Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Hobby Lobby Changes Everything

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has been moving through Congress at the usual snail's pace, slowly picking up votes since the first similar bill was introduced in 1974. The Act would guarantee equal rights in employment for LGBT Americans. Well, there has been debate about the "T" part, as the Act could pass with gay and lesbian rights only, but many have been holding out for "inclusive ENDA," with protection for transgender citizens, as well.

The current bill has a religious exemption. If you are a religious organization you would still be permitted to discriminate under the law.

This has not mostly been seen as a huge thing. We can picture the little old lady in black hobbling into church, scowling at the bell-ringer in his rainbow t-shirt, who the church had to hire simply because he rang bells better than the other applicants and had more experience -- mostly people can accept that a judgmental church shouldn't be required to hire sinners. There were concerns about the religious exemption but it looked like something that might be negotiated without too much pain.

Until Hobby Lobby.

Suddenly the Supreme Court has opened the door for any corporation or company to claim it is a religious organization, and discriminate in whatever ways they say their religion dictates. And in case the world didn't get the message, the Court issued a couple of opinions after the ruling, expanding its reach.

LGBT groups have been devoting great effort, decades of effort, to getting ENDA passed. Even with the religious exemption, some guarantee of equal treatment would be much better than none at all.

Until Hobby Lobby.

Yesterday the Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Rea Carey, issued a press release:
"The morning after the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, we all woke up in a changed and intensified landscape of broad religious exemptions being used as an excuse to discriminate. We are deeply concerned that ENDA's broad exemption will be used as a similar license to discriminate across the country. We are concerned that these types of legal loopholes could negatively impact other issues affecting LGBT people and their families including marriage, access to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention and access to other reproductive health services. As one of the lead advocates on this bill for 20 years, we do not take this move lightly but we do take it unequivocally - we now oppose this version of ENDA because of its too-broad religious exemption. We cannot be complicit in writing such exemptions into federal law."
During the course of the day, the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Pride at Work also withdrew their support for the bill. As of this writing, Human Rights Campaign is the only major LGBT advocacy group still supporting it.

Nobody really wanted to upset the crabby little old lady in black. Her church is the center of her life, and if she chooses to walk the straight and narrow then that's her business. But it has gone further than that now, the entire topic has changed. Now any company can be a "religious organization," even without declaring so officially (as in the Wheaton College ruling), and they can discriminate freely against anyone, justified by a preacher's word.

Friday, July 04, 2014

The Slippery Slope

I used to post several times a day on this blog. Now I'm lucky if I get to it twice a month. And it certainly doesn't matter how much is going on in the world. We just had primary elections, of course, which in our little county are it -- the GOP often does not even sign up a candidate to lose in the general election. And here in Montgomery County we had a transgender candidate oppose a gay incumbent. The rightwing noise machine went all-out for about three days and then the campaigns got down to the usual business of trying to win. The incumbent won but the contest served to demolish barriers that will never return. At the state level, we saw a lesbian candidate for governor do quite well when the votes were counted, even though the media pretended that it was a two-man race. More barriers demolished -- Dana, Heather, thank you for your tireless efforts.

The school district finally approved, for once and for all, the changes to the sex-ed curriculum that caused TeachTheFacts.org to come together in the first place, ten years ago. Yay, us! But I didn't even blog about it when they finally confirmed the policies, it was an anticlimactic administrative rubber-stamp, even though it signified the end of a big, decade-long battle. The state transgender rights bill was passed and signed and we treated it here as if we expected it. Actually, it's a big deal and a big step forward. This blog also did not become overly celebratory when same-sex marriage was approved in the state of Maryland. We kind of expect progress to keep marching forward.

The issue of global warming has divided the population into those who believe facts and logic, and those who rely on faith. The faithful support companies' right to pollute the environment as much as they want, since it doesn't have much effect beyond smelling bad and the occasional intersex fish. And in more recent news, the Supreme Court ruled that if your religion tells you that birth control is abortion your company should not have to provide it to your employees. Then they revised their statement saying if your religion opposes birth control at all you shouldn't have to provide insurance for any of it. And then they extended their ruling to make it easier for companies to claim that their religion means they should not have to do things like provide birth control.

