LGBT Rights Hub




Uber, Lyft Laws May Shuttle Gay-Rights Fights To Red States

UBer

As ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft continue to grow in popularity, more and more states are considering legislation to regulate them. 

The goal is to establish statewide standards and bar cities — some of which have stopped Uber and Lyft from operating — from regulating the services. 

Uber and Lyft both include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies, and because they've been involved in drafting the legislation, LGBT protections are generally included. But that isn't going over well in places like Oklahoma, where the Senate voted this week to remove sexual orientation and gender identity from the state's ride-hailing bill. The Associated Press reports: 

The House-passed version of the bill included language that prohibited the companies from discriminating against customers based on sexual orientation or gender identity. But Sen. Jason Smalley said he rewrote the bill to eliminate that language and allow private businesses to establish their own policies regarding discrimination.

"I believe if a private business owner wants to serve or not serve an individual, they have that purview right now," said Smalley, a Republican.

One Democratic senator unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill to require drivers wishing to discriminate against LGBT riders to post notice on their vehicles. More from the AP:  

"Uber's policy is to serve every neighborhood, every driver and every person who needs a ride," company spokeswoman Jennifer Mullin said. The company will continue to enforce its current terms of service, "which make clear that discrimination in any form is not tolerated and will result in removal from the platform," she said.

Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom of Oklahoma, said in a statement that the group does not "understand why a member of the Oklahoma Legislature wants to remove protections for (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Oklahomans from a bill that is specific to an industry that already protects them, in their corporate policies. Oklahomans do not believe in discrimination, and it is time for ideological law makers to quit trying to distract from the real problems of our state by attacking the LGBT community."

It's unclear how many states have passed LGBT-inclusive legislation regulating Uber and Lyft. But it's safe to say that in some red states, it would amount to the first time sexual orientation and gender identity have been mentioned in statute.  

Texas, for example, is considering a similar bill, which currently includes sexual orientation and gender identity. But it's hard to imagine Republican lawmakers — who are seeking to bar cities from enacting LGBT protections — won't try to remove sexual orientation and gender identity from the ride-hailng bill.

Would it be too much to ask for Uber — which actively opposed Indiana's "religious freedom" law — to insist that LGBT protections remain in the bills? 

Stay tuned. 


Log Cabin Republicans Accused Of 'Bullying,' 'Shaming' Their Way Into Western Conservative Summit

WCS

Earlier this week, we reported that the Log Cabin Republicans had been denied a booth at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver this summer.  

After a media firestorm, the Colorado GOP has attempted to quell the controversy by inviting Log Cabin to share its booth at the event — a major conservative conference put on by Colorado Christian University and its Centennial Institute think tank. 

Not surprisingly, rather than apologizing for their bigotry and stupidity, organizers of the summit have responded by trying to play the victim. From The Denver Post

Party Chairman Steve House, who took over in March, made the announcement Thursday afternoon, one day after a firestorm over the snub by summit organizers to the Log Cabin Republicans.

"We're fine with the Colorado Republicans sharing some table space at the summit with all their affiliated groups. We're not fine with the shaming and bullying pressure tactics of Log Cabin Republicans' national office," said summit chairman John Andrews.

I was unable to find any specific examples of bullying or shaming by Log Cabin Republicans National. I did find a long thread of comments in support of LCR on the summit's Facebook page, as well as a few tweets like these: 

The bottom line appears to be that the Colorado GOP — along with many rank-and-file Republicans — has come to realize that alienating LGBT people and their allies is no longer in the party's best interest. But the religious right wing of the party, as well as most of its presidential candidates, have not. Of course, they're still willing to take Log Cabin's votes and money: 

"I hope the state party's sensible approach gives the local Log Cabin folks more reason to sign up" as delegates to the summit," Andrews said.

"We want to be fair to them if they'll be fair to us."

And by being "fair to us," Andrews presumably means not trying to stop them from bullying and shaming LGBT people. 


Houston, We Have A HERO: Judge Throws Out Petition To Repeal LGBT Protections

HERO

Anti-LGBT discrimination is now illegal in the nation's fourth-largest city, after a judge ruled Friday that a petition to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) doesn't have enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. 

Mayor Annise Parker suspended implementation of the ordinance — passed by the City Council last May — after anti-LGBT groups filed a lawsuit over the city's decision to reject their repeal petition. 

In February, a jury found the petition contained widespread forgery, and on Friday, after two months of deliberations, Judge Robert Schaffer upheld the city's decision. The Houston Chronicle reports: 

Ultimately, Schaffer on Friday ruled the final count of valid signatures was 16,684, leaving opponents short of the threshold required in the city charter of 17,249 signatures, or 10 percent of the ballots cast in the last mayoral election.

"The jury's verdict and the judge's ruling are a powerful smack-down against the forces of discrimination and intolerance," said Geoffrey Harrison, lead attorney for the city, in a statement. "And maybe, just maybe, they'll reconsider their misguided ways."

The law, on hold during trial, is now in effect, according to a city spokeswoman. Mayor Annise Parker released a statement celebrating the verdict.

