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Ellen Decides the Winner of March Madness with Shirtless Male Dancers: VIDEO

Ellenstrip

In Ellen's world there's only one way to decide any number of issues, and who are we to argue with it? Find out if the March Madness winner is going to be Kentucky, Wisconsin, Michigan State, or Duke.

Let the madness begin, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Ellen Decides the Winner of March Madness with Shirtless Male Dancers: VIDEO" »


LGBT Banner Flies Over Final Four Stadium As Hundreds Rally in Indianapolis for Statewide Nondiscrimination Protections

Rally

With all eyes still on Indiana as the Final Four NCAA men's basketball championship kicked-off in Indianapolis yesterday, LGBT advocates continued to hold a spotlight on the fact that despite Gov. Mike Pence's "fixed" religious freedom law, it remains completely legal in the state to discriminate against an individual based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The AP reports on the hundreds of people who marched through downtown Indianapolis yesterday calling for statewide LGBT nondiscrimination protections:

March organizer Dominic Dorsey II told the crowd as it gathered on the steps of the city's Monument Circle that the Legislature's move was only a beginning. He said lawmakers now need to add legal protections to state law to prohibit workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"This new language that they've added is like stabbing somebody in the back and then pulling it out three inches and saying, 'You're all right, right? We're good now, right?" he told crowd, which shouted back "no!"

Dorsey then led the gathering in chanting "Hoosiers don't discriminate! — No more Band-Aids masking hate!" as they began a march that carried them several blocks past the city's business district, bars and restaurants to the Lucas Oil Stadium, home of this year's men's Final Four.

MoveonProgressive advocacy organization MoveOn.org flew a banner reading "Sir Charles is Right: Discrimination is Wrong" over the stadium twice yesterday. The banner was in reference to former NBA star Charles Barkley, who has been vocal in his opposition to Indiana's "license to discriminate."

The National Association of Basketball Coaches also hosted a panel at its convention Saturday aimed at speaking for gay and lesbian athletes. Derrick Gordon and Jason Collins were in attendance. 

The Indianapolis Star meanwhile has also called for full, statewide LGBT protections.

From the paper's editorial board Friday:

Now we need to set out on the path to make Indiana a symbol of equality for all. That means enacting a state law that fully prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations in all forms.

Let's send a resounding message, unmistakable in clarity: Indiana welcomes everyone. Indiana values everyone equally. Indiana will not tolerate discrimination against anyone.

We are Indiana, a state of fairness and equality.

Check out footage from yesterday's march, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "LGBT Banner Flies Over Final Four Stadium As Hundreds Rally in Indianapolis for Statewide Nondiscrimination Protections" »


Focus on the Family Says Tim Cook, Charles Barkley Want to Sue Christians Out of Business: VIDEO

Stuart

Focus on the Family's Stuart Shepard reacts in typical fashion to the outcry over Indiana's "religious freedom" law this week, with Shepard claiming that Apple CEO Tim Cook, former NBA star Charles Barkley, and the NCAA itself are really just trying to sue Christians out of business.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...(warning: bulls--t ahead)

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Continue reading "Focus on the Family Says Tim Cook, Charles Barkley Want to Sue Christians Out of Business: VIDEO" »


Lamba Legal, ACLU, NCAA, Tony Perkins and More React to Proposed 'Fix' to Indiana 'Religious Freedom' Law

Reactions to a proposed "fix" to Indiana's "religious freedom" bill are rolling in, with right-wingers understandably furious that the amendment now explicitly prevents the law from being used to discriminate against LGBT individuals.

LGBT organizations, meanwhile, are saying the proposal doesn't go far enough and are pushing to ensure LGBT Hoosiers are protected from discrimination statewide. 

Said Jennifer C. Pizer, National Director of Lambda Legal's Law and Policy Project:

Pizer"This bill reduces the threat but is far less than this situation requires. It recognizes there are problems, but does not fix it as LGBT Hoosiers and others urgently need. Now that there's broad public understanding that gay and transgender people in much of Indiana are terribly vulnerable to arbitrary discrimination by businesses, refusal of housing, and being fired just for being who they are--and even Gov. Pence has agreed that that is wrong--that unacceptable situation requires a full solution. We've provided multiple options of straightforward bill language. This is not a complicated or novel task. Many states have done it with only positive results economically and socially. The time is now. America is watching.

"Indiana's RFRA is an ill-conceived law that invites religiously motivated refusals to comply with laws that protect everyone. The state's elected leadership today has taken one step to reduce these refusal problems by amending the RFRA to ensure compliance with civil rights laws. Now they need to complete the fix by actually providing those basic protections that LGBT people need to be equal and safe in the Hoosier State, and by further amending RFRA to prevent it from being used to excuse any harm to other people.

"The local voices, organizations as well as national business and government leaders who have been insisting on a full and proper response in Indiana are right. This job should be finished before this legislative session ends and Governor Pence leaves on vacation if state leadership wants to show their claims about opposing discrimination are sincere.

HRC said the proposed fix "falls far short of adding non-discrimination protections for LGBT Hoosiers to the state's civil rights laws, and future legislative sessions have an obligation to return to fix both the RFRA and this glaring hole in Indiana's laws protecting their own citizens."