I admit I was not cynical enough to see this one coming. The "war on women" has taken some strange turns in the past few years, and some of it just didn't make sense, but this? More than ninety-nine percent of American women who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method. This is not even controversial -- that's just about all of them. It is something women need, it is inexpensive and safe and allows women to plan their pregnancies, and why in the world would you take that away from them?

Katha Pollit, writing in The Nation, issues the statement that sums it up:
As Ruth Bader Ginsburg argues in her stirring dissent, there’s “little doubt that RFRA [ Religious Freedom Restoration Act ] claims will proliferate, for the Court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood—combined with its other errors in construing RFRA—invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faith.” The reason it’s unlikely the Supreme Court would uphold a religious exemption for vaccinations or blood transfusions is not something intrinsic to those claims; it’s simply that Alito finds them weird. Birth control is banned by the Bible? Sure. Blood transfusions are banned by the Bible? Don’t be silly. For now. We have no idea, really, how far the Court might be willing to extend RFRA. Could a CEO refuse to pay childbirth costs for unmarried women? Could he pay married men more because that’s what the Lord wants? (Actually, he’s probably already doing that.) But here’s my prediction: the day a religious exemption burdens by so much as a mouse’s whisker the right of men to protect their own bodies from unwanted, well, anything, is the day the Supreme Court Five discover that religion is not so deserving of deference after all. Where Will the Slippery Slope of ‘Hobby Lobby’ End?
There are those who seem to feel it would be utopia if only we could live in a society where decisions and standards were determined by dreamlike "religious" principles, where if something scared us it would be declared evil and if we liked something it would be good -- where "we" means the demographic in power, e.g., old straight white guys. And though we tend to think of those people as nuts, they have obviously wormed their way into the very heart of our social machinery, they are sitting on the Supreme Court, they are in Congress, they are on TV.

There is no way this crazy ruling will not continue to expand. Companies have religious rights, meaning they can impose the owners' religious beliefs on their employees. Of course it will expand. And the Supreme Court is going to help them.

And the telling thing is that it will only expand in one way. Can you imagine a company telling its employees they can't use their paychecks to buy shellfish? What if there was a company that believed the quirky concept "Thou shalt not kill" and refused to pay taxes for wars? What if a company required its female employees to cover their faces in the workplace? It's not going to go that way. By "religion" they mean their kind of religion, paternalistic, repressive, Christian religion. It isn't about freedom of religion, it is about one religion dominating the social norms and standards that affect everybody.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

MD Anti-Transgender Petition Fails

The group led by Maryland State Delegate Neil Parrott to re-legalize discrimination against transgender people has failed. Midnight last night was the deadline to get one-third of their signatures filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections, to call for a state referendum on the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014. They needed 18,579 signatures by last night, and their email blast, sent in the wee hours this morning, says they came up about a thousand names short.

And you can be sure a good proportion of their signatures were forged, fraudulent, and otherwise illegal, like when they tried to pull this in Montgomery County.

The group insisted on calling the law "The Bathroom Bill" and focused on the argument that the bill would allow predatory men to lurk in women's restrooms, leering and groping and drooling at women and girls. As they say in this morning's email, "As you probably know, the 'Bathroom Bill' will let men in the women’s bathroom and vise versa if they simply claim to feel like the opposite gender."

The law doesn't do that. At this point we don't need to debunk the argument or even make fun of it. The shower-nuts tried to overturn a law and they could not find enough people to sign their petitions. In a state with approximately six million citizens they couldn't find eighteen thousand registered voters who would add their names to the referendum petition.

Note that there wasn't very much of a fight this time. Groups disagreed on whether to go out and talk to potential petition signers, but in the long run I don't think there was very much of that. The fact is, the "bathroom bill" angle is pure ignorant bigotry, and Maryland residents really don't mind if transgender people can expect to be served at a restaurant, or hired for a job they are qualified for.

