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Voters In Fayetteville, Arkansas, Repeal LGBT Protections, But Mayor Says 'It Won't Be The Last Round': VIDEO

Arkansas

Voters in Fayetteville, Arkansas, narrowly repealed an ordinance banning anti-LGBT discrimination on Tuesday.  

The final tally was 7,523 votes in favor of repealing the ordinance, or 52 percent, to 7,040 votes against repeal, or 48 percent. 

Turnout was high for a special election, at 29 percent or 14,600 votes. That's compared to 21,457 Fayetteville residents who cast ballots in the Nov. 4 general election. 

The City Council approved the ordinance in August after 10 hours of debate, but opponents gathered enough signatures to place it on the ballot. Fayetteville would have been the first city in Arkansas to ban anti-LGBT discrimination. 

NWA Online reports: 

Alderman Matthew Petty, the ordinance's sponsor, said he was disappointed but not discouraged after results were announced at Fresco Cafe & Pub, where supporters of the group Keep Fayetteville Fair gathered.

"We believe that we were on the right side of history," Petty said. "And if we're going to win the hearts and minds of people on the other side of this issue, we need to remember that and remember that they're brothers and sisters of Fayetteville, too." ... 

Petty said Tuesday night it's too soon to tell if the City Council will consider a revised version of a similar ordinance.

"We're going to consider all options," he said.

"This is the first round, but it won't be the last round," said Mayor Lioneld Jordan, who has publicly endorsed the ordinance. "I would have liked to have seen it go differently, but that doesn't mean we can't go back and try something again eventually."

Despite the setback, there were signs of progress in the results. Sixteen years ago, when Fayetteville voters repealed an ordinance protecting only gay city employees — the margin was 58 percent to 42 percent. The ordinance voted on Tuesday was much broader in its scope, applying citywide and including transgender protections.  

Kendra Johnson, a representative from the Human Rights Campaign in Arkansas, issued the following statement:  

"Tonight's vote is a deeply disappointing reminder that equality doesn't always move forward in a straight line. Make no mistake about it, tonight's election results—and the repeal of this ordinance — will inflict direct harm on LGBT Arkansans, their families and their friends. But we remain convinced that the progress of fairness will continue despite this result. All Arkansans should have the legal right to live safely within their communities, homes and workplaces, and the day will come soon when LGBT young people will wake up in this state and enjoy true equality under the law. We'll keep up the fight until that dream is achieved.”

Opposition to the ordinance was led by the likes of reality TV star Josh Duggar, as well as several Republican members of the Arkansas Legislature, who threatened to overturn the measure anyway if it was upheld by voters. 

Here's how they reacted on Twitter:

Watch KFSM-TV's report on the results, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Voters In Fayetteville, Arkansas, Repeal LGBT Protections, But Mayor Says 'It Won't Be The Last Round': VIDEO" »


Anti-Gay Bigots Try To Link Fayetteville Equal Rights Ordinance To HRC Co-Founder Terry Bean: VIDEO

  Fayetteville

Opponents of an LGBT equal rights ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas, are attempting to link the law to Terry Bean, the co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign who was arrested last month on charges of sexual abuse of a minor. 

Voters in Fayetteville will decide today whether to repeal Ordinance 119, which the City Council passed 6-2 in August following more than 10 hours of debate. 

During a meeting at the Fayetteville Prayer Room on Sunday, a speaker opposed to the ordinance claimed it wasn't conceived locally. 

"The law was conceived in the mind of a man named Terry Bean, who lives in Portland, Oregon, and he started these kinds of laws in 1978, and he's been crafting and perfecting it over the years," the speaker said. 

But it's not just religious leaders at prayer meetings who are pushing the ridiculous Terry Bean narrative. Republican state Sen. Bart Hester made similar comments on Sunday on KFSM-TV, where he debated the ordinance with Fayetteville Alderman Matthew Petty. Here's a transcript: 

NdoBart Hester: It think what’s interesting about this is that Alderman Petty got this ordinance from a Washington D.C. firm called the Human Rights Coalition [sic]. And the founder of the Human Rights Coalition is currently facing charges for sodomizing and raping a 15-year-old boy. That’s the foundation of this bill, it is not American, and we won’t stand for it in Arkansas.

