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Anti-Gay Group Says It Has Enough Signatures To Repeal LGBT Protections In Plano, Texas

Welch

Opponents of LGBT protections in Plano, Texas, say they've gathered enough signatures to place a repeal of the city's Equal Rights Ordinance on the ballot in May. 

The Texas Pastor Council, led by Dave Welch (above), announced in an email Tuesday morning that it has gathered at least 5,500 signatures to repeal the ordinance — more than the 3,822 required by the Jan. 20 deadline:

As this is being written, the count reached 5,500, with as many as 2,000 more expected in the morning, hopefully bringing the total to well over 7,000. Volunteers will be working late into the night and tomorrow to verify as many of these signatures as possible before they are turned-in to the City Secretary on Tuesday. This effort will continue until every name is verified.

A spokesperson for the group thanked God for divine intervention and praised the dozens and dozens of volunteers from the diverse coalition that pulled together through the holiday season, to accomplish this remarkable goal. 

"In spite of the challenges created by the suspect timing of the City Council's passage of this ordinance, we set a goal to collect twice the minimum number of signatures needed. We want to send a clear message to Mayor LaRosiliere, and Councilmen Miner, Davidson, Smith, and Downs who all voted for this ordinance. You can ignore the citizens at the City Council meeting, but we will make our voices heard with this petition and next May at the polls. ... 

"We are certain that once Plano citizens realize the City Council has criminalized religious views about sex and gender, the ordinance will be rejected overwhelmingly at the polls. The citizens of Plano are good and decent and treat one another with respect, so criminalizing the beliefs of our diverse communities of faith does not advance the common good," said the spokesperson.  

The Plano City Council approved the ordinance in a 5-3 vote on Dec. 8 amid intense opposition from anti-LGBT groups and Republican elected officials.  

The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. However, it has come under fire from transgender advocates over exemptions for bathrooms, nonprofits and educational institutions. 

Once they're turned in, city officials will begin the process of validating signatures on the petition. If they determine there are enough valid signatures, the City Council can either vote to repeal the ordinance or place it on the ballot in the next municipal election, which is May 9. 

In Houston, the Texas Pastor Council claimed to have more than 50,000 signatures to repeal an Equal Rights Ordinance last year. However, city officials determined that only 15,249 of the signatures were valid — fewer than the 17,269 needed to place the ordinance on the ballot. 

That prompted a lawsuit from opponents of Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance, and the case is headed to trial this week. In court documents, the city has allleged that opponents of the ordinance forged signatures and used other fraudulent tactics. 


Anti-Gay Pastor: 'Pulpits Must Be Aflame' To Repeal LGBT Protections In Plano, Texas

Plano

Opponents of LGBT protections in Plano, Texas, must call upon the lord to gather enough signatures to repeal them and set pulpits aflame this weekend, according to an anti-gay pastor whose group is leading the effort. 

The City Council in Plano — a conservative suburb of Dallas with a population of 270,000 — approved the Equal Rights Ordinance in 5-3 vote a last month. Opponents, led by the Texas Pastor Council, must gather 3,822 valid signatures to force the City Council to either repeal the ordinance or place it on the May ballot.

In an email Friday, Texas Pastor Council Executive Director Dave Welch wrote to members: 

WElch.Dave"There will be ample time to continue to debate and discuss the numerous and serious problems with the Equal Rights Policy in detail – the only issue at hand is doing everything humanly possible while calling upon the Lord to secure enough valid signatures before Monday. ... The pulpits must be aflame with God’s truth and righteousness in calling openly and strongly for every voter to be faithful to this basic duty of stewardship. The current count of signatures really does not matter as IT CANNOT BE TOO MANY. EVERY valid signature is important and if people can’t remember if they have already signed it, instruct them to sign it anyway and only the few duplicates will be disqualified. Better that than no signature." 

Last year, the city of Houston rejected a petition from Welch's group aimed at repealing LGBT protections, saying it didn't have enough valid signatures. The group responded by suing the city, and the case is set for trial beginning Tuesday. In court documents, attorneys for the city have accused Welch's group of forgery and other dishonest signature-gathering tactics. But in his email Friday, Welch suggested they must do whatever it takes in Plano:

"Pulpits, PowerPoints, texts, tweets, Facebook, email broadcasts and even a recorded call to your church list from you are EACH an important component of a multiple contact approach to maximize results. Is the name of our Lord, His design of male, female, marriage and family, His moral laws as well as our basic freedoms and families’ well-being worth this effort? It is decision time. Remember, it is Mayor Harry LaRosiliere and the five city council members who railroaded this ordinance through with complete disrespect to the community and good government practices who 'threw the first punch.' LaRosiliere and the council declared that God either doesn’t exist or His word is false and that even basic biological facts are up for grabs. They assaulted the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God – not us.Our only question is whether we will allow the lie to stand or be responsible stewards and to do what is required of us to assure that His governing authority loaned to us and delegated by us to others is used for righteousness and justice – not deception and tyranny."

