LGBTQ Americans Deserve Protected Class Status, Now Major Lawsuit

In the midst of COVID vaccination shots having taken the top slot on many national newscasts, it might be easy to understand how many Americans missed a significant action taken earlier this year by the House of Representatives. The Equality Act was passed in February, and though it has a steep climb for passage in the Senate it has again made news this week.

The bill would amend federal law, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act, to explicitly include anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans. If you are gay, or have ever talked to anyone who is, it will come as no surprise as to why this legislation was crafted, or why it needs to be passed. The same holds true for transgender people. Without doubt, this bill would provide the strongest legal protections for LGBTQ Americans in history.

Why does this matter? Lets us take just one example which made for a newspaper report this week.

Elizabeth Hunter says she became suicidal after Bob Jones University administrators grilled the former student about her sexuality for tweeting “happy Pride” and writing a book with lesbian characters. She was fined, sent to anti-gay counseling and removed from her job at the campus TV station. Veronica Penales says she’s told officials at Baylor University, where she is a sophomore, that people leave anti-gay notes on her door, but they don’t investigate. Lucas Wilson said he graduated from Liberty University with “a profound sense of shame” after being encouraged to go to conversion therapy.

This would not be allowed to happen to any other minority student. As such, it is more stark examples of the lack of safety and justice for the full LGBTQ community. And this type of outlandish activity occurs continuously, without a remedy.

The bill has gained steam in the past years with 70% of Americans supporting the Equality Act as of Dec. 2020. The polling data comes from GQR and the Human Rights Campaign. That poll shows support up from 65% of voters who supported the legislation in 2018.

The bill passed largely on a party-line vote, with President Biden expressly stating he would sign it if it made its way to his desk. But first, it needs to get past the political party in the Senate that still can not understand gay people are in every family–Blue ones and Red ones. The usual religious organizations have chimed in with their ‘one-note Charlie’ arguments and that is where things have stood since last month.

Until this week.

It was reported that students from 25 religiously-affiliated colleges and universities have filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education, claiming the schools are unconstitutionally discriminating against students in the LGBTQ community, It lists 33 students as plaintiffs.

The lawsuit specifically takes aim at a religious exemption clause in Title IX schools have used to continue with discriminatory practices. The schools, which receive government funding, have been using the exemption clause to evade an executive order Biden signed on his first day in office, which was aimed at “preventing and combating discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.”

The political calculators are watching now how religious groups are talking with civil rights groups and gay rights groups to lobby for a religious exemption to be explicitly included in the Equality Act. But there is no way to pretend that deep concerns are not most evident and proving as to all why a remedy must be obtained.

The suit injects dozens of personal experiences into a debate about religious liberty and ­LGBTQ rights that’s often been more legalistic. It seeks to put individual faces and names on an aspect of Equality Act debate that doesn’t get much attention — students at conservative Christian schools.

It cites a gay ICU nurse who said he was admitted to a graduate nursing program, sold his car, left his old job and was days away from starting school when he was allegedly told his admission was rescinded because he is engaged to a man. “A grown man with a successful career, loving family and fiancé, [he] went into his closet, curled up in a ball and cried,” the suit says. It cites a queer student who recalls being regularly called slurs on a Christian school’s campus and is afraid to walk at night alone. According to the suit, that person is often subject to disciplinary action for wearing feminine-style clothing. Another said he was fired as a resident assistant and then kicked out of school for being openly bisexual.

I look at my calendar and it reads 2021. It should not only read that way, but feel like that, too. It is imperative this bill become law.

In Memory Of, And Respect For, Linda Brown Of The Brown v. Board of Education Desegregation Case, Dead At 75

This was an American who made a difference, and helped change a nation.  So much respect from this home for Linda Brown.

The neighborhood the family lived in was integrated.

“I played with children that were Spanish-American,” Linda Brown said in a 1985 interview. “I played with children that were white, children that were Indian, and black children in my neighborhood.”

Nor were her parents dissatisfied with the black school she was attending. What upset Oliver Brown was the distance Linda had to travel to get to school — first a walk through a rail yard and across a busy road, then a bus ride.

“When I first started the walk it was very frightening to me,” she said, “and then when wintertime came, it was a very cold walk. I remember that. I remember walking, tears freezing up on my face, because I began to cry.”

In an interview with The Miami Herald in 1987, she remembered the fateful day in September 1950 when her father took her to the Sumner School.

“It was a bright, sunny day and we walked briskly,” she said, “and I remember getting to these great big steps.”

