Anti-LGBT lawsuits are already headed to U.S. Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (Blade file photo by Michael Key) Precisely on cue with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-LGBT groups have filed lawsuits challenging LGBT rights that may in the near future serve to test the new justice on his position on the issue.
The complaints — two filed in federal court, one filed in state court — were filed in Texas and seek to challenge the City of Austin’s LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. agency charged with federal employment civil rights law, over its interpretation of Title VII to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in the workforce.
But Austin’s LGBT-inclusive ordinance has been on the books for some time and the EEOC has taken charge of anti-LGBT discrimination for years under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (The EEOC determined in the 2012 decision of Macy v. Holder that federal law bars anti-trans discrimination in employment and in the 2015 decision of Baldwin c. Foxx federal law bars anti-gay discrimination.)
Conspicuously, the two federal lawsuits were filed on Oct. 6, the exact date Kavanaugh was confirmed as a U.S. associate justice to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh won’t have a chance to act on the newly filed lawsuits anytime soon, but they will likely percolate through the courts, giving anti-LGBT groups the opportunity to file petitions for review.
The newly confirmed justice, chosen by President Trump from a list of potential nominees backed by the Federalist Society and the anti-LGBT Heritage Foundation, could be the fifth and deciding vote on whether to preserve LGBT rights if the petitions in the federal cases come before the Supreme Court. (The lawsuit in state court raising state claims will be left to Texas state court. Kavanaugh or the Supreme Court wouldn’t be asked to review the decisions.)
The federal lawsuit against EEOC asserts the LGBT protections violate the religious freedom of churches under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by forcing them to hire employee who are LGBT despite religious objections of the employer. (Current law doesn’t require churches to hire pastors who are LGBT contrary to religious beliefs, but does prohibit religiously affiliated organizations from engaging in anti-LGBT discrimination for non-ministerial positions.)
Similarly, the federal lawsuit against Austin’s ordinance asserts a violation of the Free Exercise Clause under the First Amendment in addition to making religious freedom claims under the Texas Constitution and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
A shared plaintiff in the two federal lawsuits is the U.S. Pastor Council, a Houston-based community of Christian conservatives that also unsuccessfully pushed for the anti-transgender bathroom legislation in Texas. In the case against EEOC, the Houston-based Hotze Health & Wellness Center, a Christian-owned business in Houston that seeks to refuse to hire LGBT employees is a plaintiff. In the state lawsuit, Texas Values, a social conservative non-profit in Austin, is the sole plaintiff.
The religious freedom claims in the lawsuits may be seeking to capitalize on Kavanaugh’s remarks during his confirmation hearing, when Kavanaugh said in response to questions from conservative senators like Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that religious freedom should be protected in the “public square.”
“The Framers understood the importance of protecting conscience,” Kavanaugh said. “It’s akin to the free speech protection in many ways. No matter what God you worship, or if you worship no God at all, you are equally American…If you have religious beliefs, religious people, religious speech, you have just as much right to be in the public square and to participate in public programs as others do. You can’t be denied just because of religious status.”
In response to these lawsuits, pro-LGBT groups may have to seek relief soon from either the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. The lawsuit against the EEOC was assigned to U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee with a reputation for being hostile to LGBT rights. (O’Connor issued a nationwide injunction against Obama-era guidance instructing schools Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 requires schools to allow transgender kids to use the restroom of their choice.) The other federal case against Austin’s LGBT-inclusive ordinance is pending before U.S. District Judge Robert Pittman, an Obama appointee.
Jonathan Mitchell, an Austin-based attorney whose law firm Mitchell Law PLLC filed each of the lawsuits, declined to comment on whether the timing of the lawsuits was intended to coincide with the confirmation of Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, citing a practice of not commenting on pending litigation.
LGBT legal experts were hesitant to ascribe the filing of the new litigation with the addition of the new conservative to the high court, but predicted they were the kind of lawsuits they would expect anti-LGBT groups to file in greater capacity in the aftermath of the confirmation.