Opponents of the Plano ordinance have launched a website and Facebook page to spread fear and misinformation, including graphics like the one above. Ironically, Prestonwood Baptist Church — the evangelical megachurch serving as ground zero for opposition to the ordinance — has a history of child sex abuse and coverups, recent media reports have noted. 

Supporters of the ordinance have also begun to organize and prepare for a likely ballot fight. They've launched their own Facebook group, which has more than eight times as many followers as the opposition page. However, the ordinance also continues to draw criticism from the transgender community over its broad exemptions, including for schools, nonprofits and restrooms. 

Dallas-based trans activist Nell Gaither wrote: 

"If the problems with this are not called out, this sets a precedent for every other municipality in Texas. … This is not a Plano issue. This is a Texas issue, and more. If they get away with the lie that this is an LGBT equality policy it will set a dangerous precedent that will be very difficult to overcome for many, many years. And the worst part is that Equality Texas is now supporting it. Mainly to satisfy 'their funders.' They want a win to spread across the state. So this appears to be their model. How nice. Another Gay Inc. organization selling out the trans community in Plano, in Texas, and more."

On Friday, gay activist and Iraq war veteran Sean Sala shot video as he approached people gathering signatures to repeal the ordinance in a Plano post office parking lot. In the video, Sala accurately informs people that repealing the ordinance would also undo local protections based on veteran's status — talking one woman out of signing the petition.

Watch video of the encounter, AFTER THE JUMP ...  

Continue reading "Anti-Gay Pastor: 'Pulpits Must Be Aflame' To Repeal LGBT Protections In Plano, Texas" »


A Longtime 'Glee' Character Came Out as Transgender on Last Night's Episode: VIDEO

Glee

In its final season, Glee still has a few revelations up its sleeve.

In an emotional announcement during last night's episode, one of its longtime characters decided to take a brave step and come out to a couple of other people at McKinley about his identification as transgender and his decision to transition:

"I've felt like this my whole life. Growing up I was really confused....No matter what I did I never felt at home in my own skin. I never felt like my body fit who I was on the inside....I don't regret the things I've been through because they made me the person I am today - a person strong enough to go through with this transition. I gotta do it for my own piece of mind. I've got to get my body in alignment with how I see myself."

Watch the emotional announcement [SPOILERS], AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "A Longtime 'Glee' Character Came Out as Transgender on Last Night's Episode: VIDEO" »


Thailand Constitution To Legally Recognize A 'Third Gender'

ThailandAn upcoming amendment to Thailand’s constitution will bring legal recognition for a third gender. Though Thailand is widely known for its queer and trans subcultures, the country’s laws haven’t been the most inclusive.

Kamnoon Sittisamarn, a representative for the Thai Constitutional Drafting Committee explained that the legal changes were designed to ensure broader protections for Thailand’s substantial trans-identified and gender queer population.

"We are putting the words 'third gender' in the constitution because Thai society has advanced," Sittisamarn said to Reuters. "There are not only men and women, we need to protect all sexes. We consider all sexes to be equal."

Going forward the proposed changes will formally submitted to the National Reform Council in April before being approved by the ruling military political force, the National Council for Peace and Order. The NCPC came to power last May after a violent military coup that killed some 30 people.


Saks Fifth Avenue's Crusade Against Transgender Equality Draws Scrutiny From NY Attorney General

Jamal

If Saks Fifth Avenue believes it has a right to discriminate against transgender employees, just how widespread is the practice? 

That's what New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (below right) wants to know, in response to the high-end department store chain's repeated assertions that trans employees aren't cover under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. 

Last week we told you how the Human Rights Campaign had suspended Saks Fifth Avenue's favorable score on the Corporate Equality Index, after the company thumbed its nose at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's landmark 2012 decision saying Title VII protects trans workers. 

EricIn response to a lawsuit from transgender woman Leyth Jamal (above), a former sales associate at Saks Fifth Avenue in the Houston Galleria, attorneys for the company also blatantly misgendered Jamal in court documents and alleged the retailer isn't bound by its own nondiscrimination policy, which includes gender identity.    

Since then, the company effectively doubled down on its troubling anti-trans arguments in The New York Times:   

Gerald L. Storch, the chief executive of the parent company, Hudson’s Bay, also said Saks was a strong advocate for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. He declined to discuss an assertion by the luxury retailer’s lawyers, made in response to the former employee’s lawsuit, that “transsexuals are not a protected class” under the Civil Rights Act. ... 

