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23 Gay Rights Activists Arrested In Idaho State Capitol

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Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 1.19.19 PMAn estimated 23 gay rights activists were arrested in Idaho yesterday morning after protesting in the Idaho House and Senate chambers, attempting to pressure lawmakers to pass anti-discrimination protections reports Boise State Public Radio. The activists, wearing black shirts that said, "Add the 4 words Idaho," warned they would not leave until legislators added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Idaho Human Rights Act. Protesters risked arrest if they did not disperse before the House and Senate convened; Police began to arrest protesters that refused to leave on suspicion of misdemeanor trespassing, two of whom were juveniles. The group issued a statement to the media on the matter.

Said Protesters: 

"Plain and simply, it is time the Idaho Legislature to use its voice to set the field level for those who live quiet lives in all our communities, those who are your own daughters and sons, those who deserve for our state to set in law that unfair businesses practices and intentional cruelty and discrimination against them is wrong."

This protest follows similar protests held during 2014s legislative session; up to 100 protesters were charged and arrested with misdemeanor trespassing during those protests. Republican lawmakers rejected legislation that would have amended the state’s Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity earlier this year. A House committee heard over 20 hours of testimony, with most in favor of passing the bill however, concern over the bill’s impact on religious freedoms caused the panel to vote the measure down.


Texas Lawmaker Introduces Arkansas-Style Ban On Local LGBT Protections

Miller

A Texas lawmaker has introduced a draconian anti-LGBT bill almost identical to the one that became law in Arkansas last month. 

The proposal from GOP Rep. Rick Miller (above) would prohibit cities from enforcing nondiscrimination ordinances that include protected classes not contained in state law. 

The Texas Observer reports: 

Texas law doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. If passed, Miller’s bill would undo LGBT protections passed by numerous cities, including Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and Plano. Altogether more than 7.5 million Texas are covered by such ordinances. 

Miller’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

HB 1556 is more specific than a similar measure introduced by Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas). Huffines’ SB 343 would bar cities from enforcing any ordinances that are more stringent than state law, unless otherwise authorized by statute.

In Arkansas last month, a similar bill became law without the governor's signature. Grassroots activists criticized national LGBT organizations for not doing enough to oppose the Arkansas measure, SB 202, which was drafted in direct response to Fayetteville's passage of an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance.  

It will be interesting to see if things are any different in Texas. 

Read the full text of HB 1556, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Texas Lawmaker Introduces Arkansas-Style Ban On Local LGBT Protections" »


State Legislators Mark Texas Independence Day By Introducing Omnibus LGBT Civil Rights Bill

SB856 graphic (final)

On Texas Independence day, five Democratic state senators introduced an omnibus civil rights bill that is the first of its kind in the state's history. 

Senate Bill 856 would prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and state contracting. Texas claimed its independence on March 2, 1836. 

“I chose today—Texas Independence Day—to file this important legislation,” Senator (Jose) Rodríguez said in a release, “because Texas values—such as hard work, opportunity, and the Golden Rule—are the reason why Texas remains strong 179 years later. That is why we must act definitively to ensure everyone in the Lone Star State is treated fairly and equally.”

More from Equality Texas' release

One of our most strongly held beliefs here in Texas is taking care of our own and treating our neighbors as ourselves. This kind of Texas spirit is visible in every town and city in the state, in family-owned businesses and large public employers. 

And yet, we realize there are places across Texas where this spirit does not flourish. Texans like Isabel and Victoria in Lewisville (Denton County) can be denied housing for themselves and their sons Juan and Oscar because the two women are in a same-gender relationship. Casanova from Austin and Dylan from Houston were harassed on the job after coming out as transgender but were given no recourse by their employers; Dylan would end up being laid off. Darla from Austin has been and can again be discriminated against while attempting to secure employment because she is a lesbian. John David and his partner Jerry from Tyler can be asked to leave a public accommodation—such as a restaurant or concert venue—because they are gay. Antonia, a transgender woman of color was fired from her job because of her transition.

Further, discrimination is bad for business. Fair treatment for workers, families, and people who visit our state—including gay and transgender people—is a crucial factor in the ongoing strength of the Texas brand.

In the past, separate legislation has been filed in Texas to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in all four areas — but the effort has never been combined into a single bill. The other authors of SB 856 are Sens. Rodney Elllis, Sylvia Garcia, Kirk Watson and John Whitmire. 

“Discrimination of any form has no place in Texas. Not in our schools, our government, or our services. I am proud to co-author this legislation and proud to stand strong for the fair treatment of all Texans especially our friends in the LGBT community who for too long have been the target of discrimination,” Whitmire said. 

“I’m proud to coauthor legislation to prevent fellow Texans from being discriminated against due to who they love,” Ellis added. “All hardworking Texans, including our LGBT neighbors, should have the chance to earn a living, provide for their families, and live like everyone else without fear of getting fired or evicted solely because of who they are. ”

“All Texans should enjoy equal protection under the law. This important legislation would ensure that our LGBT brothers and sisters can express who they are without fear of discrimination. It would also send a message to the rest of the world that Texas welcomes anyone that wants to contribute to our great state, regardless of sexual orientation,” Garcia said.

