Since Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed an anti-LGBT religious freedom bill this week, the backlash has been enormous.
Celebrities, corporations, churches and even the White House have come out against the discriminatory law — with some announcing boycotts of the Hoosier State. They include the NCAA, which issued a statement saying it's concerned about how the law will affect its student-athletes and employees during the men's basketball Final Four in Indianapolis next weekend. There's also a petition calling for the Big 10 Conference to move its football championship out of Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, in Houston — which is scheduled to host the 2016 Final Four and the 2017 Super Bowl — anti-LGBT groups continue their efforts repeal an Equal Rights Ordinance passed by the City Council last year.
After Houston became the last major city in the US to add LGBT protections in May, opponents launched a petition drive to repeal them. The city eventually rejected the petition, saying it didn't have enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Anti-LGBT groups filed a lawsuit, and last month a jury determined that among other things, the petition contains widespread forgery. Based on the jury's determinations about which signatures should be considered valid, Judge Robert Schaffer began a final count. More than a month later, Schaffer revealed this week that opponents of the ordinance are roughly 3,000 signatures short of the 17,269 needed to qualify for the ballot. However, approximately 8,500 signatures remain in question because they appear on pages circulated by people whose names aren't legible.
The Houston Chronicle reports:
The plaintiffs argue that legibility should not be a factor.
"We can't empower the government with the right to be the judge, jury and executioner on whether somebody has a right to vote based on penmanship," said Andy Taylor, attorney for the plaintiffs.
The city, however, contends that if they can't determine who a circulator is based on their signature or printed name, all the other signatures collected on that page should be discarded, per city charter and the judge's ruling.
"The plaintiffs are mounting every desperate challenge they possibly can to try to overcome the effect of the jury's verdict and the effect of the judge's post-verdict rulings," said Geoffrey Harrison, lead attorney for the city. "The plaintiffs lost at trial. They lose on the law. They lose on the facts. But they are prolonging this process by refusing to accept reality."
Judge Schaffer is expected to rule in early April on the final signature count. If he determines the petition has enough valid signatures, the ordinance likely would appear on the November ballot. If he determines the petition doesn't have enough valid signatures, the plaintiffs are expected to appeal.
Either way, perhaps opponents of the ordinance and other citizens of Houston should take note of what's happening in Indiana. If Houston repeals LGBT protections and again becomes the only major US city without them, it's hard to imagine there wouldn't be a push to get the NCAA to move the 2016 Final Four and to get the NFL to move the 2017 Super Bowl — among other things.
Texas lawmakers might also want to take note, as several measures similar to the Indiana bill have been introduced in the current session of the state Legislature.
Houston and Texas have a reputation as business-friendly places, but judging by what's happened in Indiana, that could easily and very quickly change.Sphere: Related Content
Gary Glenn, a Michigan state representative and president of the state's American Family Association chapter, wants you to know that your Midland local news will now be overseen by a homosexual.
Glenn said he believes the community has a right to hold the newspaper and its staffers accountable and to question anything that could influence how they "represent our community's values."
"I posted the paper's own report -- without comment or criticism -- except to alert readers to the reasonably observed possibility that this new position might be used to promote a political agenda or bias that's at odds with our community's values," he said.
Lascari said he has not been contacted by Glenn in connection with the issue, though he is aware of the state representative's posts on social media.
"I am aware that Michigan Rep. Glenn has issued an 'agenda alert' on Facebook and Twitter to let his supporters know about my marital status," he said. "I welcome him to contact me to speak about any topic at any time. In my new role as news editor at the Midland Daily News I look forward to helping my team produce quality stories that are accurate, interesting and important."Sphere: Related Content
Indiana Restaurant Owner Calls in to Radio Station Proudly Saying He'll Refuse to Serve Gay Customers: LISTEN
Warning: this might just ruin your Saturday morning.
Indianapolis morning radio show Kyle & Rachel was busy fielding caller comments on the state's discriminatory "religious freedom" bill yesterday when a local bigot decided to call in and voice his support for the state's new law.
Listen to Ryan, who says he owns a local restaurant and has discriminated against gay customers in the past, casually explain why he's looking forward to his new "license to discriminate" AFTER THE JUMP... (warning: autoplay)
In related news, former NBA star Charles Barkley has called on the NCAA to move its March Madness Final Four tournament out of Indiana over the new law.
Richland, Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman has been fined $1000 plus $1 for court costs and fees for her refusal back in 2013 to provide flowers for a longtime customer's wedding to his same-sex partner because of her "relationship with Jesus Christ."
The Associated Press reports:
In a February ruling, [Benton County Superior Judge Alexander] Ekstrom found that Stutzman's refusal to provide flowers because of sexual orientation violated Washington's anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. Along with the fine, the judge's ruling also requires that everything Arlene's Flowers sells to opposite-sex couples has to be available at the same price to same-sex couples.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office requested the fine, said in a statement Friday that the ruling is a reminder of the reach of Washington's anti-discrimination laws.
"My primary goal has always been to end illegal discrimination," Ferguson said. "I'm pleased that today's ruling clearly prohibits discrimination against same-sex couples."
Last month, we reported Stutzman had rejected a settlement offer in the case and said taking the offer would have been like Judas betraying Jesus.Sphere: Related Content
Sorry, but the Church of Harvey Fierstein has a strict "No Christians" policy.
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...
Mike Pucillo, a former Ohio State All-American and National Champion wrestler, has come out as gay in an interview with wrestling journalist Jason Bryant over at TheOpenMat.com:
The three-time All-American and 2008 NCAA champion said he struggled with his sexuality for years. He said he spent time in high school hoping he wasn’t gay.
“I’ve always known, I guess,” said Pucillo, who came out to his parents and a close circle of friends a little more than a year ago. “You try to not think that’s what it really is, so I just tried to say it was nothing. Then you start to realize it’s not really nothing.”
Pucillo, the first openly gay Division-I national champion wrestler, said that part of his struggle to be open and honest about his sexuality stemmed from his private Catholic school upbringing that hammered in the point that homosexuality was a "bad thing." The physicality of wrestling didn't help things either.
“Wrestling is one of the toughest mentally, physically and manly sports there is,” he said. “It’s two dudes rolling around on a mat. People who don’t know wrestling call them leotards. It’s a joke, but it creates a built-in mechanism to say: ‘I’m not gay. I’m too manly to be gay. I’m too tough to be gay."
Hearing the stories of out athletes like Dartmouth lacrosse player Andrew Goldstein, MLS player Robbie Rogers and retired MLB player Billy Bean, however, gave Pucillo the courage to embrace his identity.
“It may have taken me 26 years to realize that maybe I can play a bigger role in somebody else’s life and help somebody else’s life like Robbie Rogers or (Goldstein did),” Pucillo said. “If I can do that for one person, it’s worth it for everybody out there to know my story. … I know there’s going to be people that don’t like it. To those people, I would say, ‘I’ve spent 26 years being uncomfortable. It’s not my problem anymore.
“The only reason why I feel it’s important to tell my story is I know there are a lot of other people out there that are like me who are in high school or about to go into college, whether it’s wrestling or football or baseball or basketball or not in any sport, who are struggling with it,” he said. “The more stories they hear about it, the easier it is for them.”
Head over to TheOpenMat.com here for more on Pucillo's inspirational coming out journey.
Watch a video of Pucillo at the 2013 Las Vegas/ASICS U.S. Open, AFTER THE JUMP...
[photo via Facebook]