OK, people, move along, nothing to see here. You won't be able to discriminate on the basis of gender identity in the state of Maryland.

In the meantime, enjoy the new cover of Time. You have to subscribe to read the article, though there is a nice interview with Laverne Cox outside the paywall HERE.





Tuesday, May 13, 2014

MCPS Improves Sex-Ed Curriculum

Ten years ago, Montgomery County Public Schools decided to update their health curriculum, specifically the sex-ed part of it. The Board adopted a new framework right after the election that put GW Bush into office for a second term, when the radical right was feeling they had a mandate to reshape the United States in their image. The new curriculum mentioned homosexuality, and the religious right freaked out and organized to stop it.

Teach the Facts formed, nearly ten years ago, to defend the curriculum from this attack. In the following years there was a lot of publicity, a lot of back and forth, as the school district tried to avoid controversy but hold their ground. One curriculum was thrown out and another was developed and adopted, but it had some very strange stuff in it. Like, teachers were not allowed to say "Homosexuality is not an illness," unless they were asked directly by a student. There were statements by the major medical and mental health associations that discussed the facts about sexual orientation and gender identity, and they were not included in the curriculum. Strangest of all, teachers were not allowed to ad lib the lessons, they had to follow a script verbatim.

Today the school board voted unanimously on some final improvements to the curriculum. Here, let the Washington Post tell you:
Montgomery County school officials could take a major step Tuesday toward updating the district’s teaching of sexual orientation, with proposals calling for introduction of the topic a year earlier in middle school and an end to scripted lessons with required phrasing.

Lessons on sexual orientation are one of just a few topics in the health curriculum — or any Montgomery curriculum — that have faced such careful teaching constraints. Officials said Monday that only a condom demonstration came with similar teaching scripts, and that too would change.

The Montgomery school board is slated to discuss the changes Tuesday as part of a broader review of the health curriculum for secondary students. After the board’s discussion, a 30-day public comment period is expected to begin, with a final board vote set for June 17. Students could see the changes in their classrooms this fall.

Health courses in Montgomery’s secondary schools include such topics as drug abuse, dating violence, the use of social media and stress management. But the topic of sexual orientation has been highly controversial, drawing vocal critics and legal actions.

Scripted lessons arose arose amid efforts to create a new sex-education curriculum after a federal judge in 2005 halted the school system’s lessons because the judge said they seemed to offer only one perspective on homosexuality and dismissed religions that consider it a sin. Many educators found the scripted lessons artificial and unengaging, officials said Monday.

“We’re trying to teach critical thinking skills, and reading from a script doesn’t do that,” said Marty Creel, director of curriculum and instruction, who said he has heard a positive response from department heads. “They see it as a change that’s been long overdue.”

In 2008, a state court judge upheld Montgomery’s sex education lessons, turning down a challenge from religious conservatives who said elected officials violated state law with teaching that sexual orientation is innate.

Years later, it is unclear how much controversy will resurface. Social attitudes have shifted in recent years, with a same-sex marriage law taking effect in Maryland last year. Sexual orientation lessons could change in Montgomery
There is more, including a quote from David Fishback, who has been relentless in seeing this through.

It is incredible to see how far our society has come in ten years. A decade ago it was actually a "controversy," the Nutty Ones insisted that homosexuality was a choice and that if you just didn't tell kids about it they wouldn't choose to be gay. They were loud about it, too, with threats -- remember the message board they tried to hide, but somebody leaked it to us? -- and crazy statements from a bizarre cast of characters.

The school district had to take them seriously, given the state of our society at the time. There was no question that the complainers were right, everything they said went against the known facts, but just their insistence on saying it repeatedly and loudly made it into a controversy. I remember seeing the TV cameras after a school board meeting, all in a big circle pointed at one person who had been complaining about the new curriculum.