The 20-page bill has little chance of passing in the Republican-dominated Legislature. But its introduction is important symbolically in the face of a slew of anti-LGBT legislative attacks. It could also signal a future shift to protect all LGBT civil rights with a single piece of legislation, rather than doing it piecemeal. 

Read the full text of the bill, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "State Legislators Mark Texas Independence Day By Introducing Omnibus LGBT Civil Rights Bill" »


In Texas, Gay Marriage Chaos Could Be Only The Beginning

Goodfriend

There've been some notable developments since marriage equality chaos erupted in Texas last month. 

If you'll remember, longtime lesbian couple Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant received a marriage license Feb. 19 after a county probate judge struck down the state's marriage ban. The Texas Supreme Court subsequently issued an emergency order blocking any further marriages. 

TinderholtSince then, a Republican state lawmaker has filed an ethics complaint against the judge who ordered the license to be issued. However, there a few problems with the complaint from state Rep. Rep. Tony Tinderholt, which accuses District Judge David Wahlberg of failing to properly notify the attorney general's office before declaring a law unconstitutional.   

First, Tinderholt's complaint was filed against the wrong judge. Wahlberg didn't strike down the ban. He merely ordered the license to be issued pursuant to the Probate Judge Guy Herman's ruling. Second, it turns out that Herman did in fact notify the attorney general's office of his intent to strike down the ban, back in January.  

Finally, it's worth noting that Tinderholt is married to his fifth wife, yet he's seeking to punish a judge who granted a marriage license to a lesbian couple of 30 years — one of whom is dying from ovarian cancer. 

In a related development, the anti-gay, GOP-dominated Texas House inadvertently allowed the rabbi who performed the marriage to deliver the invocation on the floor of the chamber last week. 

Needless to say, this could be only the beginning of marriage equality chaos in Texas. Attorneys for two same-sex couples have asked the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals to lift a stay on a federal judge's ruling striking down the ban last year. If that happens, it likely would trigger the Legislature to attempt to strip the salaries of county clerks who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  

Hang onto your cowboy hats. 


Edward Snowden: Gay Marriage Would Have Been Impossible Under 'Perfect Surveillance'

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In Edward Snowden’s opinion the U.S.’s current LGBTQ rights movement would not have been possible in a world where government surveillance was ubiquitous. In a surprise Ask Me Anything session hosted on Reddit, Snowden fielded a wide range of questions from users of the popular news platform.

“Perfect surveillance,” he explained, would be antithetical to the subversive origins of most of the major social revolutions that have shaped American history:

“When we look back on history, the progress of Western civilization and human rights is actually founded on the violation of law. America was of course born out of a violent revolution that was an outrageous treason against the crown and established order of the day.

"History shows that the righting of historical wrongs is often born from acts of unrepentant criminality. Slavery. The protection of persecuted Jews. But even on less extremist topics, we can find similar examples. How about the prohibition of alcohol? Gay marriage? Marijuana?

"Where would we be today if the government, enjoying powers of perfect surveillance and enforcement, had — entirely within the law — rounded up, imprisoned, and shamed all of these lawbreakers?"

h/t Pink News


Petition to Repeal Plano's LGBT Nondiscrimination Ordinance Declared Invalid

Plano

A petition to repeal an LGBT nondiscriimination ordinance in Plano, Texas has been declared invalid, The Dallas Morning News reports:

The petitions stated: “Also under this policy, biological males who declare their ‘gender identity’ as female MAY BE ALLOWED to enter women’s restrooms!”

The ordinance specifically excludes public restrooms, showers, locker rooms and dressing rooms. It states that it is not illegal to “deny the opposite sex access to facilities inside a public accommodation segregated on the basis of sex for privacy.”

By making this false representation, the petition asked residents to repeal an ordinance that didn’t exist, city officials said.

They also said the petitions failed to comply with the Texas Election Code which requires petitions in cities located in two counties to include a column for the signer’s county or voter registration number.

In addition, the petitions failed to include a copy of the ordinance, as required by the Plano City Charter, officials said.

Plano City Attorney Paige Mims said the city contacted the organizing groups three weeks before the petition deadline, alerting them to the problems and providing links to the city charter, Texas Election Code and the secretary of state’s website.

After the email was sent, some information, such as the statement about restrooms, was removed from the petitions. But other omissions were not corrected, Mims said.

The City Council in Plano approved the ordinance 5-3 on December 8 amid intense opposition from anti-LGBT groups and local Republican lawmakers. The ordinance also faces opposition from transgender activists over an exemption for restrooms, nonprofits and educational institutions.

The anti-gay Liberty Institute reacted to the news with the following statement:

“While we are shocked that the City has so little regard for its citizens, we remain committed to advancing religious liberty and challenging this ordinance that clearly violates laws protecting religious freedom.”


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