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HRC Warns 12 States ‘Don’t Repeat The Mistakes Of Indiana' In New Media Campaign

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The Human Rights Coalition launched a new ad campaign asking 12 state governors to reject bills that target LGBT people like the one Gov. Mike Pence passed in Indiana. HRC's new campaign comes after a study conducted by the organization yielded results stating that a majority of Hoosiers believe Pence’s bill is damaging Indiana’s economy. JoDee Winterhof, HRC's vice president for policy and political affairs, warned of the repercussions states could endure if they follow Pence’s example.

Said Winterhof:

"Gov. Mike Pence found that experimenting with anti-LGBT bills that allow businesses to discriminate killed his approval ratings and damaged the Hoosier economy. Governors who go down the same path as Mike Pence and put their state economy at risk in an attempt to further discrimination are going to find themselves at risk of being rejected by the voters."

The results of HRC's study reflects Winterhof's warning as a majority of voters (70% to 24%) believe that businesses should not discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or identity. Surprisingly a majority of Republican voters (58% to 36%) concur. Pence’s approval ratings have since plummeted, allowing for a potential Democratic challenger to make gains in the state. HRC's media campaign officially began today on social media in Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana, Florida, New Hampshire, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and Texas. Although Pence attempted to clarify that official language in the new law would prevent LGBT discrimination, HRC isn’t buying it, noting that the state’s laws are still devoid of any clear LGBT anti-discrimination laws that would grant full protections to LGBT people in the state.


Trans Teen's Lawsuit Prompts South Carolina DMV to Change Driver's License Photo Policy

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A transgender teen who filed a federal lawsuit last September against South Carolina’s Department of Motor Vehicles for sex discrimination and violating free speech won her case reports NPR.org. Chase Culpepper, 17, filed the suit after DMV officials told her to remove her mascara and eye shadow before taking her driver’s license photo, arguing with her that her cosmetics was a "disguise."

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 8.14.20 AMThe department claimed that a 2009 rule prohibits applicants from "purposely altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity." Culpepper filed a lawsuit in response to the Spring 2014 incident calling the policy "unconstitutionally vague and overbroad" and arguing it allowed DMV officials to make "arbitrary and capricious" decisions based on the department’s personal biases regarding gender presentation.

The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, a New York-based group backing Culpepper, helped reach a settlement in the case, with South Carolina’s DMV agreeing to change its policy to allow applicants to be photographed as they are regardless of officials’ expectations of what they think applicants should look like. The department also promised Culpepper an apology letter and intends on training employees on how to treat transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. Culpepper announced she is pleased with the results of the settlement.

Said Culpepper:

"I am thrilled with the outcome of my lawsuit. My clothing and makeup reflect who I am. From day one, all I wanted was to get a driver's license that looks like me. Now I will be able to do that. It was hurtful to be singled out for being transgender and made to feel that somehow I wasn’t good enough."

The new department policies go into effect in May; Culpepper intends on taking her new driver’s license photo then with her makeup on. Since Culpepper’s win, the Transgender Defense and Education Fund received several similar requests for legal representation and support after the news of Culpepper’s successful case spread reports The Los Angeles Times. The advocacy group is currently in negotiations with West Virginia’s DMV after three transgender women reported that the department ordered the women to remove wigs and fake eyelashes before having their driver’s license photos taken.

 


South Carolina GOP Calls for Constitutional Amendment Banning Same-sex Marriage Nationwide

A South Carolina Senate subcommittee yesterday passed a resolution calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban same-sex marriageThe Post and Courier reports.

579937_10151388495470369_718529837_n Resolution S 0031 reads in part:

"That the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina hereby applies to Congress, under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution of the United States, for the calling of a convention of the states limited to proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States establishing that marriage in the United States shall consist only of a man and woman; and further stating that neither the United States Constitution, nor the constitution of any state, shall be construed to require that marriage or legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

Resolution co-sponsor, Republican Larry Grooms (right) said:

“It has to do with the propagation of our species. It is what is in the best interest of our species. Now we’re told through a federal judge that now we have to change that. It throws out of kilter all of our laws that have been based on the foundation of [marriage between a] man and a woman.”

GOP State Senator Lee Bright added that federal judges who have made same-sex marriage legal should be impeached while subcommittee Chairman Shane Massey said “marriage is one man and one woman, and I believe that’s the way it’s been in the history of mankind up until the last 15 years.”

The resolution was opposed by the two Democrats on the subcommittee.

The measure was passed onto the Senate Judiciary committee, where it is thought likely to pass. 

[h/t NCRM]


South Carolina Christian College Bans Homosexuality After Two Athletes Courageously Come Out

Juan Varona Erskine College

Erskine College, South Carolina has banned homosexuality after volleyball players Drew Davis and Juan Varona (above) came out last year.

OutSports reports that although Davis and Varona found support from their teammates, a statement from the college is likely to drive “a no-gays policy at the school and create an atmosphere where LGBT people do not feel safe.”

The February 20th “Statement on Human Sexuality” reads in part:

Erskine“We believe the Bible teaches that all sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage is sinful and therefore ultimately destructive to the parties involved. As a Christian academic community, and in light of our institutional mission, members of the Erskine community are expected to follow the teachings of scripture concerning matters of human sexuality and institutional decisions will be made in light of this position.”

Varona told OutSports that the statement “makes me disappointed because I have never received anything but kind treatment from everyone at this school, and my sexual orientation is no secret.”

