Lavender Hill: Op-Ed: ENDA, why LGBT activists are abandoning ship

LHv6AIn light of the recent Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision (read Phil’s earlier piece) regarding the limited religious exemption for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods in regards to the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has decided to withdraw their support for the current version of the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) that is sitting before Congress. The Washington Post, through their blog, reported on this Tuesday, shortly after the announcement was made.

From the Washington Post:

[A] coalition led by the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights said in a joint statement that they also would be withdrawing support. The bill’s religious exemptions clause is written so broadly that “ENDA’s discriminatory provision, unprecedented in federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, could provide religiously affiliated organizations – including hospitals, nursing homes and universities – a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people,” the group said, adding later that if ENDA were to pass Congress, “the most important federal law for the [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community in American history would leave too many jobs, and too many LGBT workers, without protection.”

It should be interesting to note that one of the best recognized “activist” groups for LGBT rights is absent from that every growing list of groups that has withdrawn their support of ENDA.  That group being the Human Rights Campaign. Listeners of Lavender Hill know that Corwin has a strong stand against HRC for their push for heteronormalizing of the LGBT community.

ENDA, as it is written right now, contains a religious exemption component. “ENDA’s religious exemption recognizes that the U.S. Constitution protects certain employment decisions of religious organizations and that some religious organizations may have a specific and significant religious reason to make employment decisions, even those that take an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity into account. It also acknowledges that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees of religious organizations should be aware that they could lose their jobs, even jobs that do not serve a clearly religious function, because of sexual orientation or gender identity.” This breaks down into three parts (from CivilRights.org):

  • A complete exemption for houses of worship, parochial and similar religious schools, and missions
  • A codification of the so-called “ministerial exemption” recognized by many federal courts, exempting positions at religious organizations that involve the teaching or spreading religion, religious governance, or the supervision of individuals engaged in these activities
  • A provision allowing religious organizations, for classes of jobs, to require employees and applicants to conform to a declared set of significant religious tenets, including ones which would bar LGBT people from holding the position

I own two businesses. I’ve worked in the real world for the better part of my life. I’ve worked fast food, retail, customer service. I’ve done a lot of things to pay the bills. In my experience I have seen the necessity of the accepted idea “We reserve the right to refuse service.” I can even see where certain small businesses, privately owned, may feel that they have the right to refuse service to anyone who represents a violation of their deeply held religious beliefs. What I don’t understand is the resistance to follow federally mandated regulations and laws that are constructed to protect not only the individual, but the business.

I live in Nebraska. There is only one city in the entire state that it is illegal for me to be fired because I am gay. Omaha passed a city ordinance a few years back that added protections for lesbians, gays, and bisexuals to their non discrimination law. Lincoln, Grand Island, and Kearney all three have tried to pass similar ordinances. Lincoln’s was passed, but it was put on hold by the same city council that passed it after a voter petition succeeded in gaining more than enough signatures to require the ordinance be put before the population during the general elections. The city council has not brought it forward for a ballot vote yet.

Though Lincoln does not have such protections, many of the companies I have worked for over the  years do have such protections in their non discrimination policies. In recent years the only exception to that would be when I worked for Hobby Lobby seasonally five and six years ago. Even the current company that I work for has such protections. At this point in my life, I would not work for a company that did not.

Almost immediately after the decision was announced by SCOTUS in regards to the contraception case with Hobby Lobby businesses and organizations across the country began petitioning President Obama and the courts for religious exemptions that could allow them to discriminate against people of color, other religions, national origins, let alone discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. With the hotly anticipated executive order from Obama that would make it illegal for federal contractors to discriminate against the LGBT community in hiring, promotion, and firing of employees many of these companies are federal contractors. There has been hint, mostly rumor, that some small businesses might use the SCOTUS ruling to allow them to refuse service to individuals that are perceived to be “different” from those business owners’ religious beliefs.