All that will fade now into the warm glow of common sense. Kids will go to school and learn some facts about health and human behavior. Maybe some of it will make them kinder, maybe some of it will help them understand why they feel "different." Change always meets resistance, this as much as any other thing, but as David is fond of saying, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Middle School Trash Talk Disguised As Policy Analysis

It is not nice to make fun of bigoted people and call them "nuts" and stuff, but there is absolutely no point in humoring them or pretending that there is a "debate" or anything serious to talk about. If two people love one another it is simply none of your business. If someone believes that they are really a man or really a woman, though they were raised the other way, again, it is simply none of your business. You don't understand it and it doesn't hurt you and it is simply not your place to even suggest that the other person should meet your uninformed expectations.

You may think people who are different from you are funny, you may not be able to understand them, they might even frighten you, but that is not a reason for them to change -- it is a reason for you to change.

The State of Maryland has passed a law guaranteeing certain equal rights to transgender people. And predictably, the nuts are up in arms about it.

Yesterday's Washington Post editorial captured the essence of the situation very well:
MARYLAND THIS year joined 16 states in extending protection to transgender people in housing, lending, employment, public accommodations and other areas. Now a conservative group, including some of the Republicans who opposed the legislation, is trying to force the issue onto the state ballot this fall, in the hopes that voters will reject it. If it manages to get the proposal on the ballot, it’s not likely to prevail if recent history is any guide. Nor should it.

Incredibly, the conservatives’ main line of attack is that the law will turn women’s restrooms into fertile ground for peeping toms disguised in dresses and wigs, even for similarly attired rapists. This is middle school trash talk disguised as policy analysis. There is no evidence that this is a statistically detectable problem in other states that have banned discrimination against transgender people, nor in Maryland localities, such as Montgomery County, that have had similar statutes on the books for years.

For one thing, the law’s rigorous definition of a transgender person — someone whose core identity is expressed by consistent and uniform expression — does not extend to men who might get their kicks wearing dresses to spy on women. For another, transgender people generally already use restrooms consistent with their gender identity, according to their advocates.

More broadly, opponents of the legislation tend to miss its central point, which is to ban the blatant discrimination that transgender people report is pervasive. In a 2011 survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, 71 percent of transgender people in Maryland said they had experienced harassment or mistreatment at work and 18 percent said they had lost a job or been denied a promotion as a result of their gender identification. Seventeen percent reported having been denied housing. Shocking numbers of students in public schools report harassment (81 percent) and assaults (38 percent). Maryland conservatives’ quixotic fight against transgender protections
I love that: "middle school trash talk disguised as policy analysis." If men were going to dress up as women and lurk in women's restrooms then they would have done that already in one of the more than 190 cities and counties that already ban gender-identity discrimination. And they haven't. It just doesn't happen. This is not really an argument against equal rights for transgender people, it is ... just ... stupid.

It is against the law to leer at someone in a public restroom or shower, or to touch them, peek at them, it doesn't matter what gender either person is. That doesn't change. And nobody does this, anyway, men don't dress up as women to lurk in the ladies room for kicks.

The Post:
In seeking to rally support for overturning the law at referendum, Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington) has focused on the supposed risks it may pose in public restrooms. But Mr. Parrott opposed the anti-discrimination legislation several years ago when it did not even include public accommodations.

Republican legislators opposed the legislation en masse, much as they opposed extending in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants two years ago. In the case of the tuition issue, Maryland voters demonstrated that they were more tolerant than opponents predicted; when Republicans forced that legislation onto the state ballot in 2012, voters upheld it at referendum by a wide margin.

Mr. Parrott and his allies need to gather more than 55,000 petition signatures to compel a vote on the anti-discrimination bill. If they accomplish that, Maryland voters will again have a chance to demonstrate their preference for tolerance.
In Montgomery County they collected a good number of signatures, but so many were fraudulent and fake that the courts threw the petitions out. This guy Parrott has his own web site for these kinds of petitions, and maybe he has checked with a lawyer to figure out how to get legal signers, but I have the feeling he will have a bunch of fakes again.