Matthew Petty: That’s not true, either. I’ve never met – what was his name?

Larry Henry: Terry Bean?

Matthew Petty: Yes, Terry Bean. I’ve never met him and had never even heard of him until this was brought up by the opposition last week.

Bart Hester: He’s the founder of the people that wrote your bill.

Matthew Petty: They didn’t write the bill, first off. All they did was provide a couple of copies of ordinances from other cities that had passed similar things. We wrote the bill at the city attorney’s office. It took us four weeks to do it, and by the way, I’ve been considering this since 2009 and that’s going on six years ago. So this has been a long time in the making. This is a local bill from local people. We’ve had $37,000 worth of donations from Arkansans – most of those from Fayetteville – and the same goes with volunteer hours. This is a local campaign that was started by locals, and it’s going to be finished by locals. And that’s the end of the story on that I think.

Sen. Hester previously threatened to cut funding for the University of Arkansas after the school's chancellor made comments in support of the equal rights ordinance. Interestingly, the university has canceled a shuttle bus that was planned to take students to the pollls today, a decision which The Arkansas Times links to opposition to the equal rights ordinance among legislators like Hester: 

The administration will not risk riling the legislators further. It knows that legislators know that college students are less likely to favor legal discrimination against gay people. They don't want to help them vote. The UA bosses know who butter their bread (though you'd think student tuition and fees counted, too.)

Watch video of the comments by the speaker at the Fayetteville Prayer Room and Hester, AFTER THE JUMP...   

Continue reading "Anti-Gay Bigots Try To Link Fayetteville Equal Rights Ordinance To HRC Co-Founder Terry Bean: VIDEO" »


Head Of U.S. Agency For International Development Says Human Rights 'Essential' In Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 1.01.30 PMRajiv Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, linked human rights to the fight against HIV/AIDS during remarks he made during a World AIDS Day forum reports the Washington BladeThe forum highlighted a USAID-backed initiative through President Obama's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to combat the global epidemic among gay men, transgender people and other affected groups. 

Said Shah:

"Getting to where we need to go to a genuine AIDS-free generation will perhaps require even more determination, innovation and capacity to link the fight against HIV and AIDS to a broad range of critical issues, including the very basic and unassailable fight for human rights for all individuals.

"The only way to achieve the end goal of an AIDS-free generation is to more systematically embrace and empower this broader range of partners in this fight."

George Ayala, the executive director of the Global Forum on MSM and HIV, said that the U.S., Canada, Russia and Australia are among 61 countries with laws that criminalize people who have the virus. Lisa Carty, the director of the U.S. Liaison Office of U.N. AIDS, added that an estimated 80 countries have a policy or statute that, "Is a barrier to the communities we care about to get the services they need."

The State Department announced on Monday a $210 million public-private partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates and Nike Foundations through PEPFAR that is designed to lower new HIV infections in girls and women in 10 countries; an additional $116.5 million is going toward African nations' healthcare systems as well. However, the Associate Press reported that USAID hired nearly a dozen men from three Latin American countries to undermine the Cuban government through an HIV prevention workshop, among other means. U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, expressed dismay about the actions of USAID in the matter.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 1.05.05 PMSaid Lee:

"I am appalled by recent reports that the U.S. government orchestrated and funded clandestine democracy promotion efforts under the guise of public health and civic programs.

"I am particularly concerned by the revelation that HIV-prevention programs were used as a cover. This blatant deception undermines U.S. credibility abroad and endangers U.S. government supported public health programs, which have saved millions of lives in recent years around the world." 

Shah made no references to Cuba in his speech. The head of international development continued to discuss helping marginalized populations and linked human rights to national security.

Said Shah:

"Efforts that we will discuss today and take forward will help not only address HIV in marginalized populations, but will help society after society through that experience recognize that the universal reach of human rights is in our collective social and national security interest."


