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Congress Moves to Extend Credit Non-Discrimination Protections to LGBT People

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U.S. Senate and House lawmakers introduced new legislation on Wednesday that would prevent discrimination against LGBT people who are seeking credit reports the Washington Blade. The bill, dubbed the Freedom from Discrimination in Credit Act, would amend the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

MurrayRep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) reintroduced the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives while Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) reintroduced the bill in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Murray stated that everyone should be afforded these protections:

"It is unacceptable that someone can be denied credit, simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I am proud that my home state of Washington has these protections, but it is time to ensure all LGBT Americans are protected from this discriminatory practice." 

Only 14 other states guarantee credit protections, including Sen. Murray's state of Washington. The credit bill's introduction comes ahead of a larger, anticipated bill that would guarantee LGBT protections in employment housing, education, federal programs and public accommodations. 

(Top photo via Flickr)


Washington, New York, Connecticut Rescind Indiana Travel Bans

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Washington, New York, and Connecticut have all lifted their bans on state-funded travel to Indiana following Gov. Mike Pence's signature on an amended "religious freedom" law that prohibits it from being used to discriminate against LGBT individuals.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued the following notice to cabinet agencies:

Earlier this week, after the state of Indiana passed its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), IC 34-13-9, I ordered executive-level agencies and small cabinet agencies to prohibit publicly funded non-essential travel to Indiana. I issued my order because Indiana's RFRA opened the door to allowing private companies to discriminate against individuals in that state, in sharp contrast to our own state's long commitment to diversity and inclusion. My order stated that the travel ban would remain in effect so long as Indiana's law existed in its original form.

In response to the intense public criticism stemming from the passage of Indiana's RFRA, the Indiana Legislature moved quickly to fix the law. Yesterday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed legislation amending the law and remedying the most egregious elements of the law. The new amendment prohibits businesses and individuals from refusing service or goods to potential clients based on that client's sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristics. This is a promising step toward greater cultural inclusion and acceptance for LGBT communities. Accordingly, I am lifting the ban on publicly funded non-essential travel to Indiana.

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo's statement:

“After reviewing the amendments made to Indiana’s state law and consulting with LGBT advocacy groups here in New York, I believe the changes enacted by the Indiana Executive and Legislature should prevent the Religious Freedom Restoration Act from being used to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender citizens and travelers. As a result, I am lifting New York's ban against state funded and state sponsored travel to Indiana, effective immediately.  

“Here in New York, we believe that all Americans, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation or any other protected classes, should be treated equally under the law. Our nation's Constitution ensures equality and justice for all. We must never forget that 'all' does not mean 'some', but all of us and we will continue to fight and stand up for equality until it is a reality for all Americans.”​​

Said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy:

“Unlike Connecticut – which has been a national leader in LGBTQ protections – this is the first time that Indiana has codified any protections for individuals based upon their sexual orientation or gender identity. While the law even in its amended version remains divisive, I believe it is a step in the right direction.
 
“In 2015, we cannot, and should not, tolerate laws that open the door to discrimination against citizens. We need to actively stand up to them – and that’s what we did this week. We are gratified that several other states, businesses, trade organizations, and so many stood with us, and we are pleased that numerous states besides Indiana have sought or are seeking changes in their laws with the specific aim of preventing discrimination.
 
“We will continue to monitor other states that enact reforms similar to the original Indiana RFRA, because discrimination in any form is unacceptable. We cannot watch states pass laws that seek to turn back the clock either on Connecticut residents, or our fellow Americans. We have an obligation to do what’s right, and to protect against discrimination whenever and wherever we see it.”
 
It continues to remain completely legal to discriminate against an individual based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in Indiana. 

Washington State, Portland to Ban Government-Funded Travel to Indiana

Add Washington State and Portland to the growing list of cities and states banning government-funded travel to Indiana in the wake of its newly passed "religious freedom" bill allowing businesses to discriminate against gay customers. 

Via Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's website:

Inslee“I find Indiana’s new law disturbing, particularly at a time when more and more states and people in America are embracing civil rights for everyone. Washington will join other states and cities in opposing this law and I will impose an administration-wide ban on state funded travel to Indiana.

“Indiana’s law appears to legalize private discrimination. Washington state fought against this very thing in a case Attorney General Bob Ferguson brought against a florist.

“We in Washington stand for equality. I applaud those companies and organizations that have spoken out against the law and said they would not locate or expand operations in Indiana. I want to invite all those organizations, and anyone interested in a state that promotes equality and opportunity, to come visit Washington. We are open for business, and open to all people.”

Portland's KGW reports:

Hales"Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana Legislature have to understand that such blatant discrimination against their own citizens cannot stand. We, as a country, have moved so far from those shameful practices of the past," [Mayor Charlie] Hales said. "It is regrettable that the great city of Indianapolis, led by its very effective mayor, Greg Ballard, is being dragged down by the reactionary efforts of the State Legislature and the governor."

