Gay Rights Hub

Georgia Graphics Store Refuses To Print Gay Couple’s Wedding Invitations

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A Suwanee, Ga. gay couple is the latest victim of discrimination after the owner of a local AlphaGraphics franchise refused to print wedding invitations for them, citing his religious beliefs reports Paige Beckwith contacted the local chain after a friend referred her to the business to order intricate, custom wedding invitations however, owner Alan Akins refused her.

Said Beckwith:

"The owner called me back and let me know that he's not going to print our invitations because he does not support same sex marriage.

"I kept asking him how, why, how he could do this? He just basically stood on his religious beliefs, referenced the Bible, called it a sin, and I was basically in tears saying 'How could you treat me this way?'" 

Akins confirmed he denied the couple but that he would've printed other things for the couple except for the invitations. 11Alive Legal Analyst Philip Holloway says Akins was exercising his legal rights.

Said Holloway:

"Under Georgia law businesses do have the right to say I'm not going to do business with this sort of couple."

Beckwith took her complaint to AlphaGraphics' main office and received a full apology and the company produced Beckwith’s custom wedding invitations at no charge.

Said AlphaGraphics' spokesperson:

"We do not condone discrimination of any kind, and wish to make clear that customers of any race, religion, nationality, ethnicity or sexual orientation are welcome at our franchisees' locations nationwide.

"We also wish to apologize to the customers who were impacted by the actions of this franchisee, and hope that our response conveys the level of commitment we feel toward upholding our company's standards of inclusion, and that all members of the Suwanee community continue to feel welcome at AlphaGraphics."

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 11.12.25 AMAlthough the couple won a small victory, the "religious freedom" debate continues to rage in the state. Georgia Sen. Josh McKoon managed to get the state senate to pass S.B. 129 in March - a religious freedom bill similar to Indiana's. The contentious nature of the bill even gained the ire of former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, known for defending the state’s sodomy laws in the 1980s, saying the bill would "give the opportunity to exclude in the name of religion, and I think that's a disaster." Luckily, the bill is officially dead this legislative session as of April 2, but McKoon vowed that he would attempt to fully pass it again in next year's legislative session. 

Editor's Note: A previous version of this post mislabeled Philip Holloway. He is a legal analyst for Atlanta outlet 11Alive. 

'Ex-Gay' Republican Deceives Texas Lawmakers, Testifies In Support Of Anti-LGBT Bill


Earlier this week, a Texas House committee held a hearing on a so-called religious freedom bill that purportedly aims to prevent pastors from being forced to perform same-sex marriages. 

Critics of the bill say it's written so broadly that it could allow any religiously affiliated organization — from hospitals and universities to homeless shelters — to discriminate against gay couples. 

Most of those who testified in support of the bill were pastors brought in by the anti-LGBT Texas Pastor Council. But then there was also Jason Vaughn (shown above left, with Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton), who told the committee he's gay but supports the bill.

Here's part of Vaughn's testimony, from a transcript he later posted on a Texas GOP website:  

"I stand before you as a gay man in support of this bill, but the truth is that my sexuality shouldn't matter. Nor should anything else other than the fact that I'm a proud Texan with inalienable rights.

"Inalienable rights to live my life as I wish as long as I do not hinder the rights of others. That's what the gay rights movement has been about, at least until recently. Now it seems that folks are more interested in forcing others to take part in our lives. The actions of my community that have too often made up the news cycle are nothing more than hypocrisy. To say that we want the right to live as we wish while harassing companies like Chick-Fil-A, attacking Brendan Eich in California until he could not work, and even demanding that HGTV fire the Benham Brothers for their views on abortion and gay marriage is beyond the pale. ... 

"I'm sickened that we are at the point that pastors feel the need for this bill, but I urge you to support it."

One member of the committee, GOP Rep. Patricia Harless, asked Vaughn whether he agreed with one of the pastors who testified that disagreement is not the same as hatred or discrimination.

“I have friends from Jonathan Saenz to a gay communist stripper," Vaughn responded, referring to the leader of the anti-LGBT hate group Texas Values

Vaughn's line got a lot of laughs, and his testimony was apparently persuasive in the mind of at least one legislator. However, it was predicated on a complete lie.