Austin May Become First City In Texas To Offer Trans-Inclusive Healthcare Benefits To Employees: VIDEO

Austin

Last month, the Austin Police Department welcomed its first openly transgender officer. However, a widely overlooked footnote to the story of Senior Officer Greg Abbink (above) was that he had to pay for his surgery out of his retirement savings. 

Fortunately, that may not be the case for the next city of Austin employee who transitions on the job. That's because Austin is poised to become the first city in Texas to offer transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits to its employees. 

The City Council is slated to consider a resolution Thursday under which the city's health plan would cover primary care, hormone therapy, mental health care and surgical care for transgender employees beginning in 2015. Austin currently does not cover hormone therapy or surgical care for transgender employees, the resolution states. 

The resolution notes that transgender healthcare is widely considered to be medically necessary and that 42 US cities currently cover it including Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Miami Beach and Boston. 

The resolution also states that utilization rates for trans-inclusive healthcare are as low as one in 20,000, and that studies have shown that 85 percent of employers that offer them face no additional costs. 

Nevertheless, the The Travis County Taxpayers Association is opposing the resolution, according to KXAN-TV

“The City of Austin — and by virtue of the City of Austin — the taxpayers in the city of Austin, shouldn’t be footing the bill for any kind of elective surgery,” said Roger Falk, with the Travis County Taxpayers Union. ... 
Falk feels city leaders should focus their attention on issues affecting more people.
“It’s not our choice, it’s not our decision, and it’s not a public issue,” Falk said. “It’s a private issue, and we shouldn’t be having to pay for it.”

The resolution is sponsored by City Councilmen Mike Martinez and Chris Riley. Martinez is in a runoff for mayor on Dec. 16.

Watch KXAN's report and read the resolution, AFTER THE JUMP...  

Continue reading "Austin May Become First City In Texas To Offer Trans-Inclusive Healthcare Benefits To Employees: VIDEO" »


Plano, Texas, Passes LGBT Protections In 5-3 Vote Despite Threats From Anti-Gay Groups: VIDEO

Plano1

Despite intense opposition from anti-LGBT speakers, the City Council in Plano, Texas, voted 5-3 Monday night to ban discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Thirty-four people signed up to speak on the proposal, with all but a handful opposing it. Many attended the meeting in response to calls to action from anti-LGBT groups, including Texas Values and the Liberty Institute. Several Republican state lawmakers also drafted a letter to the City Council calling for the ordinance to be postponed. 

But council members were undaunted by speakers who threatened to file lawsuits against the city or vote them out of office if they passed the ordinance. Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, an LGBT ally, compared the city's lack of LGBT protections to historical U.S. laws counting blacks as three-fifths of a person or barring women from voting.   

"Tell me the appropriate time to do the right thing," said LaRosiliere, who is black. "Frankly, the question is not, 'Why now?' It's, 'What took us so long?'"

LaRosiliere repeatedly quieted cat calls from opponents of the ordinance in the audience, threatening to have people removed from the meeting. He also responded to accusations that the city tried to sneak the ordinance through, saying it was properly noticed and the council held a public hearing even though it wasn't required to. 

"Nobody tried to bury this item," he said. 

Councilwoman Andre Davidson responded to speakers who objected to the ordinance on religious grounds. 

"Quite honestly, if my goal really is as a Christian to emulate Jesus, that means serving all of mankind," Davidson said. "And with that in my heart, I truly believe the right thing to do is to support this ordinance." 

Councilman Pat Gallagher made a motion to postpone consideration of the ordinance, but the motion failed. 

Jeff Mateer, an attorney for the anti-LGBT Liberty Institute, which is based in Plano, threatened litigation against the city. He said similar laws in other parts of the country have put bakers, photographers, florists and wedding chapels out of business when they refused to serve same-sex couples. 

"This ordinance is unlawful and it's unconstitutional," Mateer said. "Suffice is to say, if you pass it, we will sue you."

State Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, who was representing a group of elected officials opposed to the ordinance, told council members that instead of adding sexual orientation and gender identity to nondiscrimination laws, they should consider removing blacks and women.  

