- April 12, 2016
MISSISSIPPI WRITERS COME OUT AGAINST HB 1523: They say the pen is mightier than the sword, and nearly 100 prominent Mississippi writers are proving just that. Ninety-five authors, including the likes of John Grisham and Kathryn Stockett, have signed a letter in protest of their state's recent passage of the anti-LGBT House Bill 1523. Following in the style of their literary prowess, the writers' open letter includes the moving excerpt: "Mississippi authors have written through pain, and they have written out of disappointment, but they have also written from wonder, and pride, and a fierce desire to see the politics of this state live up to its citizens. It is deeply disturbing to so many of us to see the rhetoric of hate, thinly veiled, once more poison our political discourse." More from Entertainment Weekly.
TENN. AG WARNS THAT STATE WILL LOSE FED. FUNDING IF ANTI-TRANS BILLS PASS: In an official opinion yesterday, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III warned that the state could lose billions of dollars in federal funding if lawmakers move forward with legislation restricting transgender students’ access to bathroom facilities consistent with their gender identity. This comes after Governor Bill Haslam expressed concerns that these discriminatory measures would compromise the state’s $3 billion in federal educational funding for its schools and universities. His spokesperson has said that the governor “trusts our teachers and local school boards to make necessary accommodations” for transgender students. The legislation offers costly supposed “solutions” to non-existent problems, and would force schools to choose between complying with federal law -- while also doing the right thing for their students -- or complying with a state law that violates students’ civil rights. Major corporations, country music stars, child welfare organizations, pediatricians and LGBT advocates have all come out against these discriminatory bills that are nothing more than an attack on transgender youth. More from the Tennessean.
ECONOMIC SPIRAL CONTINUES IN NORTH CAROLINA: Things are only getting worse in the Tar Heel State.This morning, German financial group Deutsche Bank announced that it is halting plans for an expansion in Cary, NC, following the passage of HB 2. Co-chief executive John Cryan said in a statement, “We’re proud of our operations and employees in Cary and regret that as a result of this legislation we are unwilling to include North Carolina in our U.S. expansion plans for now. We very much hope that we can revisit our plans to grow this location in the near future.” B Corps, a global community of nearly 1,700 corporations also said this week that it would no longer host its planned October events in the Tar Heel State. So for those keeping track, add those to the list: PayPal has announced that they were withdrawing investments in the state, as has a technology company that was projected to bring in 500 new jobs into Buncombe county. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority is reporting that at least four conventions are pulling out of Queen City, nine others will no longer consider it as a host city, and 29 other groups are now “hesitant” to bring their conventions to the city at all. What was it that McCrory said about no businesses saying that they planned to leave the state? Read on Deutsche Bank at The New York Times.
JOHN KASICH SAYS HE HASN’T HEARD OF LEELAH ALCORN: Taking a question in New York, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he had not heard of Leelah Alcorn, the Warren County, Ohio teenager who committed suicide in 2014. The Enquirer reports how Leelah’s suicide, “spawned national activism over policy that affects transgender children and adults, including a promise from President Barack Obama to advocate for a ban on "conversion therapy," a discredited, abusive practice that seeks to change people's sexual orientation. Leelah's Tumblr post said her parents, who did not accept her gender identity, put her in "Christian therapy." Transgender Ohioans have been largely invisible to Kasich throughout his tenure as governor. When he was elected governor of Ohio, Kasich broke a campaign promise and allowed protections against discrimination for transgender state workers to lapse. And under his tenure, Ohio remains one of 32 states that lack fully-inclusive non-discrimination protections that would cover transgender people. More from The Enquirer.
OPM REVISES FMLA DEFINITION OF SPOUSE: Last week, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a final rule revising the definition of spouse in its regulations on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to include same-sex couples. Under the FMLA, employers are required to give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of consecutive, or in some circumstances intermittent, unpaid sick leave. FMLA was designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. In February of 2015, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final regulation on the definition of spouse under Title I of FMLA, which covered non-federal employees and certain federal employees not covered under Title II. DOL’s final regulation did not apply to Title II of FMLA, which covered most federal employees, as OPM administers regulations for Title II of FMLA. OPM’s revised definition of spouse under Title II of FMLA, replaced unconstitutional language from the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), allowing federal employees with same-sex spouses to use FMLA leave in the same manner as federal employees with opposite-sex spouses. Both DOL’s and OPM’s final rules reflect the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor, which ruled that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional. We applaud OPM for implementing change which goes a long way in securing the dignity and respect of LGBT families.
TENNESSEE LAWMAKERS PASS BILL THAT WOULD UNDERMINE ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES: Tennessee legislators have passed a bill that would allow counselors and therapists to deny services to LGBT people based on mental health professionals' "sincerely held beliefs." Senator Jack Johnson, the bill's sponsor, has likened it to an attorney refusing to write a will for a client charged with first-degree murder (a resounding "what the hell?!" is appropriate now). This bill would surely jeopardize the mental health needs of LGBT individuals, and could have a particular impact on queer youth. The bill is currently awaiting a signature from the state's governor. More from the Free Times Press.
ANTI-EQUALITY ACTIVISTS ARE BUSY AT WORK IN PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania legislators are currently considering legislation that would extend nondiscrimination protections in employment, housing and public accommodations to LGBT residents in the state. Though adding these protections enjoys overwhelming support from 74 percent of Pennsylvanians, there are nevertheless anti-equality activists working to stop the effort in its track. A coalition called the Pennsylvania Family Institute and Oath Keepers (that's a problematic mouth-full) have started a petition in opposition to the legislation, thus far gaining some 3,000 signatures. But despite the push back, the state's governor is optimistic about the legislation’s' future and is eagerly waiting to sign it into law. More from LancasterOnline.
NEW JERSEY SCHOOL BOARD TO VOTE ON TRANS-INCLUSIVE RESTROOM POLICY: High school students attending New Jersey’s Pascack Valley regional schools will be able to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity if the district’s Board of Education adopts proposed new rules. According to NJ.com, the new rules would l allow transgender students to access restrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams consistent with their gender identity. The board is expected to vote Monday on the measure, which is reportedly similar to those passed in other New Jersey schools. Read more from NJ.com.
AROUND THE WORLD
AUSTRALIAN STUDY UNCOVERS TERRORS OF LGBT STREET HARASSMENT: A new research study out of Australia has LGBT Australians coming out against street harassment.The survey, conducted by La Trobe University, found that people targeted by street harassers for their LGBT identity had similar experiences to cisgender, heterosexual women. In light of this, BuzzFeed interviewed several LGBT Australians to break down their relationship to street harassment. Not surprisingly, the anecdotes were sad and often terrifying. Many of the interviewees reported verbal harassment, threats and physical violence. Many interviewees noted that they changed their typical travel behavior, or avoided travel altogether, because of street harassment. More from BuzzFeed.
Vox exposes the horrifying experiences of transgender inmates… NBC News breaks down the backlash over North Carolina and Mississippi’s anti-LGBT “religious freedom” laws… ABC News wonders why North Carolina's HB 2 is now in the national spotlight… Michigan Public Radio gives and overview of the the state’s ongoing debate on LGBT inclusive policies for schools.