The school told her father no, she could not be enrolled.

“I could tell something was wrong, and he came out and took me by the hand and we walked back home,” she said. “We walked even more briskly, and I could feel the tension being transferred from his hand to mine.”

In its ruling, the Supreme Court threw out the prevailing “separate but equal” doctrine, which had allowed racial segregation in the schools as long as students of all races were afforded equal facilities.

“To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race,” the court said, “generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”

By the time of the ruling, Ms. Brown was in an integrated junior high school. She later became an educational consultant and public speaker.

Her family was among several that reopened the original Brown case in 1979 to argue that the job of integration in Topeka remained incomplete. The case resulted in the opening of several magnet schools.

History Of Civil Rights Legislation Leads For Hope With Gun Control Laws

It is amazing to think that following the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution it took roughly a century for any meaningful civil rights legislation to pass the United States Senate.  There were all sorts of outrageous actions taking place in the South from making sure blacks could not vote due to  poll taxes and tests, to the barbaric murders from lynchings.  When President Truman pressed his civil rights agenda as late as 1949 the Southern bloc of senators, and some of the Republican Party controlled by Taft, made sure that nothing was going to pass that would allow for the civil rights of this segment of America to be granted.

The Southern bloc tried to spin their tale that everything was working in harmony in the former states that had succeeded during the Civil War.  Blacks and whites were pleased with how much progress had been made, these white elected officials said.  There was no need for national legislation as there was no problem that required to be fixed.    Any attempt at such a national response was unconstitutional and against states rights they claimed as they stood for hours at a time filibustering in the senate.

“We can fix the problems ourselves,” Richard Russell, Jr. of Georgia stated.   No anti-lynching legislation was needed, he said, as the states were able to pass their own laws.  Yet prior to Russell being in the senate he had been speaker of his legislature, and also served as governor, but with his power and popularity never once made an attempt to pass anti-lynching legislation.

It was not until 1957 that the power of the Southern Bloc buckled and the dam was opened for justice to start moving to the people.  The results prove what can happen when forces are aligned to move a nation forward.  Blacks faced threats, and worse, throughout the south for just trying to cast a ballot.  But then in decades to come an African-American was elected president–for two terms!  No one can tell a reader of history that there is no way to win on an issue.   And, furthermore, the progress in our nation is always towards the liberal turn.

History is always the guide for the future.  Never forget it.

I certainly do not know what further horrific shooting will be the last action required before congress acts on gun control legislation.  But history tells us the day will arrive when congress will hear the pleas and take the action Americans all over this land cry out for.    That is, after all, how the arc of history bends.

Six Shots Ripped Through Michael Brown’s Body, Two In Skull

There is no way to not conclude Michael Brown was murdered.  

Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot dead by a white police officer on August 9. He was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, according to the preliminary results of an autopsy that his family requested.

Family attorney Anthony Gray said the independent autopsy conducted Sunday found that Brown was shot twice in the head and four times in the right arm — all to the front of his body.

Last week, the St. Louis County Police Department said an original autopsy found that the teen died of gunshot wounds. But the department wouldn’t say how many times he was shot or give any other details.

According to the preliminary results of the family autopsy, the bullets that struck Brown were not fired from close range, as indicated by the absence of gunpowder residue on his body.

One of the bullets shattered his right eye, traveled through his face, exited his jaw and re-entered his collarbone, according to the autopsy.

The last two shots were probably the ones to his head, attorney Gray said. One entered the top of his Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when he was struck.

The independent autopsy was conducted by high-profile pathologist Michael Baden, who testified in the O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector and Drew Peterson murder trials.

Another Autopsy on Michael Brown To Be Conducted

The level of intensity to make sure the investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown was ratcheted up today with the announcement of another autopsy.

The federal government will perform their own autopsy on the unarmed teen shot dead by local police in Ferguson, Missouri.  The feds have already opened up a civil-rights investigation into the case which has sparked outrage in the black community across the country.

There seems to me a need also to have a special prosecutor that can step in–and perhaps better stated as stepping over the local DA–to make sure that justice and a complete investigation is conducted.  Nothing that has happened on the local level in Ferguson up to this point has allowed for those of us who watch this story from around the nation to have any degree of trust in their competency.

It only makes sense that everything is done to make sure that competent people run the investigation and make the calls for how justice can be obtained.