I still maintain that privately owned businesses, in cities/states that do not have protections for the LGBT community in their non discrimination policies/laws, have the ability to refuse service to LGBT people. This means that a bakery specializing in wedding cakes can refuse to make a cake for a same sex wedding if that bakery is in a city/state that does not have such protections. This also means that a landlord or rental agency can evict a tenant that they perceive to be gay under the same legal circumstances. This does not mean that a privately owned business can refuse to provide their services to a black man, a Jew, a woman, or an elderly or disabled person. Those situations are covered by federal protections.

A grey area you say? No. An opportunity. When someone is refused services because they are or are perceived to be gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, etc then that person has the right to sue.  Such a suit may lead to legal precedent in that city/state that could lead to the addition of protections for LGBTQ people to local or state (or even federal) non discrimination laws.

Phil Kessler is one of the hosts of Lavender Hill on KZUM in Lincoln, NE. KZUM is Nebraska’s first and onlyPhil in Studio community radio station. Lavender Hill is perhaps the only LBT/SOGI news and talk program on Nebraska radio, locally produced or otherwise. The opinions expressed in this op-ed piece or his alone and do not reflect the opinions or beliefs of his co-host, KZUM – its programmers, employees, underwriters, or board of directors – nor do they necessarily reflect those of the producers and hosts of programming on the Pagan-Musings Podcast Channel and contributors to the PMPChannel.com blogsite.

Tune in every Sunday at 11am Central for Lavender Hill with Corwin and Phil on KZUM-Lincoln/KZUM-HD.

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Lavender Hill for 8 June 2014

Lavender Hill airs live every Sunday morning at 11am Central on KZUM-HD/KZUM-Lincoln out of Lincoln, NE. For over three years Corwin and Phil have brought their listeners news, views, and interviews from the LGBTQIAA community with a focus on Lincoln and Omaha.

LINKS

In no particular order, here are links to much of what we discussed on this edition of Lavender Hill. Some may be to stories we didn’t have time to cover.