"I would hope that the plaintiffs would not appeal, they lost during a jury trial and today they also lost with the judge's ruling," Parker said. "Now all Houstonians have access to the same protections."

Parker also tweeted:

Opponents of the ordinance say they plan to appeal Schaffer's decision. The anti-LGBT Texas Pastor Council said in a release responding to the ruling:  

Schaffer’s ruling that the coalition fell 585 signatures short was a result of Judge Schaffer, who was supported in his election by the LGBT community, unfortunately accepting the constantly changing manipulations of the law by the City’s “legal machine” and Mayor’s team, said the coalition.  “We will not yield the safety and welfare, the voting rights and Constitutional freedoms of the citizens that have been stolen by the corrupt Parker regime.  The law and the appellate courts in Texas are very strong in preserving voting rights so are confident we will prevail,” they continued.  “The fact that the city’s own numbers of how many valid signatures we had submitted materially changed nearly a dozen times since August illustrates how desperate they are to keep this off the ballot.”

A coalition of LGBT groups supporting the ordinance issued the following statements:

"As a pastor and native Houstonian, I believe religious liberty is important, and just as important is the spiritual value of love. We are to love our God, and love our neighbor, NOT discriminate against our neighbor. The city has an obligation to protect the rights of all Houstonians to be free from discrimination and to be free to practice one’s religion. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance does both." Reverend Michael Diaz, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church. 

"Today, the City of Houston and our legal system have upheld the long-established process laid out in our City Charter. The Houston GLBT Political Caucus urges the City of Houston to immediately implement the legally passed Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in order to prevent discrimination from occurring in our great city. Houston is a city where people are judged by how hard they work, the content of their character and not by who they happen to love." Maverick Welsh, President, Houston GLBT Political Caucus. 

"The time has come to put court battles in the past and begin protecting the citizens of Houston from all forms of discrimination. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which was supported by a broad coalition of businesses, faith leaders and many others, should be implemented immediately." Human Rights Campaign, National Field Director Marty Rouse. 

"The ACLU of Texas is proud to call Houston home, and we look forward to the day HERO is fully implemented because every resident of this great city deserves to be protected from unfair discrimination, whether on the basis of sexual orientation, race, gender, or religion.” Terri Burke, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. 

"The political activists who want to repeal this common sense ordinance reject the basic values we all share about equality and nondiscrimination. They have even argued for the right to discriminate against anyone, including LGBT people and religious minorities. That alone shows why it’s so important for the city to finally enforce these basic protections for everyone." Kathy Miller, Texas Freedom Network President. 

“The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance protects all Houstonians and with the favorable outcome of this trial, the City of Houston is now in the position to increase protections against discrimination for its residents. As members of a community that face ongoing discrimination based on race, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, we welcome a local mechanism to protect all Houstonians from facing further discrimination based on their identities.” Brandon Mack, Co-Chair, Houston Civil Rights Strategy Group. 

Read the judge's ruling, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Houston, We Have A HERO: Judge Throws Out Petition To Repeal LGBT Protections" »


Texas GOP Lawmaker Wants To Ensure Taxpayer-Funded Adoption Agencies Can Discriminate Against Gay Couples

Sanford

Rep. Scott Sanford (above) has introduced a measure — similar to a proposal in Florida — that would allow child welfare providers to discriminate based on "sincerely held religious beliefs." 

The Texas Observer reports: 

On Wednesday, Sanford told a House committee that in some states where same-sex marriage is legal, organizations such as Catholic Charities have shut down rather than comply with laws barring discrimination against gay couples.

“Faith-based organizations have played a vital role in serving our nation’s orphaned and needy children since America’s founding, and this legislation protects their operations,” Sanford said. “States without these protective measures have had organizations cease to operate, placing more demand on government.”

HB 3864, which Sanford is calling the “Hope for Orphans and Minors Expansion Act,” or HOME, would prohibit the state from taking “adverse action” against child welfare providers that receive taxpayer dollars and act based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” It would also protect the rights of state-funded agencies to provide religious education to children and to deny them access to abortions or birth control.

Opponents of the bill say it would also allow discrimination against LGBT youth in foster care. For example, a faith-based agency could force them into reparative therapy.  

Ken-paxton_2_jpg_131x197_crop_q100A representative from the office of Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton (right) testified in support of the bill, saying that like bans on cell phone use while driving, nondiscrimination laws are an example of government overreach. One tea party lawmaker on the committee — Rep. Debbie Riddle — called the bill "fabulous" and repeatedly told supportive witnesses from Christian groups they were "doing the Lord's work." 

Meanwhile, in Florida, a similar proposal that died in the Senate last week has been resurrected and will be voted on Monday, according to Equality Florida.

The Human Rights Campaign and five leading national child welfare organizations issued a joint statement Thursday opposing the anti-LGBT adoption measures in Florida, Texas and other states. From HRC's release:  

Organizations that signed the statement, in addition to HRC Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, are the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Education Association. ... 