Miami Dolphins Need To Talk To Don Jones About Anti-Gay Comment Concerning Michael Sam

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Don Jones

UPDATE–The Dolphins responded quickly, ordering Jones to pay an undisclosed fine and barring him from team activities until he finishes “training for his recent comments made on social media.”

Jones issued a mea culpa for his remarks.

“I want to apologize to Michael Sam for the inappropriate comments that I made last night on social media,” he said in a statement Sunday.

“I take full responsibility for them and I regret that these tweets took away from his draft moment. I remember last year when I was drafted in the seventh round and all of the emotions and happiness I felt when I received the call that gave me an opportunity to play for an NFL team and I wish him all the best in his NFL career.”

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There seems to be universal reaction of the positive kind to the news from yesterday regarding the football draft pick of Michael Sam.  He was the first openly gay player to enter the draft.

Sam’s selection at No. 249 by the Rams, and the nationally televised kiss he shared with boyfriend shortly thereafter, immediately set off a wave of reaction on social media. As one might expect there had to be one screw-ball in the bunch of tweets to muck it up.  In this case it was Miami Dolphins second-year defensive back Don Jones.

Before I venture further it might be noted that the Dolphins were not a very powerful presence on the field in 2013, so one might think any member of that organization might just keep his head low and do some more push-ups in preparation for the up-coming season.

But that is not what Jones did.

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Immediately after the airing of the video of the kiss Jones tweeted out “omg”, and then to underscore his red-neck quality when someone asked if he was referring to the embrace, he responded: “horrible.”

First this attitude is exactly why the NFL is needing to bring itself into the 21st century, and get in line with the rest of society.  There need to be more men like Sam who will come out of the closet, and shame the likes of Jones to be quiet.

Second, I find it troubling that Jones is not more in line with the civil rights fight for gay people.  He might be reminded what the history books say about the broad coalition of society that gathered to fight for and expand the rights of his race over the decades.  It is time now for Jones and all other African-Americans to lend their voice to the cause of removing injustices for gay people.

 

All Should Support End Of New York Police Department Spying On Muslims

It is too easy to say that in times of crisis abuses of civil liberties are just bound to take place.  That may be an easy place for the mind to go when events such as 9/11 take place, but any sober reflection on the matter will quickly dispel the idea that abusing civil liberties is a good  idea.  Sadly in the case of New York it has taken quite some time to end one of the most unfair practices aimed at Muslims.

It was announced this week that NYPD has abandoned a secretive program that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and also build detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped.

Did the New York police bring in former East German secret police to make sure it was all done properly?  To seriously think that all Muslims need to be monitored or that they are all terrorists is just lunacy.

Instead of producing any results the only thing accomplished with this violation of civil rights was an undermining of faith the Muslim community needs to have with our government.  That is exactly the opposite direction any rational  person would consider if their first desire was national security.

One can assume the most the police got out of this exercise was the knowledge we all put our pants on the same way, and love hot coffee.  So the police discovered where Albanian men played chess, Egyptians watched soccer and where South Asians played cricket.

All those being watched and monitored were just like you and me except they were Muslims.

I hope the lawsuits that have been brought from this action by the police are settled in a way that sends a resounding statement to future leaders that this abuse of civil liberties is never acceptable.

 

 

Gay Marriage Starts Monday In New Jersey

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Another step is being taken in the long march for full civil rights for gay Americans when New Jersey starts to allow for marriage ceremonies on Monday.

Late last week New Jersey’s highest court cleared the way for gay marriage even though Republican Governor Chris Christie for what I think is purely presidential reasons (such as Iowa caucus goers) has spoken out against the nuptials.  With the first “I do” New Jersey becomes the 14th state allowing for gay marriage.

That is a good thing for our nation and our society.

The court ruling is spawned from a lower court decision that found the existing civil-union legislation to be unconstitutional and discriminatory.  The state high court when ruling in favor of gay marriage stated “We can find no public interest in depriving a group of New Jersey residents of their constitutional right to equal protection while the appeals process unfolds.”

It is most clear to all that civil unions are more than half-a-loaf short of meaningful protection when it comes to legal rights for gay people.  Civil union partners in New Jersey were not eligible for a long list of federal benefits including such things as leave time under the Family and Medical Leave Act, or the attaining of coverage for health benefits as a “spouse” of a federal employee.  Gay couples were also not able to file a joint federal tax return.

No matter how one slices or dices the issue there is only one solution.

That is the fair and equitable allowing of gay men and women to marry not only in New Jersey but in all fifty states.

The opposition to gay marriage, such as the fake partisan rationale of Governor Christie, must end.