As Vaughn himself admitted in another post on the same website earlier this month, he's not really gay. Rather, he's a self-described "celibate Christian homosexual" — which apparently is just another term for "ex-gay." From Vaughn's post titled, "As a Gay Man, The Hypocrisy of the LGBT Community Really Ticks Me Off":

For those that don’t know me, my name is Jason Vaughn and I am a celibate Christian homosexual. I don’t really know how to describe it as some say I shouldn’t associate myself as a gay man. I use it that way instead of “reformed homosexual” or “former homosexual” because I want to be clear that it is still a temptation I have to fight regularly and one I have failed at many times. ... 

Since coming out [as ex-gay] I’ve made a lot of friends that are either openly gay, secretly tempted with same sex attraction, or fighting for celibacy like me. Several young people have come to me and asked for advice on dealing with this. It’s not easy. I’m still tempted with same sex attraction and probably always will be. It doesn't get easier and the last year has been the hardest and most confusing. I’ve made plenty of mistakes sexually. I just continue to look to Christ daily and trust Him to keep me.

OK, here's the deal: If you want to futily attempt to repress your sexuality because you hate yourself, that's your call. But you don't get to ruin it for the rest of us by holding yourself out publicly as a member of the LGBT community. 

Given that Vaughn is living a lie, it isn't terribly surprising that he has no qualms about deceiving lawmakers into thinking he's an openly gay man. Wait, isn't there something in the Bible about bearing false witness?   

HRC Warns 12 States ‘Don’t Repeat The Mistakes Of Indiana' In New Media Campaign

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The Human Rights Coalition launched a new ad campaign asking 12 state governors to reject bills that target LGBT people like the one Gov. Mike Pence passed in Indiana. HRC's new campaign comes after a study conducted by the organization yielded results stating that a majority of Hoosiers believe Pence’s bill is damaging Indiana’s economy. JoDee Winterhof, HRC's vice president for policy and political affairs, warned of the repercussions states could endure if they follow Pence’s example.

Said Winterhof:

"Gov. Mike Pence found that experimenting with anti-LGBT bills that allow businesses to discriminate killed his approval ratings and damaged the Hoosier economy. Governors who go down the same path as Mike Pence and put their state economy at risk in an attempt to further discrimination are going to find themselves at risk of being rejected by the voters."

The results of HRC's study reflects Winterhof's warning as a majority of voters (70% to 24%) believe that businesses should not discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or identity. Surprisingly a majority of Republican voters (58% to 36%) concur. Pence’s approval ratings have since plummeted, allowing for a potential Democratic challenger to make gains in the state. HRC's media campaign officially began today on social media in Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana, Florida, New Hampshire, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and Texas. Although Pence attempted to clarify that official language in the new law would prevent LGBT discrimination, HRC isn’t buying it, noting that the state’s laws are still devoid of any clear LGBT anti-discrimination laws that would grant full protections to LGBT people in the state.

Trans Teen's Lawsuit Prompts South Carolina DMV to Change Driver's License Photo Policy

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A transgender teen who filed a federal lawsuit last September against South Carolina’s Department of Motor Vehicles for sex discrimination and violating free speech won her case reports Chase Culpepper, 17, filed the suit after DMV officials told her to remove her mascara and eye shadow before taking her driver’s license photo, arguing with her that her cosmetics was a "disguise."

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 8.14.20 AMThe department claimed that a 2009 rule prohibits applicants from "purposely altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity." Culpepper filed a lawsuit in response to the Spring 2014 incident calling the policy "unconstitutionally vague and overbroad" and arguing it allowed DMV officials to make "arbitrary and capricious" decisions based on the department’s personal biases regarding gender presentation.

The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, a New York-based group backing Culpepper, helped reach a settlement in the case, with South Carolina’s DMV agreeing to change its policy to allow applicants to be photographed as they are regardless of officials’ expectations of what they think applicants should look like. The department also promised Culpepper an apology letter and intends on training employees on how to treat transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. Culpepper announced she is pleased with the results of the settlement.