Part of the reason is that the Nutty Ones are afraid to show their faces. If they sign a legal petition, their name becomes public knowledge. I remember looking through the list last time, and seeing one of my neighbors had signed it. People like to hate but they don't like to own up to it. So I don't think a lot of people are going to put their real names on the petition, just like last time in MoCo.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Return of the Shower-Nuts

In 2008, the shower-nuts of Montgomery County tried to tell people that if they weren't allowed to discriminate against transgender people, perverted predatory men would lurk and leer in women's shower-rooms and bathrooms. All they'd have to do is say, I feel like a female gender identity today, and there's nothing you can do. It will be horrible. They had a petition, trying to get a referendum on the ballot to recall the law, but so many of the names were forged and invalid that they could not get the issue voted on. They called it "the bathroom bill," and pretended that the issue was the safety of women and children, and not bigotry.

This is 2014. Montgomery County has had a gender-identity nondiscrimination law for six years. No lurking, leering men have turned up in any ladies' rooms in the county, or anywhere else that has this kind of law. In fact, there hasn't been any difference at all, except that transgender people know they can expect to have the same rights as everyone else. Baltimore City and County, Howard County, and Hyattsville also have gender-identity nondiscrimination laws in place. No men in the ladies room in any of those places, or in any of the nearly 200 jurisdictions around the country that prohibit this kind of discrimination.

Now the state of Maryland has passed a similar bill, the governor has said he will sign it, and it is like a big, bizarre, deja vu all over again. The shower-nuts are coming out of the woodwork again, talking about "the bathroom bill," demanding a referendum at the state level. Men lurking and leering, and so on. Exactly the same stuff.

It is a prediction that is already proven wrong. And the people of Maryland know that.

I'll get the news from CBS Baltimore:
Critics of Maryland’s newly passed transgender rights bill kick off a new effort to get the law overturned.

Monique Griego reports several delegates announced a petition drive against the so called “bathroom bill.”

The group is hoping to get enough signatures to bring the law before voters in November.

But supporters of the bill say this is just another attempt to mislead the public about what the law really allows.

The fight over transgender rights in Maryland reignites in Annapolis.

“This has just gone too far. It’s too extreme,” said Del. Kathy Szeliga, (R) Maryland.

Tuesday critics announced a petition drive to have the law overturned. MdPetitions.com is hoping to gain enough signatures to put the bill on the November ballot.

“It’s even kind of unbelievable that it did pass,” said Del. Neil Parrott, (R) Maryland.

The bill, which passed in March, updates Maryland’s anti-discrimination law to include gender identity, protecting transgendered people from discrimination at work, housing or in public places.

But many delegates, including Parrot, didn’t want public restrooms included.

“That’s the most harmful part of this bill. For parents, they want to send their little girls into the bathroom and there could be a man in there hiding. It allows for that to happen,” Parrot said.

That’s something supporters of the bill say simply isn’t true.

“There’s always a concern when someone launches an effort like this to mislead the public in such an intense way,” said Keith Thirion, Equality Maryland.

Thirion from Equality Maryland says this latest push is just another attempt to confuse people about who the bill protects.

“A man who puts on a dress to commit illegal acts is not covered by the bill and illegal acts remain illegal,” he said.
Thirion is hopeful Marylanders will see it’s about fairness.

“No one should be denied the opportunity to work for a living and provide for their families to have a roof over their head or to eat lunch at a restaurant, be denied those basic rights just because of who they are,” Thirion said.

Mdpetitions.com has two deadlines to meet: one in May and one in June.

Overall they need just under 56,000 signatures to bring the bill to a vote in November.

In 2012, the group successfully forced the Marriage Equality Act and Dream Act on the ballot, but voters upheld both. Group Seeks Referendum On Transgender Rights Law
They do not mention in this story that Neil Parrott is mdpetitions.com. It's his site. He had a petition there to stop the bill when it was in the legislature and he has a bill now to repeal it. You ought to see the graphic he uses:

I guess this is a bathroom stall, and a blue guy is climbing over the barrier to leer at a fully dressed, standing red woman. This is it, this is what they have?

