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South Carolina Christian College Bans Homosexuality After Two Athletes Courageously Come Out

Juan Varona Erskine College

Erskine College, South Carolina has banned homosexuality after volleyball players Drew Davis and Juan Varona (above) came out last year.

OutSports reports that although Davis and Varona found support from their teammates, a statement from the college is likely to drive “a no-gays policy at the school and create an atmosphere where LGBT people do not feel safe.”

The February 20th “Statement on Human Sexuality” reads in part:

Erskine“We believe the Bible teaches that all sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage is sinful and therefore ultimately destructive to the parties involved. As a Christian academic community, and in light of our institutional mission, members of the Erskine community are expected to follow the teachings of scripture concerning matters of human sexuality and institutional decisions will be made in light of this position.”

Varona told OutSports that the statement “makes me disappointed because I have never received anything but kind treatment from everyone at this school, and my sexual orientation is no secret.”

He added:

"I feel that in the time that we are living right now, where even in the conservative state of South Carolina same-sex marriage is legal, the school took several steps back instead of progressing towards a future where everyone can be treated as an equal, which is a future most of the country is moving towards.

"I understand the religious stand on adultery, which is part of the Ten Commandments in the Bible, and that would apply to heterosexual and homosexual people. But when I saw the mention of sexual orientation being an issue, it just made me sad and worried for other gay people who might be struggling with confidence to come out."


Chicago-Based Startup Empowering Trans Workers To Seek Jobs In Tech: VIDEO

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Like many young Americans Angelica Ross joined the Navy in hopes of securing a path--and funding--for her college education. During her time in the service Ross was openly antagonized for her gender presentation. Back then, at 17, Ross was still living as a young man and had yet to begin the process of transitioning.

Speaking to Chicago magazine, Ross recounts a time when she falsely admitted to being gay after having her life threatened by fellow enlistees. She was forced into a dishonorable discharge with little means to support herself financially or her academic pursuits. Like many trans-identified people, Ross found it difficult to maintain consistent employment in the following years.

“Like many trans women of color, I was faced with the decision of doing sex work to pay for bills,” said Ross. “What I realized is that I could find an economy online. I taught myself how to build websites, retouch photos, and do graphic design, which led me to build my own company.”

TransTech Social Enterprises, Ross’s Chicago-based nonprofit organization, tackles many of the workplace barriers to entry that transpeople face by focusing on teaching digital skills.

“When you work online, nobody cares what you sound and look like,” Ross explained. “It’s about whether you can get the job done. That’s why [freelance work on the web] is a superfertile environment for us across industries, from writers to designers to coders. Trans people just haven’t been shown this path to independence.

Read Chicago magazine’s full interview with Angelica Ross here and listen to her tell her story of founding a tech startup to empower transgender people AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Chicago-Based Startup Empowering Trans Workers To Seek Jobs In Tech: VIDEO" »


Conway, Arkansas Approves LGBT Rights Ordinance Despite Discriminatory New State Law

Arkansas

Following a 6-2 vote Tuesday by the city council, city employees of Conway, Arkansas can (for the time being) go to work with the assurance that they can’t be fired for their sexuality or gender identity. Conway mayor Tab Townsell threw his full support behind the decision to extend protections to the town’s LGBT population despite many of his more conservative constituents voicing concern for their religious liberties.

Mark Ledbetter and Mary Smith, the two council members who opposed the new protections, expressed their belief that the public had not been given adequate time to fully appreciate the implications of heightened job security for Conway’s queer workforce.

Conway’s move to legally protect its LGBT employees comes just days after Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson allowed SB 202 to become law - legislation that expressly forbids local town governments from enacting pro-LGBT policies like Conway’s. Specifically SB 202 requires that:

“A county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state shall not adopt or enforce an ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.”

The law is set to go into effect 90 days after the state Legislature formally adjourns, which is currently set for May. After that, Conway's ordinance will no longer protect LGBT folks. 

One of the chief concerns raised by opponents of SB 202 was the chilling effect that sanctioning discrimination against queer workers might have on the local economy. Following Hutchinson’s decision representatives from Tyson Foods and Walmart both spoke out on behalf of their companies, expressing their disagreement with the law.