  • The Texas GOP has approved a platform for their 2014 campaign season that endorses reparative therapy, also known as conversion therapy. Reparative therapy has been shown to cause more harm than good. Developed decades ago to “cure” people of homosexuality, many states have already banned its use with adolescents and many psychologists and psychiatrists are pushing for it to be removed as an acceptable means of treatment for adults as well. Even former “x-gays” have made apologies for encouraging people to use reparative therapy.  The International of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses issued a position paper in 2001 on reparative therapy, you can read it here.
  • The legislative arm of Salt Lake City’s government has formally asked the organizers o the Days of ’47 Parade to reconsider their decision to disallow Mormons Building Bridges from participating in this year’s parade. Days of ’47 celebrates the mass migration of Mormons to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. I have news for our Mormon friends, there were queer Mormons in 1847 and there are queer Mormons in 2014. Check out the official page for Mormons Building Bridges to learn more about this organization.
  • In related news, a police officer in Salt Lake City was suspended after refusing to work police security at the annual Gay Pride Parade.
  • In more Pride news, for the first time the US Armed Forces Color Guard will be participating in the Washington D.C. Pride. In 2013 an Armed Forces color guard did perform on the grounds of the Pentagon for a Defense Department pride event, and another performed there again this year.
  • Sex like gender is more fluid than most are willing to believe. Conservative blogger Kevin D. Williamson on National Review said that famous transgender actress Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) is not a woman. Ms. Cox graces the cover of a recent edition of  Time Magazine. Slate.com has a lengthy article discussing the fluidity of sex as well as gender, with plenty of links for more information.
  • Puerto Rico has nominated its first openly lesbian lawyer to the Supreme Court. Maite Oronzo Rodriguez was nominated by Governor Rico Alejandro Garcia Padilla on 4 June.
  • Actor John Lacy gets a standing ovation, but not for his role as Big Daddy in a production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Lacy threw a heckler and homophobe out of the audience in Act II. He was then fired by the director for his actions.
  • In a Rand Paul conference call, Republican E.W. Jackson says that “there is something wrong with them on the inside” in reference to LGBT people and liberals, that they are full of “hatred”.
  • General Mills and Lucky Charms cereal launched their second Lucky To Be campaign on 2 June. Read about it here and then visit the Lucky To Be site.
  • Woodrow Wilson High School principal Pete Cahall comes out to his students during their 2nd annual Pride event in D.C.
  • Last month Iowa rewrote the law that criminalized HIV transmission and this month in a symbolic gesture two men convicted of exposing their partners to HIV (knowingly or not) were freed from their GPS monitors.
  • On 4 June the constitution of Slovokia was amended to ban same-sex marriage, IGLA-Europe issues a statement condemning the act.
  • In related news, the CDC and DOJ have released a report on the 33 states (67 laws) that have criminalized HIV transmission since 1987. POZ Magazine’s Ron Valdiserri wrote this op-ed piece in April of this year.
  • The United Nations is treading thin ice with the global LGBTQIAA community with the nomination of Ugandan Samuel Kutesa to the presidency of the General Assembly. No member nation has yet voiced a formal protest. Kutesa has even received support from US Secretary of State John Kerry and UK Foreign Minister William Hague. Kutesa serves as Uganada’s Foreign Minister under the anti-gay leadership of President Museveni, who recently signed into law severe punishments for homosexuality.
  • Laura Jane Grace, lead singer for the metal band Against Me!, has been the recent target of Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (view this site to learn about RadFems). The Twitter back-and-forth can be seen here. We couldn’t read the Twitter comments over the air for obvious reasons (if you take a look). The host stream (Pagan-Musings Podcast Channel) for the podcast version of Lavender Hill has had an ongoing conversation about certain elements of the RadFem movement, specifically the Dianic Wicca founder Z. Budapest and her banning of transgender women from official rituals and gatherings (pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3).
  • MS. Magazine has an informative op-ed piece on their blog on TransFeminism – worth the read!
  • One of the most vocal opponents of Texas’s “bathroom bill”, that would allow trans people to use the bathroom of their self-identified gender, has been shown to be a sexual predator himself. Pastor Baker, who has worked as a city chaplain, has expressed his belief that allow transwomen to use the women’s bathroom would allow a potential predator into the same bathroom as a six year old girl. Baker was suspended and later fired in the past for sexually harassing female employees.
  • In Maryland the “bathroom bill” was passed and signed into law by the governor. But State Delegate Neil Parrot (R) started a referendum to reverse that law. For the sake of all Marylanders, that referendum failed.
  • A transgender man in New York is suing the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation for discrimination. The man is still in transition and was denied use of the more private locker rooms reserved for handicapped people and families. Staff at a public pool reportedly told him to use the women’s locker room.
  • One of the suspects in the recent Atlanta beating of a transgender woman on their mass transit system claims that “transgender women provoke” such attacks. Much of the incident was caught on video by witnesses, the video and the witnesses could not clarify how the altercation started.
  • Perhaps the first transgender murder victim for 2014 in the United States was identified in Baltimore earlier this month. Kandy Hall was found earlier on 3 June in a field in Northeast Baltimore. TransGroit also blogs about the murder.
  • As of Friday 6 June 2014 all 31 states that currently ban same-sex marriages have lawsuits filed in either state or federal courts challenging those states’ bans. North Dakota was the last of the 31 to join in the battle on this level.
  • GOProud, the LGBT Republican group, is “re-branding”, or is that “dis-banning”?
  • Robert Garcia is the first three times around in Long Beach, CA. The first Latino mayor, the youngest, and the first openly gay mayor.
  • Shooting victim from the 2013 San Francisco Pride event is suing the SF Pride Committee for $10mil, citing a lack of security made it possible for the shooter to enter the event site with a gun.

Upcoming Pride Events in the Lincoln & Omaha Area

  • Heartland Pride is right around the corner. This the Omaha Metro area’s annual LBTQIA (etc) Pride event and is hosted every year in Omaha and Council Bluffs. Visit their website to learn more and see the calendar of events. The main events will be on Saturday 28 June in Council Bluffs and Stinson Park in Omaha.
  • Star City Pride is about a month away. Star City Pride is the Pride event in Lincoln, NE. Hosted in part by Panic Bar, the main event is a street party with vendors, information booths, and live entertainment outside the Panic, this year on Saturday 12 July.
  • The 4th annual Prairie Pride Film Festival will be 24-26 July at the Mary Riepma Ross Theatre  in Lincoln, NE.