I suppose you have to expect this sort of thing, but jeez, come on, there is simply no way the people of Maryland are going to vote to un-pass this law.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Conservatives Ditch Their Hero

Cliven Bundy, out in Nevada, owed the federal government more than a million dollars for decades of grazing his cattle on restricted federal land. The problem was easily solved: he simply refused to recognize the federal government. So the actually existing federal government came in to move his cows off their land. When Mr. Bundy and a couple hundred like-minded non-government-recognizing individuals went to the property in jeans and cowboy hats and a whole bunch of guns, the government left the cattle to graze and went back to their bureaucratic desks, with their suits and ties and everything. The rightwing militia movement declared a great victory and looked forward to even more revolting opportunities.

Conservatives including U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Governor Rick Perry, 2012 Presidential Hopeful Herman Cain, and more than anyone, Fox News threw their support behind Bundy, arguing that Obama's federal government was trampling individuals' rights etcetera etcetera.

The anti-American Bundy, an amateur, did not understand the importance of sticking to the talking points.
Cliven Bundy: “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.” A Defiant Rancher Savors the Audience That Rallied to His Side


Before Bundy's comments about "the Negro," Fox News had mentioned him 469 times, including five hours of primetime coverage. But on Thursday, as of noon they had mentioned Bundy twice -- neither time mentioned his racist views. One of the mentions was a suggestion that we turn our attention away from Nevada and focus on something else.

Tell me: who is surprised by any of this?

The satirical Borowitz Report had the last laugh with a faux-news article titled REPUBLICANS BLAST NEVADA RANCHER FOR FAILING TO USE COMMONLY ACCEPTED RACIAL CODE WORDS. A few zingers in there...
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — Republican politicians blasted the Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy on Thursday for making flagrantly racist remarks instead of employing the subtler racial code words the G.O.P. has been using for decades.

“We Republicans have worked long and hard to develop insidious racial code words like ‘entitlement society’ and ‘personal responsibility,’ ” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky). “There is no excuse for offensive racist comments like the ones Cliven Bundy made when there are so many subtler ways of making the exact same point.”

Fox News also blasted the rancher, saying in a statement, “Cliven Bundy’s outrageous racist remarks undermine decades of progress in our effort to come up with cleverer ways of saying the same thing.”



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fairness Wins in Maryland

Congratulations to all who fought so hard for this.

From MSNBC:
The Maryland House of Delegates on Thursday approved a bill banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity, positioning the Old Line State on track to join 17 others and the District of Columbia in protecting the rights of transgender individuals.

Senate Bill 212, otherwise known as the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, made it through the Democratic-controlled House by a vote of 82-57, after more than two hours of floor debate. It passed the state Senate earlier this month, 32-15, and now heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley for signature. Maryland legislature passes transgender equality bill
The GOP legislators dragged their feet all day, debating things that didn't need debating, until a vote just couldn't be stalled any longer.

This campaign had some nostalgic moments, when the shower-nuts made their dire predictions of perverted men going into ladies restrooms and showers claiming to be women. (And see THIS debunking of that myth every which way but sideways.) But fair treatment for people with nonbinary or nontraditional gender identities is an easy sell. These are people who are discriminated against every day, and our society is better off in every way if we invite them into the tent with the rest of us. There is simply nothing gained by discriminating.
Once enacted, SB 212 will protect transgender Marylanders from labor, housing, public accommodation, and employment discrimination. Though Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, and Montgomery County already provided such protections, the 2001 statewide anti-discrimination law only included protections based on sexual orientation.

“What we are about to do today is important,” said Democratic Del. Maggie McIntosh, as reported by the Washington Blade. “This is an important group of people today who frankly we left out 11 years ago. They’re beat up. They’re ridiculed. They are suffering and they need to hold their head up high just like I do.”

Recent polls found wide support for the bill’s protections, as well as necessity. According to a 2009 survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 54% of transgender Marylanders reported being harassed in places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, stores, and movie theaters. Seventy-one percent of those surveyed in a March Goucher Poll said they favored including gender identity protections in the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
Governor O'Malley will sign the bill. He issued this statement: “I’d like to congratulate and thank Senator Rich Madaleno, Delegate Luke Clippinger, Equality Maryland and the Human Rights Campaign on yet another victory for inclusion and openness in our State ” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “ We’re proud to stand with these leaders, the LGBT community, and other allies to complete this major piece of unfinished business — ensuring that everyone is protected from discrimination under the law. I look forward to signing this bill.”

