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04/19/2007


Tuesday Speed Read: Supreme Court, Nebraska, Chai Feldblum, Peter TerVeer, Annise Parker

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

SUPREME REJECTION:

ElanephotographyThe U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to review a decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court that said the state human rights law does not violate the free speech rights of a wedding photographer who refused services to a same-sex couple. By not taking the case, Elane v. Willock, the Supreme Court leaves intact the state court ruling that said businesses that “choose to be public accommodations must comply” with the non-discrimination law. The photographer had claimed that she had religious beliefs that compelled her to refuse accommodations to the lesbian couple, and the case was viewed as one of many disputes heading to the U.S. high court that pitted religious beliefs against non-discrimination laws. But the case was never pitched as a free exercise case and that may be why the Supreme Court didn’t take it, said Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jenny Pizer. Tobias Wolff, an attorney helping represent the lesbian couple, said, “No court in the United States has ever found that a business selling commercial services to the general public has a First Amendment right to turn away customers on a discriminatory basis.”

NEBRASKA COMES CLOSE:

NebraskaNebraska’s unicameral legislature voted 26 to 22 Monday to move a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity to the floor. Unfortunately, supporters of the measure needed 33 votes to break the filibuster. The legislative session ends this week and local papers give little chance that the bill’s supporters might get the bill to the floor this year. The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln, vowed to continue the push even though the state’s term limits won’t enable her to come back next session.

EEOC ON THE JOB:

FeldblumChai Feldblum, the openly lesbian member of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), told National Public Radio April 2 that the commission has “about 200 or so pending investigations right now that have been brought to us by LGBT people, and we're looking into those charges.” Feldblum noted the EEOC used to turn away LGBT complaints because there is no federal law prohibiting such discrimination. But she said the Commission is now looking into the complaints as forms of sex discrimination, which is prohibited by federal law. Whether the EEOC has authority to do so, she noted, will probably be determined at the U.S. Supreme Court.

SPEAKING OF SEX DISCRIMINATION:

A U.S. district court judge in Washington, D.C., entered a preliminary ruling April 4 in favor of a man who alleges he was fired from his federal job because he is gay. The order says the man, Library of Congress employee Peter TerVeer, can sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act –the title that, among other things, prohibits sex discrimination. The government’s brief in the case, Terveer v. Billington, is due June 3.

HOUSTON’S PARKER GETS HEAT:

ParkerHouston Mayor Annise Parker is being criticized for preparing to propose a human rights ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and public accommodations but not in private employment. In her annual State of the City address April 3, Parker noted that Houston is “the only major city in the nation without civil rights protections for its residents.” She is expected to introduce the bill in May, and LoneStarQ says LGBT leaders expect the bill will not prohibit discrimination in private employers, as a way to ensure the bill passes city council. The head of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus told the Texas LGBT paper the omission amounts to “siding with the right of employers to discriminate.”

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Supreme Court Declines Anti-Gay Discrimination Case Involving New Mexico Photographer

ElanephotographyThe U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would not take up the case involving Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin (pictured), who refused to photograph the commitment ceremony of Vanessa Willock, a resident of Albuquerque, on the grounds that same-sex marriage conflicts with Christian beliefs.

The New Mexico Supreme Court had ruled that Elane Photography was violating the antidiscrimination provisions of the New Mexico Human Rights Act in August.

The Washington Blade reports:

In orders published Monday morning, the court listed the case, Elane Photography v. Willock, without comment among as the cases it won’t consider.

The case was brought to the Supreme Court by Elane Photography, which was found to have violated New Mexico’s anti-discrimination law for refusing to take a photo for the same-sex wedding ceremony for Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth in 2006. (The wedding was only ceremonial because the incident took place before the state legalized same-sex marriage.)

Elane Photography filed lawsuit in state court, alleging that its refusal to photograph a same-sex wedding is protected on religious grounds. However, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against the claims, saying the businesses service can be regulated because it’s a public accommodation. Following that decision, Elane Photography asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the lawsuit based on First Amendment protections under the U.S. Constitution.


Rep. Louie Gohmert Applauds Mississippi’s Religious Freedom Law Against 'Intolerant’ Gays: AUDIO

GohmertRep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), perhaps the nuttiest anti-gay bigot in the House, is very much pleased with Mississippi’s new law that will allow businesses to turn away LGBT people as an “exercise of religion.”

Right Wing Watch reports that on Family Research Council’s radio show Thursday, FRC president Tony Perkins was joined by Gohmert and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant in an anti-gay kumbaya to celebrate Mississippi's ability to do what Arizona and Kansas could not. While there, Gohmert gushed on Bryant, saying:

Governor, we are so proud, you have set such a wonderful example of real freedom. You’ve seen it first hand, there is nobody more intolerant in this country than those that are screaming for tolerance. Christians are not intolerant but whoa, goodness these people that have their leftist agenda that are so intolerant so thanks for having the courage to stand up. 

You can listen to the full clip, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Rep. Louie Gohmert Applauds Mississippi’s Religious Freedom Law Against 'Intolerant’ Gays: AUDIO" »


Gay Man Sues America's Cup for Wrongful Termination, Says Officials Mocked His Sexuality

Larry Jacobson, a motivational speaker and gay former America's Cup employee, is suing the yacht race for wrongful termination stemming from a few incidents in which he was subjected to harassment because he is gay, according to a report on the suit in the Bay Area Reporter:

JacobsonIn his civil complaint filed March 13 in San Francisco Superior Court, Larry Jacobson, who worked as a VIP spectator boat captain during the races last summer, says one man made a limp wrist gesture at him, while another called him a "poof," a derogatory term for homosexual.