“We, as organizations dedicated to serving the best interests and well-being of children and youth, are deeply concerned about the spate of anti-LGBT bills that have been introduced in state legislatures around the country this year,” the statement says, “including measures that would allow discrimination in adoption and foster care, criminalize transgender people who attempt to use restrooms, and, under the guise of religious liberty, give service providers the power to deny child welfare services to the very people who need our care the most.”

Finally, in related news, a Texas Democrat delivered impassioned remarks on the House floor this week in support of a separate proposal to allow same-sex parents to have both names on the birth certificates of adopted children.

Watch state Rep. Rafael Anchia's speech, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Texas GOP Lawmaker Wants To Ensure Taxpayer-Funded Adoption Agencies Can Discriminate Against Gay Couples" »


Over 100 Texas Organizations, Including 13 Fortune 500 Companies, Sign LGBT Equality Pledge

TexasCompetes

More than 100 corporations and other organizations — from American Airlines and Apple to the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee — have joined an impressive coalition of businesses pledging to support LGBT equality in Texas.

The coalition, called Texas Competes, launched Tuesday in Austin against the backdrop of 22 anti-LGBT bills in the state Legislature. 

From the Texas Competes website

Texas Competes' mission is to provide a unified voice for the Texas business community on the clear economic and business case for fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers, families, customers, and tourists. That unified voice takes the form of the Texas Competes pledge.

Many of Texas' most successful businesses have policies and workplace cultures that are inclusive and welcoming to LGBT workers and customers. But the competitiveness of these businesses, and of the Texas economy, is impacted by the brand that the state of Texas projects on the LGBT issue. The Texas Competes pledge creates an opportunity for business leaders to clarify their shared economic interests in fair treatment for gay and transgender people.

More from The Texas Observer:

Texas Competes spokesman James Shackelford said the coalition won’t take positions on specific legislation and that the effort has been in the works for months, long before anti-LGBT religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas sparked historic backlash from the corporate sector.

“But obviously the timing, when it’s launching and when we’re going public with it, is important,” Shackelford told theObserver.

The Texas Association of Business, the state’s powerful chamber of commerce, has come out against two religious freedom amendments that critics say would enshrine a license to discriminate against LGBT people in the constitution. However, dozens of other measures also target LGBT rights, from statutory religious exemption bills to proposals that would ban local nondiscrimination protections and transgender restroom use.

“Texas is an economic powerhouse because it’s a place where talented people, entrepreneurs and companies want to call home. But our competitiveness is in jeopardy if Texas does not become a place that is welcoming to LGBT workers and families,” Texas Competes advisory board member and former Dell CFO Tom Meredith said in a statement. “Businesses that embrace diversity are doing both the right thing and the economically smart thing.”

Interestingly, several business not otherwise known as LGBT-friendly have joined the coalition, while others long considered corporate allies have not. 

For example, Texas-based MetroPCS, which joined the coalition, has a score of 0 on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. But AT&T, which hasn't joined the coalition, has a score of 100. (AT&T was also a major supporter of anti-gay Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's campaign last year).

Watch a report from KXAN-TV and check out the full list of organizations that have joined Texas Competes, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Over 100 Texas Organizations, Including 13 Fortune 500 Companies, Sign LGBT Equality Pledge " »


Austin Restaurant Turns Away Genderqueer Student In Women's Clothing: VIDEO

Grant

An Austin fast food restaurant is accused of anti-transgender discrimination for turning away a University of Texas student who identifies as genderqueer and was wearing women's clothing.

When Tyler Grant approached the Whataburger restaurant near the UT campus early Saturday, a security guard asked Grant to put on shoes. After Grant complied, the security guard said, "Wait, you're a dude?"

The security guard, an off-duty Texas Department of Public Safety officer, then summoned a manager, and they denied entry to grant. A video posted on Twitter shows part of the encounter. 

225px-Whataburger_logo.svgWhataburger, an uber-popular Texas-based chain, issued a statement saying Grant was turned away because the student's clothing was too revealing: 

"Whataburger is proud to serve all customers regardless of race, gender or orientation. This wasn't an issue of gender but of appropriate attire as this guest was dressed in lingerie. Again, we welcome everyone into our restaurants but our customers' experience is our top priority. We are reviewing these events with our team members and will take appropriate action if needed."

However, Grant maintains the incident was anti-trans discrimination.

"I really believe it was transphobia-driven and I don't think it had anything to do with what I was wearing," Grant told The San Antonio Express-News

In a Facebook post, Grant wrote, "I was wearing two inches of hip/butt pads, 2 pairs of dancers tights, and three pairs of nude panty hose. If it were see through then she would have seen my brightly colored underwear, which also covered up everything essential anyway, but you couldn't even see those."

Grant told The Daily Texan student newspaper that the outfit "was not anymore revealing than yoga pants." 

Austin has a nondiscrimination ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in public accommodations.

Grant reportedly is considering legal options.  

Whataburger, which has more than 700 stores in 10 states, is privately held and not listed in the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.

Watch video from the incident here.  


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