High five, everybody!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chick Fil-A CEO Changes His Tune

This is just a heartwarming story, all the way around. You remember a couple of years ago when Chick Fil-A was donating millions of dollars to anti-gay causes. When gay people complained, straight people lined up around the block to demonstrate their support for the homophobic restaurant chain. I think a lot of them thought it was funny. It was an eye-opener for a lot of gay people, when they saw their friends and family and neighbors cheerfully denouncing them.

This just in: the CEO has changed his mind.
March. 18 (UPI) -- Two years after making headlines by publicly opposing gay marriage, Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, admits it was a mistake for he and his company to take a position on the issue.

“Every leader goes through different phases of maturity, growth and development and it helps by (recognizing) the mistakes that you make,” Cathy said. “And you learn from those mistakes. If not, you’re just a fool. I’m thankful that I lived through it and I learned a lot from it. Chick-fil-A CEO admits it was a 'mistake' to oppose same-sex marriage
I have the feeling the guy still doesn't like gay people marrying each other, but you know what -- that doesn't bother me in the least. There are lots of things I don't like, too, and my friends have to hear me complain about them. It doesn't mean I am contributing money to oppose, say, people who don't pull out into the intersection to turn left, and so everybody behind them gets stuck at the red light.
In an interview with Leon Stafford for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cathy doesn’t apologize for his previous public stance against gay marriage and, in fact, confirms that his personal position on same-sex marriage remains unchanged.

“I think the time of truths and principles are captured and codified in God’s word and I’m just personally committed to that,” he said. “I know others feel very different from that and I respect their opinion and I hope that they would be respectful of mine.”
That is almost frighteningly reasonable-sounding, coming from him. Is he up to something?

It is not unusual for a CEO or monkey-monk somewhere to hold conservative or bigoted views. If you boycotted every place that had an, er, a jerk running the company you would have a really hard time shopping for anything.

The problem was that Chick Fil-A gave more than five million dollars to anti-gay groups during the first decade of the twenty-first century. The company itself was funding hate groups, pray-the-gay-away organizations, and anti-gay groups of many sorts.
Rather, Cathy concedes that his public opposition of gay marriage was bad for business.

“Consumers want to do business with brands that they can interface with, that they can relate with,” Cathy said. “And it’s probably very wise from our standpoint to make sure that we present our brand in a compelling way that the consumer can relate to.”
How about that for a good idea? If you sell chicken sandwiches, then use your corporate money to sell chicken sandwiches, not to promote discrimination against one part of your possible customer base.

And I remember seeing a number of gay bloggers and writers going, oh, man, and I liked those sandwiches. I have never had one, but apparently they are addictive. It's tough when you have to boycott something you like, but you just can't give your money to somebody who is going to use it to make your life miserable.
Cathy was also in the news for a controversial tweet lamenting the Supreme Court's decision to strike down DOMA as a “sad day” for our country.

When asked his thoughts about the continuing gay marriage debate and surrounding legislation, Cathy said, “I think that’s a political debate that’s going to rage on and the wiser thing for us to do is to stay focused on customer service.”

Even though Cathy has admitted it was a mistake to conflate his personal beliefs with business, Chick-fil-A will remain the only major fast food chain that isn’t open for business on Sundays.
It is not important if somebody doesn't like some group of people, they are free to feel that way. And if they want to get vocal about it, well people who disagree with them will probably try to stop them, and so it goes. If they begin investing money in hateful activities then their victims are compelled to try to stop them, they have to stand up for themselves. So this guy created his own problems.

