Saturday, February 14, 2015

191.3 - Not Good News: still a long way to go on LGBT rights

Not Good News: still a long way to go on LGBT rights

Just a couple of quick hits as a reminder that while we surely are winning on the issue of marriage equality, there is still a long way to go on the overall issue of LGBT rights.

For one thing, 11 states have rules spelling out how teachers should cover homosexuality if the subject comes up which either specifically denigrate homosexuality or present heterosexuality as the only acceptable (or even the only possible) course.

For another, Rep. Chris Smith said during a January 27 hearing before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, "I am a strong believer in traditional marriage, and do not construe homosexual rights as human rights." Apparently, homosexuals are not quite human.

His excuse for this claptrap is that there is no consensus in the US or globally supporting same-sex marriage as a human right and he is interested in "universally recognized human rights for all." So only rights "universally recognized" work for him. So much for same-sex marriage. So much for bans on workplace discrimination against LGBT people. So much for, um, women voting - make up your own list of rights not "universally recognized."

It might also be interesting to look at the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the US is a signatory, and see how those "universally recognized" rights square up with Smith's overall voting record.

Meanwhile, there is a bill in Mississippi that would define anyone who is homosexual as an unfit parent who should not be allowed custody of a minor.

And there is a bill in Oklahoma which aims to hinder same-sex marriage by a roundabout route. It would strip judges of the power to officiate at marriages and court clerks of the role of issuing marriage licenses. Instead, those roles would be held by clergy - specifically, a "preacher, minister, priest, rabbi or ecclesiastical dignitary," clergy who could, of course, grant or refuse to grant licenses according to their own religious beliefs. Religious freedom, doncha know.

So what happens to those iced out, not only same-sex couples, but, it would appear, anyone who is neither Christian nor Jewish?

Well, says the bill's author, you could file an affidavit claiming common-law marriage. One problem: Oklahoma doesn’t recognize common-law marriage, a fact of which I doubt he is unaware.

Finally and most significantly because those two laws are probably unlikely to pass, on February 10 Kansas Governor Sam Brownback rescinded an executive order issued by then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius in 2007 that offered workplace protections for gay, lesbian, and bisexual state employees.

In its place, Brownback said he was reaffirming the state's "commitment" to employment practices that do not discriminate based on "race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry or age." But, clearly, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, hey, those are just fine.

So if you're a state worker in Kansas who has been out during the over seven years the previous order was in effect, you'd better hope you haven't had any arguments with a vindictive supervisor.

Like I said, still a lot more to do.

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