Discrimination Hub

As Michigan's Republican Governor Plugs Gay Rights, GOP Lawmaker Reintroduces 'License To Discriminate' Bill

If you need evidence of the growing divide on LGBT issues within the Republican Party, look no further than Michigan. 

On the same day that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder (top right) made headlines by calling for more dialogue on LGBT protections, a GOP state lawmaker reintroduced a "license to discriminate" bill that would take the state in the opposite direction. 

From The Huffington Post

SnyderDuring a State of the State address marking his fifth year as governor, Snyder called for legislators to continue discussions on amending Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The law prohibits discrimination based on race, age, sex, religion and more, but does not offer protections based on sexual orientation.

"Let's keep up that dialogue and let's show that we can deal with issues of discrimination in our state," he said.

Perhaps Snyder should have delivered an advance copy of his speech to Republican Sen. Mike Shirkey (bottom right), who earlier in the day reintroduced the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, according to Mlive.com:  

ShirkeyThe state RFRA, modeled after a federal version, would allow individuals or businesses to seek exemptions to government regulations they feel may substantially burden their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Critics who opposed the bill last year called it a “license to discriminate” against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals, a charge that supporters denied before a straight party-line vote in the House.

Former House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, introduced RFRA legislation last year alongside a separate bill that would have expanded the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Bolger said at the time that he wanted to “strike a balance” between protecting individual rights and defending religious liberty, but the non-discrimination bill stalled in committee due to a dispute over protecting transgender residents.

Meanwhile, the "license to discriminate" bill passed the House but died in the Senate — which is where Shirkey has reintroduced it. 

The Michigan bill joins a wave of anti-LGBT state legislation across the nation, and the Associated Press took a look at the trend on Saturday:   

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in April and could decide by June whether gay couples can marry, and national opinion polls show U.S. voters increasingly unopposed to gay rights. Yet lawmakers in a handful of states are backing longshot legislation targeting gay rights, doubling down on the culture wars. Most, if not all, of the efforts are led by Republicans. ... 

If the bills' backers manage to force a sharp debate in coming weeks, and the Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage a few months later, supporters of the bills would be exposed to criticism that they've been fighting for a fringe issue.

"On no issue during my 40-year career have opinions moved as rapidly as they have on the issue of the morality of gay relationships and ultimately gay marriage," said Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and the National Rifle Association. "When you have conservative organizations like the U.S. military and the Boy Scouts openly accepting gay members, the debate is close to being over."

Christian Organizations Misguidedly Defend Denver Bakery Owner for Refusing to Create Anti-gay Cake


Marjorie Silva (far left above), the owner of Denver's Azucar Bakery who refused to bake an anti-gay cake for bigoted customer Bill Jack and is now facing a state investigation into the matter, is finding some unusual supporters of her decision not to bake the hate cake. 

JackNBC reports that Worldview Academy, a prominent nondenominational Chirstian organization in Midland, Texas that lists Jack (right) as a faculty member and cofounder, says it disagrees with his complaint and stresses that Jack filed it as a "private citizen."

"Worldview Academy believes that God unconditionally loves every person," it said in a statement. "We also believe in liberty and justice for all. Consequently, we support the Colorado bakery owner's right — and the right of all other bakery owners — to not undertake work which would violate their core beliefs."

The virulently anti-gay Christian legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom, which fights for the right to discriminate against gays in the U.S. (and put them in jail overseas), is also siding with the bakery, Buzzfeed reports:

“It was clearly Ms. Silva’s right to decline to promote a message with which she so clearly disagreed,” Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “Ms. Silva should not be forced to use her artistic abilities to further a message with which she sincerely disagrees.”

Tedesco’s group, although not involved in this latest case, has represented bakers in two similar recent cases in which the business owners were Christian: In Colorado, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips refused to sell a cake to a same-sex couple, and in Washington State, Arlene’s Flowers is currently being sued for denying gay men flowers for their wedding.

ADF's token support of Silva in an attempt to appear consistent in its position that private citizens shouldn't have to do things they disagree with, however, doesn't really hold water, as Buzzfeed notes:

On the other side of the courtroom in both past cases — Masterpiece Cakeshop and Arlene’s Flowers — the American Civil Liberties Union represented the customers. Now the ACLU, which is also not directly involved in this newest case, supports the baker’s right to refuse service.

“Folks are trying to compare the Azucar Bakery story to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case… but in fact the two situations are quite different,” ACLU staff attorney Amanda Goad said in an email to BuzzFeed News.

The baker refusing service, she said, is “based on a neutral standard of taste that she would apply to any customer,” and is different from barring customers “not because of what the desired cake looked like, but because of who they are.”

In other words, if Silva had refused to bake Jack a wedding cake because he's heterosexual, things would be different. As it stands, Silva wouldn't have made a cake with a hate message for anyone - gay or straight - so the two cases are apples and oranges. She's already said she would have made a cake with a Bible on it no problem. 

In related news, Silva has created a Gofundme page to help the bakery with legal expenses related to the complaint which you can visit and donate to HERE. The page has been up for less than 24 hours and has already raised over $5,300. 

Nashville Private School Rejects Student For Having Gay Parents

Brian Copeland and Greg Bullard

And the trend of punishing children for the behaviors/beliefs/orientations of their parents continues. Davidson Academy, a non-denominational school in Nashville, TN had agreed to meet with Brian Copeland and give him a tour of the school where he wished to enroll his young son and daughter. Those plans were nixed, however, once school officials learned that Copeland was married to his husband Greg Bullard, and the decision was made that they would not allow Copeland and Bullard's children to be admitted.

After receiving an official rejection from the school, Bullard posted it to Facebook to illustrate that discrimination is still "alive and well" in Tennessee, which prompted condemnation from advocates and even alumni.