Jon Davidson, legal director for Freedom for All Americans, said he isn’t sure whether the lawsuits were timed to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but foresees “more aggressive litigation moves in federal courts by anti-LGBTQ forces due to the increasing number of appointments of federal judges with histories of opposition to LGBTQ rights and Justice Kennedy’s retirement.”
“I believe these lawsuits are a continuation of efforts by anti-LGBTQ organizations and politicians’ efforts to weaken, if not invalidate, local nondiscrimination protections in Texas and elsewhere, notwithstanding the history of local government regulation in this area,” Davidson said. “I further believe the lawsuits are a continuation of efforts to distort the concept of religious freedom from the right to believe a license to use religion to act in violation of others’ rights. All of us care about religious freedom — that’s why it’s part of the Constitution’s promise to all Americans. That will never be up for debate. But religious freedom should be used as a shield, not as a weapon, and its reach should not be distorted in order to harm LGBTQ people or anyone else.”
James Esseks, director of the LGBT and HIV project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said Kavanaugh’s test “may come sooner” given cases on LGBT rights were already waiting for the new justice before the Supreme Court prior to his confirmation.
Among them is a petition from Harris Funeral Homes in Michigan challenging a ruling from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals asserting it violated Title VII by terminating the employment of Aimee Stephens for transitioning. Two other petitions seeking clarification on whether Title VII applies to anti-gay discrimination are also pending before the Supreme Court.
“A growing chorus of appeals courts — and a solid majority of the American people — agree that firing someone because they are LGBTQ is against the law,” Esseks said. “The high court may weigh in on whether laws prohibiting sex discrimination in the workplace apply to discrimination towards LGBTQ people this term.”
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National Gay Media Association.
Akron-area nonprofits can apply for funding for LGBT-focused initiatives through the Gay Community Endowment Fund’s new impact grant program. ( AKRON, Ohio — Akron Community Foundation announced it will award impact grants starting at $10,000 to local LGBT programs through its Gay Community Endowment Fund .
The impact grant program will fund initiatives that focus on the health and wellbeing of Akron’s LGBT community.
The foundation will give preference to grant proposals supporting suicide prevention and mental-health programs, combating phobias about the community and creating safer environments for LGBT youth.
"This new grant-making approach allows us to strategically concentrate our funding on programs that will make a significant difference for the LGBTQ+ community," Phil Montgomery, Gay Community Endowment Fund advisory board chair, said in a news release.
The foundation also will accept LGBT-focused, micro-grant proposals starting at $1,000 for programs related to the arts, community events and operational needs for local nonprofits.
Applications for grant funding can be submitted starting on Nov. 15.
Gay Community Endowment Fund representatives have scheduled an information session for Thursday, Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. for those interested in the grant application process. The session is to be held at Akron Community Foundation, 345 West Cedar St., in Akron.
The deadline to apply for an impact grant is Dec. 15. The foundation will announce recipients of each type of grant in March 2019.
Contact John Garofalo, Akron Community Foundation vice president of community investment at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-436-5624 for more information about the impact grant application process.
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Protests after homophobic attack in Paris The latest spur of violence took place on Wednesday against Guillaume Mélanie, head of NGO Urgence Homophobia, a charity that helps the LGBT community obtain asylum in France.
Mélanie says he was punched in the face as he was coming out of a restaurant and told that he "should be burned".
He shared pictures of his injuries on social media , prompting reactions of support, including a message from Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo.
More homophobic attacks being reported
According to latest figures provided by Paris police headquarters, homophobic attacks in the French capital are actually decreasing.
There were 20 fewer attacks so far this year as compared to 2017, according to official sources.
However, gay rights organisation SOS Homophobia recorded a 15 percent rise in physical attacks. The figure was based on the number of calls on their helpline.
"That could also be because people are more willing to speak out publicly" points out James Creedon, who presents Media Watch on France 24.
Paris has an established LGBT community and a reputation for being gay-friendly.