Said Culpepper:

"I am thrilled with the outcome of my lawsuit. My clothing and makeup reflect who I am. From day one, all I wanted was to get a driver's license that looks like me. Now I will be able to do that. It was hurtful to be singled out for being transgender and made to feel that somehow I wasn’t good enough."

The new department policies go into effect in May; Culpepper intends on taking her new driver’s license photo then with her makeup on. Since Culpepper’s win, the Transgender Defense and Education Fund received several similar requests for legal representation and support after the news of Culpepper’s successful case spread reports The Los Angeles Times. The advocacy group is currently in negotiations with West Virginia’s DMV after three transgender women reported that the department ordered the women to remove wigs and fake eyelashes before having their driver’s license photos taken.


HRC Rejects San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor's 'Non-Apology' After She Called LGBT Protections 'Waste Of Time'


Earlier this week we told you how San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor had called the city's LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance "a waste of time" during a candidate forum at anti-gay Pastor John Hagee's Cornerstone Church.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, Taylor's comments received "raucous applause" during the "faith forum," but thanks in part to Towleroad readers, they didn't go over so well on social media

The Human Rights Campaign also joined the fray, issuing a statement under the headline "San Antonio Shame" saying Taylor has "no business serving the people of San Antonio—as mayor, as a city council member, even as dog catcher."

The criticism reportedly prompted Taylor to meet with her LGBT advisory committee for the first time in six months and later issue a so-called apology, in which she said "it was never my intent to insult or demean you [the LGBT community] and I am sorry for the pain and confusion my words have caused."

But neither local LGBT advocates nor HRC were satisfied. The latter issued another statement calling Taylor's response "incredibly weak" and labeling it a "‘Sorry How It Made You Feel’ Non-Apology." And despite meeting with her LGBT advisory committee, the mayor still hasn't revealed a plan for implementing the nondiscrimination ordinance, which she voted against when it was passed by the council some 18 months ago. 

“While Mayor Taylor may have issued something intended to be an apology, her actions speak far louder than words,” said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “If she truly supports the LGBT community in San Antonio, she should not only fully-implement the current law, but urge the City Council to expand the law to protect all LGBT San Antonians from employment discrimination, not just city employees and those doing business with the city. HRC joins Equality Texas in calling for better enforcement of the NDO and the creation of a mechanism for receiving and handling complaints."

At this point, it seems unlikely the NDO will be properly implemented during Taylor's tenure. Appointed as mayor after LGBT ally Julian Castro stepped down to become HUD secretary, Taylor is up for election in May. But she faces two formidable opponents and LGBT allies in former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Rep. Mike Villarreal. Assuming either Van de Putte or Villarreal wins, let's hope the incoming mayor will make it a priority to clean up the NDO mess left by Taylor. 

San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor Calls LGBT Protections 'Waste Of Time'


San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor is apparently taking her cues from wingnut GOP state Rep. Molly White. 

Last week, we told you how White's staff told a gay constituent that discussing LGBT issues would be a "waste of time." 

Now, Mayor Taylor says San Antonio's LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance — which she voted against when it passed in 2013 — was a "waste of time." 

Taylor, appointed mayor of the nation's seventh-largest city after Julian Castro was named HUD secretary, made the comments during a candidate forum on Sunday at Cornerstone Church. The San Antonio Express News reports: 

The candidates also re-litigated the year-and-a-half-old nondiscrimination ordinance, which added sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes.

Taylor said she voted with her conscience — against the protections — and stands by her decision.

“I did not feel we should have even been debating that issue,” she said. “I thought it was a waste of time.”

Taylor also recently called the nondiscrimination ordinance "a political stunt," and as mayor, she has refused to properly implement it. Last week, Taylor voted against a resolution calling on the state Legislature to respect local control when it comes to issues like nondiscrimination laws. 

It's unclear whether Taylor, the city's first black mayor, also thinks race-based protections are a waste of time. 

Probably not, but that won't stop her from pandering to right-wing voters as she tries to make a runoff against former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte or former state Rep. Mike Villarreal, both LGBT allies.

The good news is that if and when Taylor loses the mayor's race, she'll be off the City Council, too. Good riddance. 

In the meantime, you can find Taylor on Facebook and Twitter


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