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Eleven Oklahoma Students Suspended for Vandalizing LGBT Day of Silence Posters

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Like many schools across the country, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Booker T. Washington High participated in the nationwide Day of Silence last month to show its support for LGBT youth. While many of Booker T. Washington’s students stood in solidarity with their queer peers by taking a temporary vow of silence, a handful saw the demonstration as an opportunity to lash out. 

A poster promoting the Day of Silence was vandalized by a group of students, one of whom decided to record their actions. Footage of the vandalized poster soon made their way onto social media along with a number of homophobic tags. According to the Associated Press nine different students “liked” the video depicting the vandalism.

The two students thought to have been the lead instigators were given significant suspensions that would keep them both out of school for at least ten days. One of the students, explained Tulsa Public School representative Chris Payne, was no stranger to causing trouble in the school.

"He has had a pattern of behavior. There had been other incidents — he had poured water on incoming freshmen who were LGBTQ students," Payne explained. "There were nine additional suspensions (for three days each) for students who went out on social media and said they liked the video."

Texas Republican Lawmaker Removes LGBT Protections From Bill Regulating Uber, Lyft


Following Oklahoma's lead, a Texas Republican lawmaker has removed LGBT protections from a bill regulating vehicle-for-hire services like Uber and Lyft. 

The nondiscrimination provision in the original version of House Bill 2440, by GOP Rep. Chris Paddie (above), read as follows: 


During a committee hearing last week, Paddie introduced a substitute version of the bill with this nondiscrimination provision: 



Of course, neither Texas nor federal law includes LGBT protections. Paddie's office didn't respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.

"That the non-discrimination provision was included in the draft is a sign of the changing landscape in Texas," Equality Texas legislative specialist Daniel Williams told Towleroad. "We're not there yet, but the fact that the bill was introduced with inclusive non-discrimination protections shows the increasing bipartisan support for equality."

Debbee Hancock, a spokeswoman for Uber in Texas, pointed us to the nondiscrimination policy in the company's Code of Conduct, on which the original version of the bill apparently was based.

"It is unacceptable to refuse to provide or accept services based on a person’s race, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, sex, marital status, gender identity, age or any other characteristic protected under applicable federal or state law," the policy states. "This type of behavior can result in permanent loss of access to the Uber platform."

Oklahoma Legislature Approves Bill Allowing Ministers, Judges the Right to Refuse to Officiate Same-sex Marriages

On Wednesday, the Oklahoma House and Senate overwhelmingly passed a set of bills stating that people authorized to perform marriages may refuse to do so on religious grounds, The Tulsa World reports:

FallinNeither vote was close, but the bills did prompt lively and sometimes bitter discussion and debate on the proper role of government and religion in public policy.

Legal experts say religious and secular officials already have the right to refuse to perform marriages.

The AP adds:

[The bills] also shield churches from being required to participate in the ceremonies.

Troy Stevenson of Freedom Oklahoma, which advocates for the rights of gay and transgender Oklahomans, says he believes the bills are unnecessary but that he supports the spirit of the laws.

The bills now head to Gov. Mary Fallin (pictured) for signature. 

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


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. 

Justice Dept. Sues University For Firing Professor Who Transitioned


The Justice Department has announced the filing of a lawsuit against Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SOSU) and the Regional University System of Oklahoma (RUSO) for discriminating against a transgender employee.

The lawsuit claims that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, SOSU and RUSO discriminated against the transgender employee on the basis of her sex and retaliated against her when she complained.

Attorney General Eric Holder (above) announced last year that the Department of Justice will extend Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination protection to claims based on an individual’s gender identity, including transgender status.

2000px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Department_of_Justice.svgAccording to the complaint, Rachel Tudor began working at SOSU as an associate professor in 2004. At this time, Tudor identified as a man. In 2007, she began to present as a woman. However, in 2009 the university  denied an application for a tenured promotion and overruled the recommendations of her department chair and other tenured faculty from her department.  

The following year, Tudor filed complaints regarding the denial of her application. Shortly after it learned of her complaints, SOSU refused to let Tudor re-apply for promotion and tenure despite the college’s policies permitting re-application.  At the end of the 2010-11 academic year, SOSU and RUSO terminated Tudor’s employment because she had not obtained tenure.

On the announcement of the lawsuit, Holder said:

“By standing beside Dr. Tudor, the Department of Justice sends a clear message that we are committed to eliminating discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity.

We will not allow unfair biases and unjust prejudices to prevent transgender Americans from reaching their full potential as workers and as citizens.  And we will continue to work tirelessly, using every legal tool available, to ensure that transgender individuals are guaranteed the rights and protections that all Americans deserve.”

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair Jenny R. Yang added:

“This is a tremendous example of how collaboration between EEOC and the Department of Justice leads to strong and coordinated enforcement of Title VII. This case furthers the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan, which includes coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII's sex discrimination provisions as a national enforcement priority.”

Oklahoma Told a Straight Doctor This Pro-Gay License Plate Request Was Too Sexual: VIDEO


A straight Oklahoma City man has been denied a customized license plate supporting the LGBT community, reports KOCO.com.

John keefe oklahoma cityDr. John Keefe II (right, with his wife) filed a request for a vanity plate reading "LGBTALY.” Plates can be a maximum of seven letters.  However, his request was denied because it was “sexual in nature.”

Said Keefe:

“When I am driving around with a license plate that says 'LGBT ally,' it shows to other people, 'Look, I am here for my fellow Oklahomans.’”

Oklahoma Tax Commission spokesperson Paula Ross said that “LGBT” is not on the list of banned words or phrases.

Keefe, who has hired an attorney to appeal the decision, said if his story “reaches just one person, the impact has been made.”

A hearing on the case is expected to take place this summer.

Watch a report, AFTER THE JUMP...

Last December, Alabama issued - and then recalled - a license plate reading "NOHOMO."

Continue reading "Oklahoma Told a Straight Doctor This Pro-Gay License Plate Request Was Too Sexual: VIDEO" »


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