It is smart for him, as a businessman, to concentrate on business. He might not recognize that gay people can love one another and that their families are just like his family, but he doesn't need to spend millions of dollars opposing his own potential customers. Especially if he's smart enough to realize he is going to lose in the long run.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Solution to the Bigoted Baker Problem

Everybody knows about the crazy idea in Arizona that Christians would be discriminated against if they had to do business with sinners. The salient image was if a Christian baker were asked to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Both houses of the state legislature passed a bill giving businesses permission to discriminate on religious grounds. Luckily the governor vetoed that bill, well it would have been a million laughs seeing how they managed it, but ... I'm glad it didn't come to that.

Dan Savage has a really pretty good idea for how to deal with homophobic cake-bakers. It is so straightforward that it seems like they should really do this.
But here's a suggestion for all the hatey, butt-sore, anti-gay bakers in Arizona: start an organization—The Arizona Association of Homophobic Bakers—and publicly identify yourselves as homophobic bakers. Put up a website with a list of bakeries that don't want to do business with LGBT people. Put signs in your windows that clearly state that gay and lesbian customers are not welcome and will be turned away.

As Anderson Cooper pointed out earlier this week, gays and lesbians are not covered by existing anti-discrimination law in Arizona. So it's perfectly legal right now for bakers—and florists and caterers and photographers—to discriminate against LGBT customers. Discriminating against LGBT people was legal in Arizona before Jan Brewer vetoed the turn-away-the-gays bill, and it remains legal after her veto. So homophobic bakers who identify themselves as haters and bigots run no legal risk. They can't be sued by the individual gay people they discriminate against and the authorities can't fine 'em or shut 'em down. Don't want gay customers? Great. Let us know who you are. Put up a list online, hang signs in your windows, and we will take our business elsewhere. A Baker Refused to Make Your Wedding Cake?
It is perfect. Maybe businesses could have little icons in their front windows, sort of like the array of credit-card symbols you see now, only these would announce the groups that the company refuses to do business with. They could use the stick-figure-in-a-skirt that we already use on restrooms to represent women, maybe an outline of a man in a big sombrero for Hispanics, and so on, put a red slash through them to tell the world your religion requires you to reject that group as customers.

It would be service to shoppers, too, you could identify right away the places that you should not waste your time researching. You are not going to use that baker anyway, if he refuses to bake for "your type."

Ah, but now Savage gets sensible.
The homophobic bakers of Arizona will do no such thing of course. Because hater bakers know that putting "We Don't Serve Gay People" signs in their windows will not only cost them our business—business they don't want—but also the business of our straight friends, family members, and neighbors. Business they do want. And they'll also lose the business of fair-minded straight people who think discrimination is wrong. And they'll lose the business of straight people who worry about where this kind of selective, hypocritical, faith-rationalized discrimination could ultimately lead.

But if homophobic bakers don't have the courage to put up a list—if they don't have the courage of their own sincerely-held, faith-based convictions—then LGBT activists in Arizona should do it for them. How many bakeries are there in Arizona? Can't be more than few hundred. Get a group of people together, call all the bakeries in the state, find out who doesn't want our business, and post the list online. Then encourage LGBT people and our friends, family members, and neighbors to consult that handy list of hater bakers before ordering wedding or birthday cakes.
This is an important point. Arizona homophobes want the government to approve their hate, but when you get right down to it I don't think very many really want to say they're the ones who won't serve gays. I wonder how they were actually planning on implementing this -- if the law had been passed, how would anybody know what companies they couldn't shop at? Would you have to go in and actually trip their gaydar and have a rude encounter? It seems that there would have to be a mechanism for informing possible victims of discrimination about what is coming.
That's not the way homophobic bakers want it to work. Or homophobic florists or photographers or caterers for that matter. They want to quietly and discreetly refuse to serve individual customers who happen to be gay without their other customers finding out. They wanna hate on the down low because they know that customers who may not be gay themselves—people who know and love LGBT people, customers who don't approve of discrimination on principal, other minorities who worry that they could be next—will take their business elsewhere.
Hating on the down low. That's good.

It wouldn't work to put a cross or other religious identification symbol on the front of a business because, oddly enough, a lot of Christian people love their neighbors and forgive sinners. Just being Christian doesn't mean you're a bigot. But people need to know somehow.