The city also hosts one of the most important Gay Pride events in Europe, and hosted the 10th Gay Games earlier this year.
Increasing awareness of homophobic attacks through social media has lead to calls for concrete action.
Clémence Zamora Cruz, spokesperson for Inter-LGBT, told RFI a global plan against LGBT phobia was needed, starting with educational programs in school.
She is also asking the government to take concrete action over attacks on the LGBT community, rather than spending its energy on issues such as medically assisted procreation for lesbian couples.
The LGBT community in France have acquired many rights over the last two decades, including the right to form civil unions and to marry.
However, resistance to these measures remains strong in France, as massive protests against gay marriage a few years ago showed.
The Ashers Baking Company’s branch in Royal Avenue (pictured), Belfast, is set to close. (Paul Faith/AFP/Getty) The Northern Ireland bakery company at the centre of the ‘ gay cake’ discrimination row will close its central Belfast branch because it’s not “busy enough.”
The general manager of the Belfast branch Daniel McArthur, who was a public face of the Ashers Baking Company’s legal battle to counter a discrimination claim against a LGBT activist, explained the the shop was closing because it was not trading as well as its other eight outlets in the east Antrim and Belfast area.
“It simply comes down to the figures. We decided not to renew the lease,” he told the Belfast Telegraph on October 19.
“Belfast city centre isn’t busy enough—our other shops are much busier.”
He added: “It’s been planned for some time, and I am pleased to say there will be no job losses.”
The Ashers Baking Company joint is less than 100 metres away from a Primark store, which was ravaged by a fire in August.
A number of fundamentalist Christians claimed the blaze was divine retribution, after a row over Primark’s Pride selection. Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy McArthur hold a press conference after a judge ruled their Christian-run bakery discriminated against Gareth Lee in 2015. (Charles McQuillan/Getty) On Friday (October 19), Belfast City Council announced a £1.69 million funding injection into the city centre, with businesses reporting a sharp dip in revenue after the Primark fire.
Alderman Jim Rodgers, chair of the city council’s strategic policy and resources committee, said in a press release: “We know that businesses around the cordon [next to Primark] are really suffering from a drop in footfall.” On October 10, the Supreme Court ruled that Ashers Baking Company was not guilty of discrimination by refusing to bake a pro-gay marriage cake , in a ruling that was criticised by LGBT+ activists.
The decision followed a four-year-old dispute that started when Gareth Lee, a LGBT+ advocate with Queer Space, paid the bakery to make a cake to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The bakery, owned by the McArthur family, refunded Lee after refusing to bake a cake showing the message ‘Support Gay Marriage’ above an image of Sesame Street ’s Bert and Ernie citing religious values.
Lee took the bakery to court in Belfast alleging violation of the Equality Act (2010), saying the bakery’s refusal made him “feel like a lesser person.” The bakery was found guilty of discrimination based on sexual orientation and political or religious grounds in 2015.
Ashers Baking Company appealed the decision, which was dismissed a year later . But the bakery insisted on fighting the initial conviction, considering taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights, and eventually announcing in 2017 it would appeal to the UK Supreme Court .
“The bakers’ objection was to the message and not to the man,” president of the Supreme Court Lady Hale said in her judgement. The ruling considered the claim of discrimination on three grounds—sexual orientation, political beliefs, and impact of European Convention of Human Rights—and found that the bakery was within its right to refuse Lee.
“It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone a service because of that person’s race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any of the other protected personal characteristics. But that is not what happened in this case,” Lady Hale said.
The prolonged court case became a symbolic battleground for LGBT+ rights and marriage equality in Northern Ireland, the only part of the United Kingdom which has not legalised same-sex marriage . LGBT+ couples can enter a civil partnership instead.
Netflix’s Making a Murderer returns, offering an update on Steven Avery’s bid to overturn his murder conviction, but who are the two women behind the show?
It took Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi 10 years to collect and edit all the footage that eventually found a home on Netflix as the groundbreaking episodic documentary Making a Murderer .