Said Freedom Indiana campaign manager Katie Blair:

Fi“These changes represent an important step forward. They fall short in many ways, and our work is far from over.

“Statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Hoosiers still do not exist, meaning discrimination is still legal in most of the state.

“Businesses in Indiana, and many other employers looking to do business with our state, have made it clear that the state must pass a statewide nondiscrimination law that protects all Hoosiers from discrimination and ensures that Indiana is seen as a welcoming place to visit and do business.

The ACLU expressed a similar view, saying:

"The events in Indiana over the last week represent a dramatic change in the way our country reacts to discrimination hiding under the guise of religion.

The Indiana legislature and the governor made a terrible and dangerous mistake, and they were met with widespread condemnation and a backlash that has hurt their state’s reputation and its economy.

The outcry – from businesses, religious organizations, community leaders, and millions of people inside Indiana and around the country – forced a change to the law.

Because of these changes, the harm of the law has been lessened, but there remain significant problems that must be addressed.

With these amendments, the RFRA cannot be used as a defense in some kinds of discrimination cases. That’s a major improvement. But it still poses a risk that it can be used to deny rights to others, including in education, access to health care, and other aspects of people’s lives. While this is one piece of the solution, it is incomplete. Religious freedom is important, but it doesn’t give anyone the right to impose their beliefs on others, discriminate, or cause harm.

This national conversation has shined a light on the fact that Indiana – as well as 27 other states – do not have statewide nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people, meaning that discrimination is still legal in most of the country. 

NCAA President Mark Emmert said the association is "very pleased" with the #RFRA revisions but failed to speak out on the growing push to secure state-wide LGBT non-discrimination protections.  

FRC hate leader Tony Perkins, meanwhile, is calling on Gov. Mike Pence to veto the fix:

Perkins"On the eve of Good Friday, Big Business is encouraging elected leaders to take the silver over religious freedom.This new proposal guts the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and empowers the government to impose punishing fines on people for following their beliefs about marriage. Religious freedom should not be held hostage by Big Business. Big Business is now putting religious freedom in a worse place than before RFRA was signed into law. Gutting RFRA in this manner would put people of faith in the crosshairs of government discrimination as never before. Far from being a 'clarification,' this would gut religious freedom in Indiana. Religious freedom doesn't need a 'fix.' This proposal would force religious businesses and even nonprofits deemed 'not religious enough' to participate in wedding ceremonies contrary to their owners' beliefs. If the government punishes people for living their faith, there are no limits to what government can control. We urge the governor to veto this measure that will be used by the government to bring financial ruin on people like florist Barronelle Stutzman, bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, and wedding photographer Elaine Huguenin."

Heritage Foundation's Ryan T. Anderson, who recently duked it out with Dan Savage over #RFRA, is similarly displeased:

AndersonIt is important to note that this fix does not create new sexual orientation and gender identity privileges in Indiana; it says that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act cannot protect citizens from existing (municipal) Indiana sexual orientation and gender identity laws and ensuing coercion from government.

In other words, it eliminates any balancing test for sexual liberty and religious liberty. It says sexual orientation should trump religious liberty. That’s bad policy.

All citizens should oppose unjust discrimination, but sexual orientation and gender identity laws are not the way to achieve that goal. Sexual orientation and gender identity laws threaten fundamental First Amendment rights. These laws create new, subjective protected classes that will expose employers to unimaginable liability, and would increase government interference in labor markets in ways that could harm the economy.

Bryan Fischer is upset too:

 


Keith Olbermann Rips Indiana: The NCAA Must Move the Final Four — VIDEO

Olbermann

On his show last night, Keith Olbermann delivered a searing argument about why the NCAA must move the Final Four out of Indiana, arguing that sports has always been inextricably involved in politics.

Says Olbermann in his critique:

"The football league in this country and the college sports league in this country are tacitly supporting a law that allows those that have voluntarily chosen to join a group to discriminate and be prejudiced at the expense of those who may or may not have had any choice at all and the reality of course is not. The NCAA needs to move the Final Four out of Indianapolis and the NFL must warn Indiana and the Colts. Because ultimately you and I have a choice - do we participate in these laws, or do we do only as much as even the narrow prejudiced sports leagues of the 1930s, the 40s, and the 50s did. Opt out. Stay away, keep our business elsewhere until the laws of hate are gone."

He adds:

"Your choice is this. Do you endorse in this Indiana law a revival of the kind of hatred that opened the door for Jim Crow or do you repudiate it?"

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

The NCAA has thus far said that it will re-evaulate its relationship with the state going forward but it has resisted, despite calls from high-profile figures like Charles Barkley, removing this year's Final Four from Indiana.

Continue reading "Keith Olbermann Rips Indiana: The NCAA Must Move the Final Four — VIDEO" »


Could Repealing LGBT Protections Cost Houston The 2016 Final Four, 2017 Super Bowl?

FinalFour

Since Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed an anti-LGBT religious freedom bill this week, the backlash has been enormous. 

Celebrities, corporationschurches 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. 

Super-Bowl-Houston-BannerAfter 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. 


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