- April 8, 2016
BUSINESS BACKLASH AGAINST MISSISSIPPI’S HB1523 CONTINUES: Executives from The Coca-Cola Company, Northrop Grumman, Intel, Replacements, Ltd. and The Hartford have joined other major CEOs and business leaders in signing 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 despite outcry from the business community, fair-minded Mississippians, and LGBT equality advocates. Additional signers to the letter, which was released Wednesday, include executives from General Electric, the Dow Chemical Company, PepsiCo, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Choice Hotels International, Inc., Levi Strauss & Co., and Whole Foods. Some of the state’s largest employers, including Nissan Group of North America, Tyson Food Inc, MGM Resorts International, and Toyota, have publicly voiced opposition to the appalling legislation -- joining national corporations such as AT&T, IBM, Levi Strauss & Co., and MassMutual. 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.
MISSISSIPPI MAY HAVE FEDERAL FUNDING SLASHED AFTER PASSING ANTI-LGBT LAW: Mississippians may soon be feeling the backlash for Governor Bryant’s decision to sign discriminatory legislation that blocks equal protection for LGBT residents of the state. In response to the new law, the Obama administration is considering slashing federal funds for education, infrastructure, and housing. This move by the Obama administration would be in line with how they have responded to North Carolina, which passed a similar anti-LGBT law last month. Individual federal agencies within North Carolina are also reviewing whether or not the state's new law makes them ineligible to receive federal funding. More from The Advocate.
THREE CHEERS FOR MAYORS AGAINST DISCRIMINATION: Yesterday, in light of the recent passage of anti-LGBT laws in multiple states, several mayors across the country announced the formation of Mayors Against Discrimination. The new coalition is working to “examine prohibitions on contracting and purchasing from companies in these states, develop model resolutions that can be adopted by city councils and other legislative bodies, and other measures that mayors and cities can take individually and collectively.” The group currently includes mayors from Seattle, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., Oakland, Honolulu, Sante Fe, Washington, D.C., and Tampa. The group will also be working with sector leaders and companies, like Marc Benioff from Salesforce, Wells Fargo, Starbucks and hundreds of others to apply direct political and economic pressure to repeal or stop the alarming spread of discriminatory laws in the United States. Read their press release here.
POPE DENOUNCES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE IN NEW REPORT: In Pope Francis’ statement today on Catholic family life, he opened the door for divorced Catholics to be welcomed back into the church, but his olive branch stopped there. On the topic of marriage equality, Pope Francis asserted that the marriages of same-sex couples are in no way “similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” The news was a disappointment to many LGBT Catholics, including HRC’s Mary Beth Maxwell, who responded in part "We had hoped that Pope Francis’ more open and loving message about LGBT people would translate into fuller inclusion during the Church’s Year of Mercy, and we are disappointed today.” HRC works with faith leaders across the country, and will continue working to create a world where nobody is forced to choose between their LGBT identity and their faith. More from The Washington Post.
UNC PRESIDENT ORDERS CAMPUSES TO VIOLATE FEDERAL LAW AND DISCRIMINATE AGAINST TRANS STUDENTS; ON-CAMPUS PROTESTS BEGIN: In a memo yesterday, University of North Carolina (UNC) President Margaret Spellings -- a former Department of Education Secretary under President George W. Bush, who has gained attention for her anti-LGBT positions -- ordered that all campuses in the UNC system violate federal law and instead comply with the discriminatory provisions contained in the radical HB 2. This move will put North Carolina educational institutions in direct violation of Title IX, subjecting those schools to massive liability and putting at risk an estimated $4.5 billion of federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education, as well as funding received by schools from other federal agencies. Read more about how HB 2 puts federal funding at risk here. Students at North Carolina’s public colleges and universities have begun protesting the new law, including yesterday at Appalachian State University. In addition to requiring anti-transgender discrimination at schools, HB 2 also requires discrimination in access to restroom and locker room facilities in all buildings owned by the state or public entities, including airports, convention centers, and other publicly-owned buildings. HB 2 also eliminates existing municipal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people and prevents such protections from being passed by cities in the future. More from The Washington Blade.
BASKETBALL STAR CHARLES BARKLEY URGES THE NBA TO SAY NO TO NORTH CAROLINA: This week, basketball legend Charles Barkley moved off the court and into the advocacy arena when he called on the NBA to relocate its 2017 All-Star game, originally slated to be played in North Carolina. Barkley is hoping to pressure the league to reconsider the location after the Tar Heel State passed an anti-LGBT bill that overturned local non-discrimination protections and bars transgender people from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity in public facilities. The state has since been receiving a whirlwind of push-back from businesses and other celebrities. Interestingly, Georgia has stepped up to say they would be willing to take on the league's All-Star Game, just weeks after the state's governor vetoed anti-LGBT legislation. More from MSNBC.
