Saturday, July 25, 2015

213.2 - The fight for LGBT rights goes on

The fight for LGBT rights goes on

When the Supreme Court, or at least a majority of it, recognized that the fundamental right to marry should not be limited by the gender of the person you love any more than it should be limited by their race, I celebrated it - but added that this did not mean the fight for equal rights for LGBT, of it you prefer, LGBTQ, people. So a few notes on various fronts on that.

For one, the bigots are still searching out ways they can continue to discriminate and - well, be bigots - and it  turns out that the US Senate - or, to be accurate, a sufficient number of the members of the US Senate - have got their backs.

Just over a week ago, the Senate voted down the Student Nondiscrimination Act, intended to provide LGBTQ some protections against bullying and unfair treatment.

The legislation, actually got a majority of votes including some from the GOPpers - but the vote was 52-45, meaning it fell short of the supermajority of 60 votes that every damn thing needs now because filibusters have become quite literally a routine part of Senate business.

The would have established a mandate that public schools must refrain from and actively combat, anti-LGBT discrimination in those schools. The bill also would have empowered LGBT students to seek help through the courts if they felt they had been discriminated against. And of course we couldn't have that.

Senator Al Franken, who has championed the measure for several years, noted that the bill would simply take the protections against discrimination or harassment which already exist for factors such as gender, race, national origin, and disability and extend them to cover LGBT students. Quoting Franken on the need for the bill:
More than 30 percent of LGBT kids report missing a day of school in the previous month because they felt unsafe. Nearly 75 percent of LGBT students say they’ve been verbally harassed at school. And more than 35 percent of LGBT kids report being physically attacked.
His words were given added weight by a recent report from the New York Civil Liberties Union, the state branch of the ACLU, which found that transgender students in that supposedly liberal state are facing high levels of discrimination and illegal treatment, including exclusion, segregation, and unconstitutional bias - and it’s likely that this is commonplace in many parts of the United States.

However, opponents of Franken's bill dismissed it as "well-intentioned" but would lead to "costly lawsuits." Which is kind of odd since states - such as New York - which have adopted state-level protections of LGBT students have not seen a big rise in lawsuits. Others said LGBT students are already covered under Title IX, even though Title IX makes no mention of LGBT students and besides, if they are already covered, what is the problem with saying so specifically? Finally, it was argued that this is a local-level, education issue, not a federal-level one, an argument I will take as a sincere one when and only when those same people start moving to strip away protections based on gender, race, national origin, and the rest and openly propose leaving all such protections to those same jurisdictions which haven't acted on them before.

Meanwhile on another front, speaking of the local level, there are, of course, still the country clerks who refuse to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples, sometimes trying to cover themselves by refusing to give out any marriage licenses at all but who even then will cop to religious bigotry as the reason for their actions.

Now, the rational response is to say "if you refuse to do your job, if you claim your religion prevents you from doing your job, then quit." But that, again, is the rational response, which doesn't apply here because like most right wingers, they want to stand up for what they believe in - without ever facing any consequences. So they want to be able to refuse to do their jobs yet still keep them.

But for the right wingers in Congress, that's small stuff. They're thinking big. In fact, they want to help every anti-LGBT bigot ignore laws and violate the human rights of LGBT folk at no cost to themselves.

Right wingers in both houses of Congress are pushing a bill that would ban any federal-level "discriminatory action"
against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
In the bill, "person" is defined in a way that would include even for-profit corporations and "discriminatory" means any change in pretty much anything related to tax status, federal contracts, benefits, employment, and more. Put another way, some corporation decides that "God hates fags" and fires an employee for marrying a same-sex partner, or some "Christian" organization turns away gay people from federally-funded homeless shelters and drug programs, and the feds pretty much have to act as if that is just fine.

The bill already has 130 cosponsors in the House and it is thought it will pass if it comes to a vote. The prospects in the Senate are dimmer but that doesn't mean they won't push it as part of working to legitimizing this whole idea of theocracy.

Finally for now, there's another reason to bring this bill up: note the phrase "or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage." This bill would essentially empower any business anywhere in the country to fire anyone, any time, for any sex of any kind outside of heterosexual marriage without fear of any consequences from the feds. Some folk have been saying it allows for discrimination against unwed mothers - and yes, women do get fired for getting pregnant outside of marriage - but in fact it clearly goes well beyond that.

And this is not just a case of poor wording or not thinking it through. Sen. Mike Lee, who introduced the Senate version of the bill, was asked about a hypothetical university firing an unmarried woman for having sex out of wedlock. He said, "There are colleges and universities that have a religious belief that sexual relations are to be reserved for marriage" and they "ought to be protected in their religious freedom." In other words, they know exactly what they are saying.

Just last week, in discussing a suit about insurance coverage of birth control, I said "we told you years ago they would not stop at abortion." You can't say you weren't warned this sort of thing was coming.

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