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BUSINESS BACKLASH AGAINST ANTI-LGBT MISS. BILL: Executives from GE, the Dow Chemical Company, PepsiCo, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Choice Hotels International, Inc., Levi Strauss & Co., and Whole Foods Market have signed onto an open letter addressed to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, and House Speaker Philip A. Gunn urging state lawmakers to repeal HB 1523 -- a discriminatory measure signed into law this week despite outcry from the business community, fair-minded Mississippians, and LGBT equality advocates. In addition to the major corporations signing onto this letter calling for repeal, some of the state’s largest employers, including Nissan Group of North America, Tyson Food Inc, MGM Resorts International, and Toyota, publicly voiced their opposition to the appalling legislation -- joining national corporations such as AT&T, IBM, Levi Strauss & Co, MassMutual, General Electric, and Hyatt. Gov. Bryant also ignored the call of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA) to veto the discriminatory measure. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has joined an effort to get more CEOs to speak publicly against the law, and top executives from Microsoft and IBM have asserted that the law is bad for business. More from Time and The Clarion-Ledger

ELLEN DEGENERES EXPLAINS WHY MISSISSIPPI'S LGBT-DISCRIMINATION LAW IS WRONG: Comedian Ellen DeGeneres used the perfect combination of wit and weight when skewering Mississippi's recently passed "religious freedom" law, which allows businesses the right to deny LGBT people services should they feel that it goes against their religious convictions. The host reminded her viewers that she doesn't normally wade in political waters, but said that akin to seeing "men wearing Spandex in line at Starbucks" she knew the issue was wrong and needed to discuss it. DeGeneres' comedic take ultimately relied on a simple breakdown of the situation: she too was once fired for being gay, but no worries, she "could buy that [Mississippi] Governor's mansion, flip it, and make a $7 million dollar profit." There's hope in that she made it, and she urges fellow Mississippians to not lose hope either. DeGeneres' monologue joins the ranks of other entertainment industry professionals' remarks, such as Lance Bass, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, and Montel Williams, who have also spoken out against the new law.

TENN. PUTS BILLIONS OF FEDERAL FUNDS AT RISK WITH LEGISLATIVE ASSAULT ON TRANSGENDER STUDENTS: By a vote of 8 to 4, the Tennessee House Education Administration & Planning Committee advanced HB 2414 -- an outrageous bill targeting transgender students in public schools and universities. The measure, which now moves to the House Finance Committee, seeks to force transgender students to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity. The committee voted to advance the discriminatory legislation despite calls from major corporations and LGBT advocates to abandon the discriminatory bill. HB 2414 and SB 2387 would put Tennessee school districts at risk of losing federal funds under Title IX. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has echoed concerns that the discriminatory measure would compromise the state’s three billion dollars in federal funding for its schools and universities. His spokesperson also said 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 it would force schools to choose between complying with federal law -- plus doing the right thing for their students -- or complying with a state law that violates students’ civil rights. Read more about how these bills put federal funding at risk here. More from The Huffington Post and Memphis Flyer

TOP EXECUTIVES SIGN LETTER AGAINST TENN. HB 2414/SB 2387: Executives from the Dow Chemical Company, Hewlett Packard Enterprises, Choice Hotels International, Inc., and Alcoa, Inc. have signed onto a letter addressed to Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate Ron Ramsey and Speaker Beth Harwell urging state lawmakers to abandon HB 2414 and SB 2387 – discriminatory legislation that would force transgender students to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity. In addition to executives from these major corporations, Viacom, the parent company of Country Music Television, also issued a statement yesterday urging lawmakers to reject the legislation, saying: “Viacom and CMT have a deep commitment to tolerance, diversity and inclusion, and discriminatory laws like HB2414/SB2387 are inconsistent with our values. As proud members of Tennessee’s welcoming and vibrant business community, we implore state lawmakers to reject these proposals.” More from The Tennessean

TENN. ADVANCES LEG. ALLOWING COUNSELORS TO DISCRIMINATE AGAINST LGBT CLIENTS: Yesterday, the Tennessee House passed HB 1840/SB 1556 by a vote of 68 to 22. This unnecessary bill would allow licensed counselors in private practice to use their own religious beliefs as an excuse for terminating care or referring away clients because of moral objections to how the client identifies. HB 1840/SB 1556 has been vigorously opposed by many counseling professionals and organizations in the state of Tennessee as well as the American Counseling Association. The ACA sets the Code of Ethics and standards for practice nationally and these are adopted by the state of Tennessee as its standards for licensing counselors in the state. In a statement, Art Terrazas, Director of Government Affairs at The American Counseling Association said, “Passing this legislation is not only morally wrong and a dangerous precedent, but could also result in costly unintended consequences for Tennessee, including for the hundreds of thousands of state residents who rely on accessible and professional counseling services.” More on HRC’s blog

OFFICIALS INVITE PAYPAL TO OPEN THEIR NEW CENTER: St. Petersberg, Florida Mayor Rick Kriseman, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and Montana Governor Steve Bullock are among several state officials vying for PayPal's new global operations center, which was originally slated to be built in North Carolina prior to the state's passing of an anti-LGBT bill last month. The facility intended to bring another 400 new jobs into the Tar Heel State, but decided not to do so in North Carolina following the passage of HB 2. The mayor and both governors have stated that their jurisdictions will gladly accept PayPal's plans for expansion, and that they are committed to fostering diverse talent within their communities. In an opinion piece published in the Charlotte Observer, Mayor Kriseman reaffirmed this commitment by stating, "There has never been a better time for Florida, and especially St. Petersburg, to send the message that we are welcoming, inclusive and open for business." More on the Tampa Bay Business Journal and The Associated Press