"Do we really think the citizens of Plano are going to discriminate against women or minorities or African-Americans? I don't think so," Shaheen said. "I would ask you to consider that — not adding classes, but taking away classes." 

City Attorney Paige Mims noted that several other major Texas cities have similar laws — including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio. Plano — Texas' ninth-largest city with a population of 270,000 — is home to several major corporations. 

"They're reporting great success with this," Mims said of the other cities. "None of them have been sued and had their ordinances overturned." 

Mims also sought to counter misinformation about the ordinance. She noted that the public accommodations provision contains an exception for restrooms and similar facilities, which can still be segregated according to gender. Mims also rejected the notion that the new law would criminalize religious beliefs.

“That’s a legal fiction,” Mims said, adding that religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment. “There is no criminalization of religious beliefs in the United States.”

One transgender advocate said exceptions in the ordinance go too far. 

"This effectively establishes legal authority for a genital rule (or even more broad characteristics and possibly documentation that lists sex or gender) to govern access [to] all sex-segregated public spaces," wrote Nell Gaither, president of Trans Pride Initiative.

Gaither noted that the ordinance also exempts nonprofits, political organizations and educational institutions.  

"So, what we see apparently is an ordinance written basically to protect the privileged folks coming to town for the Toyota plant," Gaither said. "Again, I hope someone can show that we are wrong on this, but right now, it looks like Plano did not do good, and neither did the folks involved who supposedly would have been representing the community."

Watch video of state Rep. Shaheen's testimony against the ordinance, AFTER THE JUMP... 

Continue reading "Plano, Texas, Passes LGBT Protections In 5-3 Vote Despite Threats From Anti-Gay Groups: VIDEO" »


New Minnesota Policy Allows Trans Students To Compete On Sports Teams 

Minnesota has become the 33rd state to adopt a formal transgender student policy after the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) last week voted to accept a policy that will allow transgender students to join sports teams that correspond with their gender identity, reports the Guardian.

The new policy creates a protocol to determine if someone who identifies as female but was born male can compete on female school sports teams.

6a00d8341c730253ef01b7c7152718970b-800wiIn opposition to the policy, anti-gay Minnesota Child Protection League published a transphobic ad in several newspapers which read:

"THE END OF GIRLS' SPORTS? Her dreams of a scholarship shattered, your 14-year-old daughter just lost her position on an all-girl team to a male ... and now she may have to shower with him. Are you willing to let that happen?"

The same group sponsored another ad in October which asked "A male wants to shower beside your 14-year-old daughter. Are YOU ok with that?"

Anti-gay activist group the Minnesota Family Council had proposed a bylaw change stipulating that a student’s sex at birth be used to determine eligibility. However, the proposal wasn’t considered.

6a00d8341c730253ef01bb07ba2ec6970d-800wiWhile MSHLS executive director Dave Stead acknowledged that support for the policy wasn’t unanimous among the league’s member schools, he added:

“I’ve heard from a limited number of schools that say, ‘I don’t like the idea,’ and then once we’ve talked about it they said, ‘I still don’t like the idea, but I’m supportive of the initiative of trying to give us direction.’

“There was nothing that was done today that would prevent a school from being a member of the High School League. Not one scintilla.”

Elliot Kunerth, a 17-year-old transgender male, said:

“The passing of this will change the lives of so many transgender people who are going through hell. With the passing of this, I hope it will erase the ignorance and help people understand that trans kids are just looking for equal opportunities."

In a statement, Democratic Representative Keith Ellison rebuked those in opposition to the law:

“Too often when trans kids speak out, they’re told that they’re sick, or joking, or just plain wrong. Many of the people who opposed the MSHSL’s policy suggested that trans students might threaten other students’ safety. These depictions are bigoted and do not protect our students.”

To establish eligibility under the new ruling, students will have to produce written statements from their parents or guardians and health professionals affirming their gender identity. School activities directors will make the final decision on each application. Private schools with religious affiliations are exempt from the policy, which will take effect in the 2015-2016 school year.


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