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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

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. 


Justice Dept. Sues University For Firing Professor Who Transitioned

Eric_Holder_official_portrait

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

Lgbtaly

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" »


In A Stunning Display Of Hypocrisy, Sen. Ted Cruz Targets District Of Columbia's LGBT Protections

Cruz.Ted

Sen. Ted Cruz frequently rails against federal overreach and is a staunch defender of the right of states to ban same-sex marriage. 

However, Cruz now wants Congress to dictate how Washington, D.C., regulates LGBT and reproductive rights.

Cruz has introduced what are known as disapproval resolutions seeking to undo two laws passed by the D.C. Council last year. One of the laws would prevent employers from taking action against employees who use birth control or seek an abortion, while the other would remove a religious exemption to the district's LGBT protections.   

Senator Lankford Official Portrait - CopyAs hypocritical as they may be, Cruz's resolutions aren't going anywhere. In order to pass, they'd need approval from both chambers of Congress as well as President Barack Obama's signature. Rather, they appear to be more political posturing from Cruz as he prepares for a likely 2016 presidential campaign. 

The Washington Post reports: 

Although rarely successful at stopping D.C. laws, the resolutions are often more effective politically, giving members of Congress legislative records to build bona fides with constituent groups that feel strongly about the District’s often liberal stances on social issues. ... 

Freshman Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who co-introduced the measures, issued a statement Wednesday saying “what the D.C. Council has done is a major threat to the fundamental right to religious freedom for D.C. residents and organizations, and a brazen display of intolerance.”

Cruz declined to comment on the resolutions, but Lankford told WaPo the resolutions are in line with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last year in the Hobby Lobby case. In seeking to undo the laws, Cruz and Lankford have the support of anti-LGBT hate groups including the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council. 

Kimberly Perry, head of D.C. Vote, told WaPo the resolutions go against the very principles Cruz and Lankford normally champion, such as states' rights and local control:   

“Senators Cruz and Lankford’s move to disapprove a local District law is absurd and hypocritical,” Perry said. “They are now guilty of the same federal overreach they often criticize in others.”

Perry called on “every other member of Congress to step up and see this for exactly what it is — un-American and un-democratic.”

Coincidentally, Cruz appeared on Late Night With Seth Meyers this week and explained his opposition to same-sex marriage: 

"Listen, I'm a constitutionalist," Cruz said. "For over 200 years, marriage has been a question for the states. Now, personally I believe in traditional marriage between one man and one woman, but if you want to change the marriage laws, the way to do it constitutionally is to convince your fellow citizens, go to the state legislature and change it. It shouldn't be the federal government or unelected judges imposing their own definition of marriage." 

Watch the clip, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "In A Stunning Display Of Hypocrisy, Sen. Ted Cruz Targets District Of Columbia's LGBT Protections " »


Oklahoma State Rep. Wants to Require Anti-LGBT Businesses to Post Notice of Intent to Discriminate

Virgin

If you're going to side with Sally Kern, you might as well own up to it. 

Oklahoma State Rep. Emily Virgin is hoping to add an amendment to a proposed "license to discriminate" bill that would require businesses planning on refusing service to LGBT customers to first post a public notice of their intent to discriminate, The Gaily reports:

Language of the amendment: "B.  Any person not wanting to participate in any of the activities set forth in subsection A of this section based on sexual orientation, gender identity or race of either party to the marriage shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites.  The notice may refer to the person’s religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race."

“Thank you to Representative Virgin for calling out the level of segregation allowed under this legislation," said Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of LGBT advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma. "If the state of Oklahoma is going to protect discrimination, then at the very least, businesses should be required to own their bias, and post it publicly for the world to see.”

For more on the ongoing fight over LGBT rights in Oklahoma, check out KFOR's news report AFTER THE JUMP...

[h/t Raw Story]

Continue reading "Oklahoma State Rep. Wants to Require Anti-LGBT Businesses to Post Notice of Intent to Discriminate" »


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