Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fairness Wins in Maryland

Congratulations to all who fought so hard for this.

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.