Outcry from large LGBT advocacy organizations like the HRC were conspicuously missing immediately after SB 202 went into effect, prompting Michael Signorile to claim social “malpractice.” Not seizing upon any and all opportunities to draw attention to these kinds of injustices, Signorile reasoned, was irresponsible and linked to a broader sense of gay complacency:

“And it's part of the right's plan to roll back LGBT rights while many LGBT people become complacent or apathetic, buying into this idea that full civil rights are inevitable, pointing, for example, to polling about young people being more accepting, and, well, doing pretty much what many women foolishly did in the early years of the backlash against women's liberation.”

HRC President Chad Griffin soon issued an official statement after widespread criticism for his organization's silence on the developments in Arkansas:

"I’m proud to call Arkansas my home state—the place where my entire extended family has lived for years. I know these bills do not reflect the Arkansas values.

They certainly do not reflect this state’s commitment to growing a 21st Century economy that attracts good paying jobs—and to guaranteeing a business climate that welcomes everyone who is willing to work hard and build a better future for themselves and for their community. These kinds of political attacks have been rejected by Republicans and Democrats all across this country. Let’s not let Arkansas be dragged backward by an unrepresentative minority."


Mike Bowers, Man Who Defended Sodomy Bans, Says He Is A Changed Man on LGBT Rights: VIDEO

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Mike Bowers, the former Georgia Attorney General who defended the state’s sodomy ban, has spoken to Buzzfeed about how his opinions on gay rights have evolved over the last 30 years.

Bowers, who in 1986 successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to allow state bans on “homosexual sodomy,” earlier this week announced his opposition to “deeply troubling” pending religious liberty legislation in the state.

According to Bowers, the timing of the proposed legislation is suspect as it comes in the wake of the many recent marriage equality decisions. Moreover, the state proposals provide for broader exemptions than federal protections, so that “any time a person wished to refuse to act in response to a government requirement, he or she could assert the protection of the proposed [Religious Freedom Restoration Act on which the proposals are based].”

Bowers was asked by LGBT group Georgia Equality to assess the bill.  Once he’d read it, he decided it needed to be killed because it would allow people “to use religion as an excuse for his or her interpretation of the law and to get out from under this, that, or the other law.”

On the issue of same-sex marriage, he said:

“I want people to be left alone.

“I genuinely believe that everybody, all people, need someone to love and be loved by. I truly believe that.”

Watch a 2012 interview with Bowers reflecting on his time in Georgia politics, AFTER THE JUMP..

Continue reading "Mike Bowers, Man Who Defended Sodomy Bans, Says He Is A Changed Man on LGBT Rights: VIDEO" »


Matt Baume Tackles Arkansas' New Anti-LGBT Law and the Terrifying Roadmap Towards Future Discrimination: VIDEO

Baume

In a follow-up video to last week's yummy fireside chat on the ongoing "cake wars" and why bakeries in certain states can't refuse to do business with gay folks, Matt Baume tackles Arkansas' new law banning local governments from passing LGBT anti-discrimination protections.

Taking viewers on a trip back in time to uncover the insidious origins of the bill, Baume reveals how the benign-sounding "Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act" could very well serve as a blueprint for future anti-LGBT laws across the country. 

As Baume says, if there's anything we learned from Star Wars Episode I, it's that "the best way to conceal a great evil - an evil that can shake a Republic to its very foundations - is to make it incredibly boring."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Matt Baume Tackles Arkansas' New Anti-LGBT Law and the Terrifying Roadmap Towards Future Discrimination: VIDEO" »


Arkansas 'License to Discriminate' Bill Fails to Pass Out of State Senate Committee

Arkansas

A bill in Arkansas that would strengthen religious-based discrimination against LGBT people failed to pass out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

The news comes days after Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson let a bill banning local governments from passing LGBT anti-discrimination protections become law. 

The Associated Press reports:

HutchinsonThe governor said Tuesday he had concerns about unintended consequences of the "conscience protection" legislation, but stopped short of saying whether he opposed it.

Bentonville-based Wal-Mart's criticism of the measure was nearly identical to concerns it raised about the local ordinances law. Apple Inc. also spoke out against the measure on Wednesday, saying "inclusion inspires innovation," and urging state's legislators to vote against the bill.

Despite the bill's defeat, advocacy groups ramped up lobbying efforts in case it's revived. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT rights group, said Wednesday it was launching a $25,000 digital and television ad purchase to urge lawmakers to oppose the "conscience protection" measure.

The Arkansas Municipal League and the Association of Arkansas Counties also opposed the bill, saying it would open local governments to increased litigation over their ordinances.


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