In the time following the series premiere in 2015, the pair have frequently found themselves in the media, conducting interviews and generally responding to newfound public interest in the incarceration of Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey.
But less is known about the pair themselves: where they met, their professional background and how they funded their decade-long passion project. Who are Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi?
CREDIT: DAN DOPERALSKI Demos and Ricciardi met whilst both were studying for post-graduate degrees in film at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. They had been dating for two years when, in 2005, they read an article about Steven Avery’s case in The New York Times . As is well documented , they travelled down to Wisconsin the following month and began filming.
Prior to moving into documentary film-making, Ricciardi had worked as a lawyer and Demos had worked as an electrician on a number of film projects . In particular, Demos worked on the set of films Pollock (2000) and You Can Count on Me (2000).
Since Making a Murderer was largely self-funded , neither of them could entirely give up their previous lines of work. The pair managed to win sponsorship from the New York Foundation for the Arts after a year of working on the film, which gave them easier access to funds and donations, but due to the ongoing nature of the project, they both had to do other work in order to raise production money.
Ricciardi worked as an attorney while Demos again worked on film sets , notably working as an electrician on the Angelina Jolie film Salt (2010) and the comedy Get Him to the Greek (2010).
Fingers lengths might give you an idea of someone’s sexuality – at some point in the future (Pexels) The relative lengths of your left hand’s index and ring finger may be able to show whether you’re gay or straight , according to new research.
The study , carried out by Essex University researchers and published in peer-reviewed The Archives of Sexual Behaviour , proposed that people who received higher levels of androgens—a sex hormone which is more present in males—in the womb were more likely to be attracted to women. It might be better to just politely ask people their sexuality (Pexels)The scientists suggested that prenatal androgen levels could be analysed by looking at the fingers of 32 sets of adult twins who have different sexualities to each other.
They found that for women, if your ring and index fingers are a significantly different length to each other, you’re more likely to be gay, whereas if they’re similar lengths, you have a greater chance of being straight.
Researchers said that the distinction in finger length between the gay and straight male twins was less pronounced, stating in their results that “this difference was not significant.”
Dr Fran Amery, a lecturer at Bath University who supervises PhD students in gender and public policy and reproductive and sexual politics , told PinkNews that there was more to the story presented by research. The results were more significant for women — but can’t be called conclusive (Pexels) “The obvious point to make is that the study has a tiny sample size—only 18 female twin pairs and 14 male twin pairs,” she said. “So we should be wary of trying to generalise from these findings to the population as a whole.
“However, I’d be kind on the authors on this point. These small-n studies are often conducted as pilots to make the case for funding for a much larger study of the phenomenon, and aren’t intended to be definitive.
“It’s often unhelpful when they’re sensationalised in the press and presented as the ‘scientific’ truth. If you read the full paper, the authors are quite cautious in their interpretation of the findings.”
Dr Tuesday Watts, who worked on the study, remarked on the press release accompanying the research that “looking at someone’s hands could provide a clue to their sexuality.” “Usually when such a correlation is found, it’s a very weak one” (Pexels) Also, Dr Amery explained that though this area of research is worth exploring, the results are not yet conclusive.
“This isn’t the first study to find a correlation between finger length and sexual orientation—although, as far as I’m aware, it’s the first to compare identical twins,” said the professor.
“However, usually when such a correlation is found, it’s a very weak one,” she continued, adding: “Gay and bi people may have slightly different finger length ratios on average to straight people, but it absolutely doesn’t follow from this that it’s possible to predict someone’s sexuality just by looking at their hands.”
From the first time holding hands in public, to the first time realising you were LGBT+, we all have a first time story.
First Times is a PinkNews series, with each episode dedicated to a different identity under the LGBT+ umbrella.
In the first episode, bisexual women shared their first times . The last episode saw YouTubers Rose and Rosie reveal the first time they had sex .
Now the series returns with a lesbian couple special.