U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE MOVES TO HELP LGBT MEDICAL RESEARCH: The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee took an important step yesterday to improve medical research about the health of LGBT Americans. The committee passed the bipartisan S. 2745, Advancing National Institutes of Health (NIH) Strategic Planning and Representation in Medical Research Act, by voice vote. This legislation requires the Director of the NIH, in consultation with its institute and center directors, to develop a six-year coordinated research strategy. Historically, LGBTQ people have been underrepresented in clinical trials and health research, a point highlighted in the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) landmark report issued in March 2011. That report emphasized the need for a solid evidence base from which researchers could advance the knowledge and understanding of this disparity population. This legislation will address that concern by encouraging the Director of NIH to improve research related to the health of sexual and gender minority populations by facilitating increased participation of such groups in NIH supported clinical research. The bill also sets a two-year timeline for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make public and disseminate data measures for gathering health information about sexual and gender minorities. The legislation has strong bipartisan sponsors—Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). More on HRC’s blog

PENN. GOV. SIGNS LGBT EMPLOYEE PROTECTIONS FOR LGBT STATE CONTRACTORS: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced yesterday that he will sign an executive order barring discrimination by state contractors against LGBT people. This comes as the Pennsylvania legislature hasn’t yet moved a bill that would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. His action is in direct response to backlash seen by other governors who enact anti-LGBT legislation, like North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant. We are glad that Gov. Wolf is doing the right thing, listening to his constituents and protecting LGBT Pennsylvanians. According to a recent survey, 95 percent of Pennsylvanians believe that everyone needs to be able to earn a living – including LGBT people – and that employees should be hired, fired or promoted based on their qualifications, experience and the jobs they do – nothing more, nothing less. An incredible 78 percent of Pennsylvanians support updating the state’s non-discrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender identity. More from WGAL News 8

KANSAS GOVERNOR MOVES FORWARD WITH TRANSPHOBIC BIRTH CERTIFICATE PROPOSAL: In case you didn’t realize Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is a huge opponent of equality, his administration is moving forward with a policy change that would make it even more difficult for transgender Kansans to change their birth certificates to reflect their correct gender. Current law requires a “medical certificate sustaining that a physiological or anatomical change occurred”, and Brownback’s proposal would only allow a person to change their birth certificate if the gender was incorrectly recorded originally. It also requires that a person seeking to change their birth certificate provide medical records substantiating that claim. Last month, Gov. Brownback also signed into law a legislative attack on LGBT college students that forces public universities to fund student organizations that discriminate by restricting membership and denying LGBT students from participating under the guise of “religious beliefs.” It seems someone is really working hard to ensure his place among other anti-LGBT governors like North Carolina’s Pat McCrory and Mississippi’s Phil Bryant. More from the Witchita Eagle

SOUTH CAROLINA FILES ANTI-TRANSGENDER BILL: Following in the footsteps of its Northern counterpart, South Carolina has filed a bill that would bar transgender residents from using the bathroom that correlates with their gender identity. In addition to prohibiting transgender people from using the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity, Senator Lee Bright’s bill would also prevent South Carolina cities from passing protections that would forbid discrimination on the basis of gender identity in places of public accommodation. LGBT advocates are hoping that the state senate's tendency to move slowly would help to put a stop to the bill before it gains steam - and the legislature might want to take some time to consider the financial pushback its neighbor to the north has received since passing HB 2. More from the Free Times.

MICHIGAN MAN SAYS POLICE ILLEGALLY DISCLOSED HIS HIV STATUS: Corey Rangel, a 29 year-old gay man from Dowagiac, Michigan, has accused the Dowagiac Police Department of revealing his HIV-positive status without his consent, an action expressly forbidden by Michigan state law. According to ABC 57 News, Rangel’s police encounter began when he was pulled over for having a loud muffler. Rangel, who is on probation and going through the Cass County drug treatment program, was ultimately cited for driving without proof of insurance or his corrective lenses. “Rangel says at that time his drug court case manager went through his phone and found sexually explicit pictures, knew he was HIV positive and then instructed an officer from the Dowagiac Police Department to call his contacts and alert them to that fact,” CBS 6 News reported. If accurate, what happened to Rangel was egregious and nothing short of discrimination. Unfortunately, his situation is not all that uncommon, according to Dr. Trevor Hoppe, a sociologist of sexuality who has studied HIV disclosure laws extensively. Michigan is one of 30 states where people living with HIV can be tried and imprisoned simply because a partner accuses them of hiding their HIV status. Many of these laws are based on outdated information about HIV and run counter to public health. More on HRC’s blog


TEACHERS AT SINGLE-SEX SCHOOLS LOOK TO ADDRESS TRANSGENDER STUDENTS’ NEEDS: Teachers at single-sex schools in the UK are looking to make their learning environments more inclusive by expanding their policies for transgender students. New implementations would include gender neutral bathrooms, which teachers believe would help transgender students feel more safe. These new policies have received some push back, but on the whole the school has gotten positive feedback on their attempt to address what they called a "clear blind spot" for their students' needs. More on The Telegraph


The New York Times Editorial Board calls on Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to allow transgender troops to serve in the military… The Independent asks that companies follow PayPal’s lead in pulling out of states with anti-LGBT laws… PR Week connects millennials to companies’ pro-LGBT stances… Huffington Post reflects on Transgender Day of Visibility… New York Daily News shares one organization’s comedic response to Mississippi’s new anti-LGBT law… Forbes profiles one entrepreneur and his personal fight against NC HB 2… The Guardian dives into Scotland’s LGBT protections… Metro Weekly covers a DC bill that would prohibit travel to states with anti-LGBT laws… and KHOU shares a Funny or Die video Mocking Mississippi’s HB 1523.

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Filed under: A.M. Equality, Community

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