Read the letter, in part:

Any lifestyle conduct which is in opposition to the mission of Davidson Academy or which impedes the school's credibility with its constituency or the general public is unacceptable. One example of such lifestyle is homosexuality.

Copeland and Bullard do not wish to press charges or seek any legal action against the school, but are expressing frustration that it is "very, very hard" to find a private school that offers the rigorous faith-based education they want for their children that won't discriminate against a married gay couple.

You can read the official rejection letter AFTER THE JUMP...

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Florida Lawyer Planning Lawsuit Against County Clerk for Closing Wedding Chapel to Avoid Serving Gay Couples


Earlier this month we reported on a number of Florida county clerks that had decided to discontinue all courthouse wedding ceremonies rather than open up the space to same-sex couples following the legalization of marriage equality in the Sunshine State.  

Now, a Duval County lawyer is planning on filing a lawsuit to reverse Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell's decision to close the county's wedding chapel, saying Fussell (pictured below) circumvented the law and crossed the line by "discriminating against large numbers of Jacksonville’s citizens, including both same sex and heterosexual couples, as well as the poor and physically infirmed."

Wrote attorney Eric Block on his law blog:

I am going to challenge this decision. I believe that we will prevail because the Clerks’ actions around the State violate the spirit of the Federal Court Order legalizing same-sex marriages in Florida, but there are additional compelling reasons.

    • FussellWe spent millions of dollars ensuring that our Courthouse is compliant with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), and people needing ADA accommodations now have nowhere to go.
    • We built our $350 million Courthouse with taxpayer dollars, including revenue from citizens who are gay, citizens requiring the assistance and provisions of the ADA, and most importantly, those who struggle financially.
    • This action of shutting down the Wedding Chapel ironically adversely affects more heterosexual couples than gay couples, simply because more heterosexual couples get married.  Therefore, ironically, the absurdity of our Clerk’s actions is to discriminate more profoundly against the very people that he actually is claiming to “protect.”
    • Additionally, there is a small fee for the use of the Wedding Chapel, and that fee helps to pay the salaries of Courthouse public employees including the very Clerk of the Court who shut down this stream of revenue!  The Clerk does not have the right to make such financial decisions on behalf of the City.

Most obviously, the Clerks’ actions violate the spirit of the Federal Court Order protecting same-sex marriages in the state of Florida.

We are in the process of obtaining Plaintiffs for our intended lawsuit against these Clerks. It is our intention to bring suit on behalf of not only same-sex couples, but heterosexual couples as well, as both are adversely affected by this clear homophobic reaction to the Federal Court Order.

Block, who as a young lawyer got married at the Duval County Courthouse, has also said he will perform wedding ceremonies for any couples (gay or straight) that were impacted by the chapel's closure for free. 

Bipartisan Coalition of Wyoming State Lawmakers Introduce LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill

A bill that would prohibit employment discrimination based on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity has been filed in the Wyoming Senate by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers, the Casper Star-Tribune reports:

WyomingIn addition to employees in the private sector, the Wyoming Human Resources Division would have to consider people seeking employment on the basis of their suitability and qualifications and without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity, the bill states.

Public school teachers would not be discriminated against in compensation on account of sexual orientation or gender identity, according to SF115.

The bill would not apply to employment practices of a religious corporation, association, educational institution or society.

It also would not apply to people who work in ministry. They are currently protected under Wyoming law, and the legislation further articulates the protections, according to a statement by Compete Wyoming, a statewide coalition of business leaders who seek an update in the state’s law to draw more competitive workers to the state.

“This bill is about 9 to 5, 7 to 7 or whatever your workday is,” said Liz Brimmer, of Compete Wyoming. “It is about judging workers on their performance, qualifications and talent.  It’s just bad business to discriminate, and updating this law is important in the Equality State so that workers are productive, taxpaying and safe.”

Senate President Phil Nicholas and House Speaker Kermit Brown, both Republicans from Laramie, have signed on to the bill.

Anti-gay State Rep. Nathan Winters, meanwhile, has introduced a bill that would empower everyone from county clerks to private photographers to discriminate against LGBT citizens if their religious beliefs compel them to. 

McDonald's Suspends Security Guard After He Tells Gay Men To Stop Kissing in UK Restaurant


A security guard at a McDonald's in Leicester, England has been suspended after telling two gay man to stop kissing, claiming that the couple would make "people feel uneasy." One of the men, Matthew Dummigan (above), says he felt “insulted” and “belittled” and claims that the kiss he shared with his companion "wasn't even a proper kiss, it was a peck."

Dummigan asked the guard if his "no kissing" rule also applied to straight people. Apparently it didn't. The Leicester Mercury reports:

The 23-year-old said he then asked if it would be "acceptable" if his friend had been female – to which the doorman replied "yes". “He said it was making people feel uneasy.

“It was really upsetting for me.” Matthew, of Leicester city centre, was with four friends at the time. “I tried to confront him about it,” said Matthew. “I told him his attitude wasn’t right. I was really angry and upset.

 “Gay people can get married and divorced, yet they get told off for showing a bit of affection - his attitude was so outdated. One of my friends stuck up for us and he got chucked out,” he added.

The burger chain has suspended the security guard while they investigate and have apologized to Dummigan:

“We are very sorry for Mr Dummigan’s experience when visiting our restaurant. We have taken this complaint very seriously and are conducting a thorough internal investigation and while this is happening have suspended the security guard in question. Our customer care team is in touch with Mr Dummigan.”

The head of the Leicester LGBT Centre has issued a response saying that he's “disgusted but not surprised” about the incident. He added: “Things like this demonstrate that we are nowhere near where we should be when it comes to equality. We are around 25 to 30 years behind."


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