TENNESSEE TO POTENTIALLY LOSE MILLIONS IF ANTI-LGBT BILL MOVES FORWARD: Tennessee, and the city of Nashville more specifically, is projected to lose millions of dollars in revenue if anti-transgender bills being considered in the state House and Senate are passed into law. The bills would prohibit transgender students from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity in schools. Multiple conventions in Nashville and throughout Tennessee have already threatened to relocate if the legislation passes. Were these conventions to pull out, the state would lose out on revenue that would normally be dispersed into hotel bookings and tourism. More from The Tennessean.
REAL EDUCATION FOR HEALTHY YOUTH ACT REINTRODUCED IN THE SENATE: Yesterday, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (REHYA) -- legislation which would provide youth and young adults with comprehensive and inclusive sex education, replacing ineffective and medically inaccurate abstinence-only programs. Specifically, the bill, which Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced last year in the House, would fund teacher training on sex education and provide grants for comprehensive sex education to public or private entities that focus on adolescent health and education or have experience with training sex educators. REHYA would also require, rather than merely encourage, inclusiveness of LGBTQ youth in sex education and would prohibit federal funding of programs that are insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of LGBTQ youth. Not only do current abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs conflict with public opinion of what sex education should cover, they also exclude, or even denigrate, LGBTQ students. The Senate version of the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act would eliminate federal funding for harmful abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, instead reprograming the funding to support the new comprehensive grant program. More from HRC’s blog.
NEW STUDY CONFIRMS THE IMPORTANCE OF DIRECT ENGAGEMENT AND TRANSGENDER VISIBILITY: On the heels of new research from HRC and the National Center for Transgender Equality showing a major increase in the visibility of the transgender community, a new study from researchers at Stanford and Berkeley indicates that a ten-minute conversation with a stranger can lead to a lasting increase in support for transgender people. Published yesterday, researchers David Broockman and Joshua Kalla measure the impact of canvassers trained by the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Leadership Lab. The canvassers went door-to-door in conservative neighborhoods of Florida’s Miami-Dade County, showing subjects a video about transgender people and the arguments for and against discrimination protections. Then, they asked the subjects to describe a time they’d faced prejudice and listened to their stories. Three months later, subjects who took part in these conversations had significantly more favorable attitudes towards transgender people. The change was as big as the average American voter’s shift in attitudes towards lesbian and gay people in the fourteen years between 1998 and 2012. This result is remarkable because political scientists rarely find that conversations shift attitudes in a long-term way. HRC’s Director of Research and Public Education Jay Brown responded to the news saying, “The researchers are proving in a very specific way something we’ve always known broadly—that increased visibility of transgender people can spark a dialogue critical to our long-term success. Whether we’re going door-to-door or we’re looking to impact millions of voters, we need to find creative approaches to engaging in public education with real stories of transgender people and our lives.” Last week, HRC Foundation released a new report that found that as many as of 35 percent of likely voters personally know or work with a transgender person. More from The New York Times and The Advocate.
PUERTO RICO SAYS YES TO MARRIAGE EQUALITY (AGAIN): Puerto Rico has been given the go on marriage equality! After a federal judge ruled that Puerto Rico was exempt from Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court decision bringing marriage equality nationwide, given its position as a U.S. territory (as opposed to a state), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit overruled that decision and ordered the District Court to comply with Obergefell. The court asked for a new judge to be assigned to the case, and held that same-sex couples in Puerto Rico have a fundamental right to marry, as do couples in the rest of the United States. More from The Associated Press.
PENN. GOV. SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER TO PROTECT LGBT RESIDENTS: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf can be added to the list of state leaders with common sense, putting him in stark contrast with those who have recently passed anti-LGBT legislation into law. Wolf signed an executive order yesterday that created clear protections for LGBT government employees and contractors in Pennsylvania, stating that no agency in his state may discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. This order is in line with a 78 percent majority of Pennsylvanians who believe all people should have equal protections under the law. More on HRC’s blog.
