NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD CALLS ON GOV. DAUGAARD TO VETO HB 1008: The New York Times announced today in an editorial that “There is no reason for Mr. Daugaard to sign a discriminatory bill that reached his desk this week. There are many good reasons to veto it.” The bill, which would force transgender children in South Dakota to use bathrooms and locker rooms inconsistent with their gender identity, passed through the state legislature and now lies on the desk of Governor Dennis Daugaard. He has until end of the day on Tuesday to either sign or veto the bill. The New York Times calls the bill “backwards,” and states that it would jeopardize federal funding for public schools in the state, and stigmatize already vulnerable students. Read the full editorial here: nyti.ms/1OAwer8
MEMO TO REPUBLICANS, AMERICANS DON’T SUPPORT RELIGIOUS-BASED DISCRIMINATION: At last night’s GOP debate (if that’s even what we should call what transpired), Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio all suggested that they would require their appointments to the Supreme Court to pass a “religious liberty” litmus test. Apparently they missed recent polling by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute, involving more than 42,000 interviews in all 50 states, which found little support for so-called “religious refusal” bills that would allow a small business owner to deny service to LGBT people for religious reasons. Only 35 percent supported such a bill while 59 percent opposed. In fact, a majority of residents in the states of the three frontrunners -- Florida (70 percent opposed), Texas (67 percent opposed) and New York (77 percent opposed) -- oppose such a bill. HRC’s Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof responded with the following statement: “Freedom of religion is a core American value, which exactly is why it is already protected by the First Amendment. Donald Trump and the rest of the candidates on the stage painted a troubling vision of the future where LGBT people all across the country are discriminated against and denied service at a business because of who they are or who they love. Everyone, including LGBT people, should be able to live free from fear of discrimination, which is exactly why the American people oppose these reckless, Mike Pence style bills.”
PAUL RYAN PUNTS ON EQUALITY ACT: According to the Washington Blade, when asked yesterday about whether the bipartisan Equality Act would come up for a vote, House Speaker Paul Ryan totally dodged the question saying, “I’m a regular order guy. My position has not changed. I’m a regular order guy. You got to get bills out of committee to get them to the floor.” In the past month, two Republican lawmakers Rep. Bob Dold and Senator Mark Kirk have expressed support for the landmark federal legislation, that would guarantee explicit, permanent protections for LGBT people from discrimination in many of the most important aspects of their lives. Polling by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner has also shown strong support among Republican voters for the Equality Act’s non-discrimination protections. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of all likely Republican voters support protecting LGBT people from discrimination, as do 90 percent of Democrats. Nearly eight out of 10 Americans -- an overwhelming majority -- support non-discrimination protections for LGBT Americans. More here: bit.ly/1LIytZx
PERSONAL SUPPORT BOOSTS ADHERENCE TO ANTI-HIV PrEP TREATMENT AND SUCCESS: A new study of 226 black, gay and bisexual men from Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Los Angeles, California; and Washington, D.C. found that they are much more likely to adhere to a regimen of anti-HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) if they receive help addressing “personal barriers,” including housing, domestic violence, substance abuse and other medical issues, as part of comprehensive efforts to support black men’s health and wellbeing. Of 178 men who started taking the preventive pill as part of the study, nearly 70 percent were still taking PrEP a year later, researchers reported this week at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston, according to Reuters. “I think it’s an important study because one of the major stumbling blocks of PrEP is adherence,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland. The study results were released at the same conference where the CDC announced shocking projections that one in two black gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV over their lifetimes if diagnosis rates remain unchanged. More here: reut.rs/1XPJijB
ANTI-LGBT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BILL ADVANCES IN KENTUCKY: Kentucky lawmakers had a busy day advancing their anti-equality agenda yesterday. A Senate committee voted to advance S.B. 180, a bill intended to allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers if doing so conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs. One democratic State Senator, Perry Clark voted against the bill saying that the constitution already offers all the necessary religious freedom protections, (Hear, Hear)! Chris Hartman of the Fairness Campaign denounced the vote explaining what the bill is really about: “It’s a clear attack on the eight cities that passed anti-discrimination fairness ordinances to protect LGBT people. They made it crystal clear during the committee hearing that that’s what their aims are. So we’ll be doing everything we can to halt the progress of this legislation.” If passed in the Republican-led Senate, the bill will then head over to the Democratic-led House. More here: bit.ly/1Ungtv2
SALESFORCE CEO PROMISES LESS INVESTMENT IN GEORGIA IF FADA BECOMES LAW: Yesterday, Salesforce Inc. CEO Marc Benioff announced that he will reduce the company’s investment in Georgia if H.B. 757, a “First Amendment Defense Act”, becomes law. The bill goes far beyond protecting the right to practice one’s religion and would instead put LGBT people, couples, single parents, and unmarried couples at risk for discrimination. State-contracted counselors could refuse to provide services to single mothers. Taxpayer funded adoption and foster care agencies could refuse to place children in desperate need of loving and caring homes with LGBT couples. State-funded homeless shelters could turn away unwed couples and their families. Government employees could refuse to file tax forms for same-sex couples or provide state benefits to single mothers. Needless to say, the state is getting a lot of backlash for advancing the discriminatory legislation. A Georgia-based telecom company has already announced plans to relocate to Nevada, and folks are also sounding the alarm on the negative impact this could have on Georgia’s burgeoning film industry. According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, “Benioff joins several Georgia businesses, including AT&T, Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.,The Home Depot Inc., SunTrust Banks Inc. and United Parcel Service Inc. who oppose” the bill.