 In a follow-up statement, Saks stressed that it “believes that all persons are protected against sex discrimination under Title VII” of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination by employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

It said, however, that the plaintiff had based her case not on sex discrimination but on the issue of gender identity and transgender status, which it said some courts have ruled fall outside Title VII’s mandate. Saks will follow that precedent, the retailer said, “unless or until it is modified by the courts or the legislature.”

The NYT story drew a swift response from HRC:  

“Mr. Storch’s abhorrent decision not to renounce that position is not only morally wrong, but wrong on the law,” said Sarah Warbelow, HRC Legal Director. “For more than two years, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has considered discrimination based on gender identity actionable. This latest development further undermines Saks’ credibility and standing with the LGBT community - indeed, its standing with any consumer committed to equality. ... 

“While recognizing a company’s right to defend itself, we remain enormously concerned about the spurious legal route Saks is pursuing to get this case dismissed,” Warbelow said. “Mr. Storch’s silence on the issue in today’s New York Times deepens our skepticism about Saks’ commitment to workplace LGBT equality.”

Now, Schneiderman is getting involved, delivering a missive to Saks Fifth Avenue in which his office expresses concern about whether the company is also discriminating against trans employees in the Empire State. The New York Daily News reports that Schneiderman's office is requesting documents from Saks related to its policies, training materials and complaint processes:   

The letter by Kristen Clarke, Schneiderman civil rights bureau chief, cites a lawsuit in Texas in which Saks argued that discrimination on the basis of gender identify is not prohibited by federal law.

“As the chief law enforcement agency for the state of New York, our office is committed to ensuring compliance with federal, state , and local discrimination laws,” Clarke wrote in the letter obtained by The News. ... 

“The general position taken by Saks in the context of the Texas litigation raises concerns about Saks’s compliance with these laws in New York State.”

If you're still confused as to why Saks Fifth Avenue's position is so troubling, Slate has a good analysis. But for the LGBT community, the episode should serve as yet another wakeup call about the importance of continuing to push for state and federal job protections.  

In the 32 states that lack fully-inclusive bans on anti-LGBT employment discrimination, when push comes to shove and despite any lip service to the contrary, your employer's policy may not be worth the piece of paper it's written on.


Kentucky Bill Says Students Who See a Trans Classmate in the Bathroom Can Sue School for $2500

A heinous bill being proposed by a Kentucky lawmaker aims to shut transgender students out of school bathrooms altogether, holding schools liable if an "aggrieved" student encounters a transgender student in the bathroom.

EmbryUnder the terms of The Kentucky Student Privacy Act, introduced by Republican Senator C.B. Embry as an "emergency" bill (read it below), students can sue the school for $2500 if they find a transgender student using the facilities.

Embry is declaring the bill an "emergency" because "situations currently exist in which the privacy rights of students are violated."

A student who is aggrieved under this subsection and who prevails in a court of jurisdiction:

1. May recover two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) from the offending school for each instance in which he or she encountered a person of the opposite sex while accessing a school restroom, locker room, or shower room designated for use by the biological sex of the aggrieved student;

2. May recover monetary damages from the offending school for all psychological, emotional, and physical harm suffered; and

3 Shall be entitled to recover from the offending school reasonable attorney fees and costs associated with the claim.

The bill also attempts to make it as onerous as possible for the school to deal with accommodations for a trans student:

A student who asserts to school officials that his or her gender is different from his or her biological sex and whose parent or legal guardian provides written consent to school officials shall be provided with the best available accommodation, but that accommodation shall not include the use of student restrooms, locker rooms, or shower rooms designated for use by students of the opposite biological sex while students of the opposite biological sex are present or could be present.

Acceptable accommodations may include but not be limited to access to single-stall restrooms, access to unisex bathrooms, or controlled use of faculty bathrooms, locker rooms, or shower rooms.

While accessing a restroom, locker room, or shower room designated for use by his or her biological sex, a student encountering a person of the opposite biological sex shall have a private cause of action against the school if school personnel:

1. Gave the person encountered permission to use facilities of the opposite biological sex; or
2. Failed to take reasonable steps to prohibit the person encountered from using facilities designated for use by the opposite biological sex.

According to Think Progress, Embry opposed a sweeping anti-bullying bill that would have protected LGBT students in 2013 saying the state's anti-bullying laws were sufficient:

“We have a death penalty against rape and murder but they still happen,” he said at the time.

Looks as though trans students in Kentucky need protection from him.

Here's the bill:

KSPA


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