From the moment they met, kissed and had an argument, three couples share their stories on camera. In this episode, Maya and Lyra, Liz and Gaby, and Joanna and Spencer, open up about the first time they fell in love. Liz, 66, and Gaby, 74, have been together for 33 years. Both activists, they recently got married and are both living with cancer. Liz and Gaby have been together for 33 years (PinkNews) Liz revealed the moment they first met: “I remember it was deep winter 1984, just before Christmas, there was snow and you were dressed in sort of moon boots.”
“You were wearing that terrible woolly hat,” Gaby added. “That you eventually lost, thank goodness.”
Joanna and Spencer, who identifies as non-binary and lesbian, met in Bath in November last year. Joanna and Spencer (PinkNews) Spencer said: “We went shopping for plaid shirts—the gayest thing we could have done.”
Maya and Lyra met at Black Pride last year—but couldn’t agree on who approached who. Maya and Lyra (PinkNews) “I was too shy to just go in for a kiss so I told you I’d never actually had a kiss I enjoyed,” Lyra admitted.
“And I was like: ‘Do you want one?’,” Maya laughed.
Watch the video above see the couples reveal the first time they met, had an argument, kissed, experienced homophobia, and said ‘I love you.’
The consultation website. (Government Equalities Office) The public consultation for the government’s proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) has been extended to noon on Monday (October 22), after several people reported struggling to get on to the site.
A number of Twitter users complained that they were unable to access the GRA consultation form on a government website on Friday afternoon (October 19), a few hours before the initial 11pm deadline.
The issue has since been addressed by the Government Equalities Office on its official Twitter account. The GRA deadline has been extended. (WomenEqualities/Twitter) “Some people are having difficulty accessing the GRA consultation due to a high number of submissions,” the Women and Equalities Office wrote in a statement.
“We are ensuring everyone can take part by extending the deadline to noon Monday 22 Oct.”
The government has previously said it wants to de-medicalise the process to legally change genders.
This means it could introduce a self-identification system, which is used in other countries like the Republic of Ireland, Norway and Denmark.
Currently, trans people have to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate—after being medically diagnosed with gender dysphoria and proving that they have lived in their “acquired gender” for at least two years—in order to legally change gender. Twitter users complained about being unable to access the government website. (Sarah_Hayward/Twitter) Trans campaigners have criticised the process for being overly bureaucratic, intrusive and dehumanising.
Social media posted about being unable to access the public consultation website. The deadline has been extended to Monday October 22. (Sara_Rose_G/Twitter) One Twitter user vented: “Trying to fill out the GRA consultation but the website is refusing to go beyond the first page in any browser. Internet otherwise working fine. This is extremely frustrating.”
Another Twitter user said: “Is anyone else having trouble filling in the GRA consultation through the website? loads of people I know are? Like it’s not loading past the first page. What’s this about / how do we complain?”
And one person wrote: “Hi @Govt_Equality do you know how slow the GRA consultation pages are running? Guess like me lot of ppl are last minute charlies, any chance of doing something about it? Add bandwidth/extend deadline etc?”
On Thursday (October 18), a trans woman got a huge round of applause on the BBC’s Question Time after she busted myths about gender recognition and spoke about her own experiences during a panel discussion on the reform of the GRA.
“I am a trans woman, and I’ve been like this for 50 or 60 years. I can’t describe the deep pain and depression that I’ve had to go through because people in society rejected me as a person,” she said.
“That is almost impossible to describe to anyone. To be rejected is incredibly difficult to experience, and it’s taken me a long, long time to work through the pain to become me.
Richard Grenell, US ambassador to Germany (DANIEL BOCKWOLDT/AFP/Getty) US President Donald Trump is reportedly considering picking an openly gay official to serve as the new UN Ambassador.
Conservative Richard Grenell is reportedly one of the candidates that could replace moderate Republican Nikki Haley, who on October 9 announced her plans to step down as the US Ambassador to the United Nations at the end of the year.