CLERGY ALSO DENOUNCE GEORGIA’S FADA: And businesses aren’t the only ones speaking out against H.B. 757. At a press conference at the Georgia Capitol on Wednesday, LGBT and progressive clergy denounced the ‘hybrid bill’ that as we mentioned would allow for state sanctioned LGBT discrimination by faith-based organizations and weaken non-discrimination protections across the state. LGBT and supportive faith leaders have publicly displayed their opposition to the legislation since it was introduced by taking part in rallies and protests outside the Capitol. More here: bit.ly/1XPfun4
SPECIAL SESSION IN NORTH CAROLINA?: Lawmakers in North Carolina are so riled up about Charlotte adopting LGBT non-discrimination protections, that they are contemplating whether to address the issue in a special session some time in the next few weeks. House Speaker Tim Moore claims that this is necessary to deal with what he considers “a real danger to public safety concerning the sexual identity and bathroom matters, as well as the related mandates upon private businesses.” The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene on April 25, but with Charlotte’s ordinance going into effect on April 1, Moore is working double time to rally support for the session, where legislation blocking municipalities from implementing their own ordinances will likely be introduced. Getting support may not be easy because according to reports, a special session could cost the state a whopping $42,000 a day, which begs the question: how much are NC lawmakers willing to spend fighting progress? More here: bit.ly/1oEtyU7
LGBT GROUPS CALL FOR ASHEVILLE TO PASS ORDINANCE SIMILAR TO CHARLOTTE: On Monday, the Charlotte City Council voted 7-4 to expand non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Following the decision, the Campaign for Southern Equality and Equality NC are reaching out to the Asheville City Council for similar protections in their community, particularly issues involving how local businesses treat LGBT individuals. More here: bit.ly/1LItXdt
THE HERALD-DISPATCH DENOUNCES RESOLUTION TO BAN LGBT-INCLUSIVE ORDINANCES IN WEST VIRGINIA: The editorial board of the Herald-Dispatch came out strongly against West Virginia State Sen. Craig Blair’s proposed amendment to the state constitution, which would ban cities and towns from enacting their own ordinances that will protect LGBT residents and visitors from discrimination. The board totally debunked Blair’s claim that the legislation is about jobs and “treat[ing] everyone equally and fairly,” by pointing out that passing the amendment would only “reinforce the perception that West Virginia is an unwelcome place for gay and transgender people.” They write, “t should be evident from discussions related to a religious freedom bill considered by the Legislature that much of the business community is not on board with any legislation that is viewed as discounting the rights of certain groups, including the LGBT community. If the legislature is to act on any measure related to non-discrimination, it should approve a bill that would be inclusive of all Mountain State residents rather than exclude certain segments. That's how you strive for ‘equally and fairly.’” Earlier this week several mayors also came out against the resolution, which will need a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate to be placed on the ballot. Read the editorial here: bit.ly/1UovfSh
WEST VIRGINIA RABBI CALLS FOR WV TO RETRACT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BILL: In a poignant op-ed, Rabbi Victor Urecki explains why West Virginia’s Religious Freedom bill does not help the religious community. As an observant Jew, he details his experience moving to West Virginia and finding a loving and supporting religious community, both within and outside of Judaism. He further explains that this bill will send a message that Christians in the state are an intolerant people, and that West Virginia should reject this bill and promote the image of the state that he has experienced, not the stereotype people assume. Read the full op-ed here: bit.ly/1pa1CYZ
MELODRAMATIC LAWYER WANTS TO DEPRIVE TAXPAYERS OF $6 MILLION: What could Alabama’s taxpayers buy with $6 million dollars? A hospital… lunches for low-income students… repairing infrastructure… But that’s not what attorney Austin Burdick wants. Instead, he’s suing the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama for that much. Why on earth would he do that? Well, because he claims to have suffered “damages and harm” because of the court’s pro-marriage equality ruling. Burdick, a failed Republican politician, claims the ruling “destroyed” the U.S. Constitution, and thus deprives him of a “lifetime of income.” Good luck with that, sir. More here: bit.ly/1LItM1O
AROUND THE WORLD
CIVIL UNIONS ARRIVE IN ITALY, BUT NOT WITHOUT DRAWBACKS: First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage. But… Someone tell Italy that they didn’t have to take the rhyme so seriously. Yesterday, Italy finally voted to grant legal recognition of civil unions for same sex couples, making them the last Western European country to do so. While this is a historic vote, the bill removed provisions that allowed same-sex couples to adopt, showing that there are still barriers Italy must overcome for true equality in the country. The local LGBT community has decried this move, which was done late in the game in order to get more conservative votes for civil unions. More here: abcn.ws/21jqUVG
The Advocate tells a harrowing story about the black transgender community and HIV… The Post Athens calls for more visibility of the epidemic of violence against black transgender women… Huffington Post breaks down a study that found the criminal justice system disproportionately targets the LGBT community… San Antonio Express-News historicizes the intersection of the Texas primaries and LGBT activism... MTV looks at the “lessons and lunacies” of Charlotte’s recent non-discrimination ordinance win… ThinkProgress explores a new study on homophobia in the black community… U.S. News & World Report checks out a study that says transgender kids have better mental health with their parents’ support… Huffington Post explains the business-sense behind LGBT-inclusion.