He added:

"I feel that in the time that we are living right now, where even in the conservative state of South Carolina same-sex marriage is legal, the school took several steps back instead of progressing towards a future where everyone can be treated as an equal, which is a future most of the country is moving towards.

"I understand the religious stand on adultery, which is part of the Ten Commandments in the Bible, and that would apply to heterosexual and homosexual people. But when I saw the mention of sexual orientation being an issue, it just made me sad and worried for other gay people who might be struggling with confidence to come out."


Pro-Gay, No Pay? No Way, Legal Experts Say

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We're gonna go lay by the bay. We just may. But first we'd like to allay any possible dismay ... 

In one last, pathetic, legislative gasp against marriage equality, lawmakers in South Carolina and Texas have introduced bills that would revoke the salaries of state employees who issue or recognize same-sex marriage licenses. 

In the Lone Star State, as we've reported, the legislation is authored by GOP Rep. Cecil Bell Jr. (above), who says same-sex marriage will cause “the moral degradation of the fabric that holds Texas together.”

Strep_sc__bill-chumleyIn South Carolina, the bill was filed by GOP Rep. Bill Chumley (right), who says same-sex marriage goes against God's law and is "an attack on our moral foundation." 

Not surprisingly, it turns out that Bell and Chumley are a little chummy, according to U.S. News and World Report

South Carolina state Rep. Bill Chumley, a Republican, says he doesn’t care what the federal courts say. He wrote the South Carolina bill and says he’s been in indirect contact with the Texas lawmaker, Republican Rep. Cecil Bell, who’s sponsoring nearly identical legislation.

“I don’t have a problem with the people it might affect,” Chumley says. “I don’t judge them. Our issue is with the amendment to the [state] constitution being thrown out. I believe the people of South Carolina have a sovereign right to say what they want and they have done that.”

Bell says he was inspired by Chumley’s bill and worries federal courts legalizing same-sex marriage would cause “the moral degradation of the fabric that holds Texas together.” He says such rulings would also be a “total usurping of the sovereignty of the state of Texas,” which he intends to prevent.

Good luck with that, Cecil, because:  

“If the federal courts end up finally concluding – likely as a result of a Supreme Court decision – that there is a federal constitutional right to have one’s same-sex marriage recognized by states, then these laws would obviously be unconstitutional,” says Eugene Volokh, a professor at the University of California-Los Angeles School of Law.

Both bills say the legislation is immune from federal court challenges under the Constitution’s 11th Amendment, which limits the ability of people to sue states. Volokh says that's not accurate and that the bills “obviously can’t trump federal law.”

In fact, Chumley's bill appears to run afoul of South Carolina's state constitution, which says judges' salaries can't be diminished. And there's a chance Bell's bill could actually hasten the arrival of marriage equality in Texas, according to George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley

“The interesting prospect would be for a challenge to this law to move more quickly in the courts than the same-sex marriage ban challenge,” he says. “If a court were to get to the final merits on this legislation first, it could feel obligated to broaden the review to first consider the constitutionality of the same-sex ban before evaluating the constitutionality of the collateral limitation.”

Bell disagrees that his effort may inadvertently help supporters of same-sex marriage. “I don’t think that’s the case," he says. “That side of the world has never needed any incentive to litigate. They litigate for no reason at all.”

Even though we already knew these bills were unconstitutional, it's still reassuring to hear experts confirm that Bell and Chumney won't be able to deprive any gays of their wedding cake. After all, it's been obvious since our first post about Bell last week that he's a fan of the stuff, and now we've uncovered even more evidence from his Facebook page showing that when it comes to anti-gay wingnuts, he really takes the cake: 

Bell

Check out two more shots, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Pro-Gay, No Pay? No Way, Legal Experts Say" »


States Defending Gay Marriage Bans Costing Taxpayers Millions In Attorney Fees

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Plaintiffs in successful same-sex marriage lawsuits have been awarded more than $800,000 in attorneys fees' from states that defended the bans, with another $2.6 million in requests pending, according to a new report from The National Law Journal: 

Federal district judges across the country have issued nearly three dozen rulings since late 2013 declaring state same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. Attorney fee petitions haven't been filed yet in the majority of those cases as they go before circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. The fee awards, agreements and requests to date offer an early snapshot of what these landmark civil rights cases could cost taxpayers. ... 

Plaintiffs who prevail in federal civil rights cases can collect legal fees from the losing side. Congress set up the fee-shifting rule as an incentive for lawyers to take on time-consuming and expensive civil rights litigation, said Deborah Ferguson, lead counsel for the couples who fought Idaho's gay marriage ban.

In Idaho, the plaintiffs' attorneys were awarded a whopping $410,663 — the most in any state thus far. But that hasn't stopped Republican Gov. Butch Otter from continuing his futile defense of the state's marriage ban in court. The other states where plaintiffs' attorneys fees have been awarded or agreed to in same-sex marriage cases are Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon and Virginia. Requests are pending in Alaska, Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin. 

Of course, the plaintiffs' attorneys fees don't include the cost to taxpayers of states paying their lawyers or hiring outside counsel to defend the bans — or, for that matter, lost revenue from wedding-related spending where same-sex marriage is still not legal. 

All told, it seems that defending discrimination isn't cheap, and states that continue to fight same-sex marriage better be prepared to pay up. And the irony is, many of the same folks who advocate lower taxes are the same ones fighting hardest to deprive same-sex couples of the freedom to marry.  


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