be a step in the right direction until marriage equality is finally the law of the land in Australia. More here: huff.to/1KZFLYD
JONAH - NEW COUNTRY, SAME OLD FRAUD: After losing in a monumental court battle, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) has decided to try and peddle its harmful practices across the ocean to Israel. JONAH was forced to close its doors after a New Jersey court ruled that its particular brand of “therapy” was in fact consumer fraud, not to mention harmful and detrimental to its patients. Hoping to appeal to orthodox Jewish communities in Israel, JONAH’s expansion into the holy land could be dangerous for the Israeli LGBT community. Let’s hope this JONAH gets eaten by a whale as well. Metaphorically. Definitely metaphorically. More here: bit.ly/1ocy64f
The Bangor Daily News breaks down the debate over bathrooms and transgender students in Maine….The Gay Star News covers a new study that shows increased support for anti-discrimination protections in Hong Kong…. and The Times Free Press reports on a new lawsuit in Tennessee that seeks to have the state’s marriage license law declared invalid.