Hales acknowledged that a number of other states have passed similar laws, but most of those states also make a point to specifically forbid discrimination against gays.

"A lot of progressive business leaders have said, 'We have to stand for equality in order to attract a quality workforce,'" Hales added.

Hales said he won't be attending the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in Indianapolis next year.

San Diego Councilmember Todd Gloria has called on his city to join the boycott and Minneapolis-Saint Paul mayors have blasted the law as well. Stay tuned for more. 


Homophobic Washington Florist Barronelle Stutzman Fined for Discriminating Against Gay Customer

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Richland, Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman has been fined $1000 plus $1 for court costs and fees for her refusal back in 2013 to provide flowers for a longtime customer's wedding to his same-sex partner because of her "relationship with Jesus Christ."

The Associated Press reports:

In a February ruling, [Benton County Superior Judge Alexander] Ekstrom found that Stutzman's refusal to provide flowers because of sexual orientation violated Washington's anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. Along with the fine, the judge's ruling also requires that everything Arlene's Flowers sells to opposite-sex couples has to be available at the same price to same-sex couples.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office requested the fine, said in a statement Friday that the ruling is a reminder of the reach of Washington's anti-discrimination laws.

"My primary goal has always been to end illegal discrimination," Ferguson said. "I'm pleased that today's ruling clearly prohibits discrimination against same-sex couples."

Last month, we reported Stutzman had rejected a settlement offer in the case and said taking the offer would have been like Judas betraying Jesus.


Victory Fund Appoints First Lesbian And First Black Leader: VIDEO

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LGBT activist group The Victory Fund and Institute (VFI) has appointed Aisha Moodie-Mills as its first out female and first black president and CEO, reports Buzzfeed.

Today, we're thrilled to announce that Aisha Moodie-Mills - an accomplished LGBT leader with a passion for civil rights...

Posted by Victory Fund & Institute on Thursday, 26 March 2015

1383576_10153362891555647_1985904950_nFounded in 1991, VFI is a national organizations dedicated to helping LGBT leaders win office and serve effectively at all levels of government.

Moodie-Mills began her LGBT activism in 2009, advocating for the Washington, D.C. Council to pass marriage equality legislation.

At the Center for American Progress, she began the FIRE initiative to talk about and advocate for issues at the intersection of race, class, and sexuality.

At VFI she will oversee a $4 million annual budget, 18 employees, and a mission to support and train out LGBT people to run for office and staff political jobs.

Moodie-Mills says that her focus will be on grassroots work in places where there are no or very few out LGBT elected officials. Specifically, she points to “the South and the plains states” and other areas lacking out LGBT representatives.

She also hopes to focus on training transgender people to run for office and supporting women candidates, referencing the only out senator: “Tammy Baldwin is our beacon of hope, but there just haven’t been a lot of Tammy Baldwins up and down the ballot.”

Watch a clip of Politini, a talk show hosted by Moodie-Mills and her wife Danielle, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Victory Fund Appoints First Lesbian And First Black Leader: VIDEO" »


FOX News Rallies Behind Christian Florist Who Refused to Do Gay Couple's Wedding: VIDEO

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For two years we've been reporting on Baronelle Stutzman, the Washington florist who was found to be in violation of the state's anti-discrimination laws for refusing to provide flowers for a longtime gay customer's wedding. Stutzman said doing so would violate "her relationship with Jesus Christ."

Stutzman was offered a generous settlement offer of a $2,000 penalty, a $1 payment for court and legal fees, and an agreement “not to discriminate in the future,” but refused it, preferring to be a martyr for her cause.

Media Matters notes that Stutzman has found a prominent ally in her crusade: FOX News.

On the February 23 edition of The Kelly File, guest host Shannon Bream conducted the first ever television interview with Stutzman, along with an attorney from the extreme anti-gay group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing her. Bream has a history of championing the right to discriminate against gay customers, coming to the defense of business owners who violate non-discrimination laws and suggesting that gay customers should "just go down the street" and find someone who is willing to serve them.

Throughout the interview, Bream helped depict Stutzman as a victim who risked losing her home and livelihood because of the state's non-discrimination law...

...Fox News has used stories like Stutzman's to make the case for draconian "license-to-discriminate" laws that would give business owners broad discretion to refuse service to gay customers on religious grounds. These laws, unsurprisingly, are largely being crafted by ADF, which has been all-too-eager to use Fox News to bring national attention to its pro-discrimination legal work.

Watch FOX News eat up Stutzman's sob story, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "FOX News Rallies Behind Christian Florist Who Refused to Do Gay Couple's Wedding: VIDEO" »


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