However, a former supervisor told the Bay Area Reporter that Jacobson had "pushed his sexuality very hard" and had been "inappropriate."

Jacobson is claiming sexual orientation discrimination, failure to pay overtime, and failure to pay wages upon discharge, among other complaints. He's seeking unlimited damages exceeding $25,000.

Going into more specifics on the incidents, the article continues:

"Although initially friendly to Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Hindley (chief operating officer for America's Cup Race Management) and Mr. Bennett (America's Cup director of on-water operations) became cold and unfriendly toward him," the complaint says.

Jacobson claims that in August, he approached Hindley to request that he be considered for doing break down work once the regatta was over.

Hindley "made a 'limp wrist' gesture" and said, "People like you, don't want work like that," Jacobson claims, and he didn't get the job.

Then, at a party in September, Bennett told friends, "That's our poof," referring to Jacobson, according to the complaint. Bennett lives primarily in New Zealand, where "poof" is a derogatory term for gay men.

On September 12, the filing says, "without warning, and in blatant breach of his contract," Jacobson "was summarily terminated without legal cause or justification." Bennett and Hindley made the termination decision, Jacobson claims.

More on the lawsuit at BAR...


Mississippi Baptist Leader Threatened Retaliation On GOP Reps Who Didn't Vote For Anti-Gay Bill

Jimmy PorterMississippi's Senate Bill 2681 is a reprehensible piece of legislature that opens the gates wide for anti-gay discrimination masquerading under the guise of "religious freedom."

The bill passed, and should any GOP representatives have been on the fence about the issue, Jimmy Porter, executive director of the lobbying arm of Mississippi’s Southern Baptist convention, the Christian Action Commission, was sure to set them straight, promising a "political calamity" should any of them vote against Jesus.

Said Porter in part,

The fact is that one’s position on this piece of legislation can be made public whether a vote is taken or not.  The leadership of the House will take a lot of heat for its failure if that is the case but it will be undeserved.  The Christian Action Commission will work diligently to ensure the blame will be laid at the feet of these 20 alleged Republicans [against the bill].  Approximately 60,000 Baptist households will read about it and know the truth.  Add to that Pentecostal households, members of the Tea Party, followers of American Family Association, the Liberty Council and the Family Research Council, etc., and you begin to see the widespread interest in this bill.

Who Would Jesus Harangue?


Mississippi Legislature Passes Anti-Gay 'Religious Freedom' Bill

Less than a month after the Mississippi legislature sent the state’s Senate Bill 2681 (aka the “license to discriminate bill”) to committee for review, it returned — and has now passed, the Washington Blade reports:

IMississippi_flagn a development that largely went unnoticed on the national stage, the State House and Senate on the same day both approved a conference report for S.B. 2681, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The vote in the Republican-controlled House was 78-43 and the vote in the Republican-controlled Senate vote was 38-14.

Much like the controversial Arizona bill known as SB 1062 vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer, the six-page legislation never once mentions the words “sexual orientation,” “gender identity” or “gay.” Still, LGBT advocates insist the legislation would have the effect of allowing discriminatory practices against LGBT people seeking services in Mississippi.

The bill would allow businesses to deny service to LGBT people while claiming “exercise of religion.” But new text added to the resurrected bill would allow businesses to defy any “state laws, rules, regulations, and municipal and county ordinances” as long as they did so under “exercise of religion.”

The bill closely resembles the bill that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed in February. Keep in mind the the NFL, MLB, Intel, Apple and the last two Republican presidential candidates all spoke out against Arizona’s bill.

BryantDeep South Progressive reported on the bill yesterday:

The point, of course, is to say that there is almost nothing over which a claim of religious belief does not take precedence. A law doesn’t have to be intended to interfere with religious exercise; a religious person just has to claim it interferes.

This version of the bill goes beyond protecting free exercise of religion, instead solidly establishing claims of religious exercise in a privileged position above all else... That could jeopardize recent advances made in Starkville, Hattiesburg, and Oxford, where anti-discrimination effort – including discrimination against LGBT people and other minority – via diversity resolutions have passed to great fanfare in recent months.

The Blade adds:

Sarah Warbelow, the Human Rights Campaign’s state legislative director, said the bill would in essence make “LGBT people strangers to the law.”

“Before Mississippi has had the opportunity to robustly discuss the lived experiences of LGBT people, this bill would hollow out any non-discrimination protections at the local level or possible future state-wide protections,” Warbelow said. “Just as we’ve seen in other states, this bill is bad for business, bad for the state’s reputation, and most of all, bad for Mississippians. Gov. Bryant must veto the measure.”

The ACLU released a statement about the bill's passage:

If Governor Phil Bryant (pictured) signs, the law will go into effect on July 1, 2014

“We remain hopeful that courts throughout the state will reject any attempts to use religion to justify discrimination,” said Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “Nobody should be refused service because of who they are.”

The law could allow individuals and businesses to bring challenges against what they view as substantial government burdens against religion, including challenging existing nondiscrimination laws. Legislatures across the country, including in Georgia, Idaho, Maine, and Ohio, have rejected similar measures. On February 26, 2014, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona’s version. Bills are still pending in Missouri and Oklahoma.

“Even though the Mississippi legislature removed some of the egregious language from Arizona’s infamous SB 1062, we are disappointed that it passed this unnecessary law and ignored the national, public outcry against laws of this nature,” said Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel with the ACLU. “We will continue to fight in state legislatures across the country to ensure that religious freedom remains a shield, not a sword.”


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