SC GOV SAYS ANTI-TRANSGENDER BILL IS NOT NECESSARY: Following the introduction of a bill in South Carolina that would bar transgender residents and visitors from using bathroom facilities that correlate with their gender identity, Republican Governor Nikki Haley is speaking out. When asked about the bill by reporters, Haley said, “I don’t believe it necessary. While other states are having this battle, this is not a battle that we have seen is needed in South Carolina.” She went on to say that she has not heard any cases of citizens’ religious liberties being violated. While it remains to be seen where the bill will go, Haley’s statements are quite the breath of fresh air. Introduced by Senator Lee Bright, the 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. Let’s hope that the South Carolina State Legislature has been paying attention to what’s been happening up north. More from The Washington Post.
DELAWARE GOVERNOR JACK MARKELL MAKES A STAND FOR TRANSGENDER RESIDENTS IN NEW VIDEO: Delaware Governor Jack Markell released a moving video in response to the recent onslaught of discriminatory religious refusal bills, calling them "mean-spirited and hateful attacks." He says that the issue moves beyond access to bathrooms, and is about transgender people’s ability to “fully and equally participate in public life.” The governor has been living up to his word long before the bathroom issue hit the national spotlight, signing protections into law for Delaware residents based on sexual orientation and gender identity three years ago. He is currently the only sitting governor to have signed off on employment, housing, and public accommodations protections based on both gender identity and sexual orientation. This video looks to reaffirm his stance, stating that Delaware is a state open to all residents. More from The Washington Blade.
ANTI-LGBT ACTIVISTS IN MAINE LITERALLY TRY TO TAKE THE STATE BACK 10 YEARS: A former leader of the Christian Civic League of Maine has filed paperwork to collect signatures for a ballot initiative that would ask voters whether or not to repeal protections for the LGBT community that have been codified in the state’s Human Rights Act for over 10 years. Matt Moonen of Equality Maine responded to the development rightly saying, “The current law has been working for more than a decade. This initiative is a blatant effort to turn back the clock and single out lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people so that it’s once again legal to fire them, deny them housing or kick them out of a restaurant simply because of who they are.” Proponents will have 18 months to collect 61,123 signatures necessary to get on the ballot. More from the Bangor Daily News.\
AROUND THE WORLD
MARRIAGE EQUALITY COMES TO COLUMBIA: Yesterday, Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of marriage equality for the nation’s same-sex couples, making the it the 20th country worldwide to embrace full marriage equality for all of its citizens. The Colombian Constitutional Court ruled in 2011 that same-sex couples should be entitled to the same protections as other couples, however they also ruled that the Colombian Congress needed to pass legislation addressing the issue of marriage equality within two years. When the Colombian Congress failed to do that, same-sex couples started applying for marriage licenses across the country. Some of these couples were granted licenses, while others were denied. Ultimately, the couples who were refused licenses brought the matter to the court to decide and yesterday, the court ruled in favor of equality. Deputy Director of HRC Global Jean Freedberg hailed the news saying, “Following victories for LGBT advocates in Ireland in May and in the United States in June, today’s ruling makes clear that global momentum for marriage equality has continued to grow, and we’re hopeful that other nations will provide same-sex couples the right to marry the person they love in the year ahead.” More from BuzzFeed.
NOTORIOUS AMERICAN HATE GROUP HEADS TO BARBADOS: The World Congress of Families (WCF) has descended on the island of Barbados for a regional gathering that starts today. Designated an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, WCF provides a platform for some of the most virulently anti-LGBT extremists from around the world. HRC’s report on the group, Exposed: The World Congress of Families, makes clear that the organization and many of its affiliates are laser-focused on promoting policies and rhetoric that put LGBT people and their families at incredible risk. Conference speakers include Theresa Okafor, who has compared LGBT people to Boko Haram, and notorious exporter of hate Brian Brown, president and co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a once-prominent anti-LGBT equality group. In 2011, Brown said, “When you knock over a core pillar of society like marriage, and then try to redefine Biblical views of marriage as bigotry, there will be consequences. Will one of the consequences be a serious push to normalize pedophilia?” LGBT people throughout the Caribbean face immense challenges. Eleven countries in the Caribbean retain laws that criminalize sexual acts between men. In Barbados LGBT people can face life in prison, while in Jamaica they can face hard labor while in prison. Even in countries without this form of state-sponsored discrimination, LGBT people are often targeted and face discrimination and harassment. More on the WCF’s conference on HRC’s blog.
The New York Times shares one man’s strategy to change hearts and minds about the transgender community; The Raleigh News and Observer Editorial Board criticizes Mississippi’s discriminatory law; Vox breaks down Tennessee’s anti-transgender bathroom bill; WPTZ braces for the tourism backlash of Mississippi’s anti-LGBT law; and CNN wonders why there has been an uptick in religious freedom laws in state legislatures.