Politico reports that several advisers close to Trump have put forward Grenell’s name for the vacancy. If confirmed, he would become the most senior out LGBT+ official in the United States.
Grenell, who was previously a US spokesperson at the UN under George W. Bush, is currently serving as Trump’s ambassador to Germany since May. Richard Grenell, US ambassador to Germany (DANIEL BOCKWOLDT/AFP/Getty) I n June, Grenell faced calls to be sacked after he told a far-right publication he would work to “empower” conservatives across Europe.
Grenell had given a controversial interview to Breitbart News in which he promised to help Europe’s anti-migrant conservative movements.
He said: “Many migrants have been allowed to come in, that was the policy of Chancellor Merkel.
“There are a lot of conservatives throughout Europe who have contacted me to say they are feeling there is a resurgence going on.
“I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders. I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left.
“There’s no question about that and it’s an exciting time for me. I look across the landscape and we’ve got a lot of work to do but I think the election of Donald Trump has empowered individuals and people to say that they can’t just allow the political class to determine before an election takes place, who’s going to win and who should run.” Ambassador Richard Grenell (Sean Gallup/Getty) The comments, an apparent breach of diplomatic protocol on political neutrality, had led to calls for Grenell’s dismissal.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said: “An ambassador’s most critical responsibility is to advance our national interests by developing relationships and trust with their host country.
“They should not meddle in local or regional politics by backing political parties, candidates or causes.
“The United States does not accept foreign meddling in our elections, and we shouldn’t have an ambassador attempting to intrude in another country’s political affairs.”
Grenell previously served as a spokesman for Mitt Romney during his presidential bid, until May 2012 .
His nomination as ambassador to Germany faced opposition from Democrats in the Senate for making derogatory remarks about women on Twitter and criticising the appearances of Hillary Clinton and US ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich.
He apologised for the comments and deleted them from social media platform.
Kydis Zellinger was attacked on Monday night. (screenshot/Bristol Live video) A teenager was allegedly beaten up on a bus in Bristol in a homophobic attack by a man yelling anti-gay slurs.
Kydis Zellinger, 18, was attacked by the unidentified man on Monday night (October 15).
Police are treating the incident as a hate crime and have arrested a 27-year old man in connection with the assault, reports Bristol Live. A man has reportedly been arrested in connection with the attack.(Kydis Zellinger/Facebook) Zellinger posted about the incident on Facebook, explaining that it happened on the number 76 bus.
The teenager said a man came upstairs on the bus, “aggressively” telling the 18-year old: “You little f***ing Queer who do you think you’re getting mouthy to [sic]?!”
Zellinger wrote: “I replied: ‘What, when?!’ Obviously really confused because I didn’t understand what was going on, before I could even reply he proceeded to punch me straight in the face and walk away toward the back of the bus. I was stunned and didn’t even know how to process what just happened.”
The 18-year old said that the man walked off, before coming back and shouting more anti-gay slurs. He then proceeded to hit Zellinger again. The teenager added: “[He] got in front of me so I couldn’t move and repeatedly punched me from behind, and then from in front. I fell backward on the chairs to try and protect my head but I couldn’t get him off of me.”
Zellinger added that a woman, who was with the man, then intervened and restrained the perpetrator.
The 18-year old sale assistant said no-one else on the bus helped during the attack. Zellinger posted about the attack on Facebook. (Kydis Zellinger/Facebook) “The attack was completely unprovoked, unnecessary and cruel. To be called a gay queer amongst other homophobic slurs just proves what kind of attack this was,” Zellinger said.
“I’m leaving the issue in the hands of the police for now, and I just hope he gets bought to justice so he cannot do this to anybody else.”
Zellinger went on to praise people for their support since the attack.
“I just want to say that I am truly and beyond thankful to every single person for all the support, I will do my best to get back to all of you as soon as I can,” Zellinger continued.
“You guys truly don’t understand how much this means to me, thank you all for the endless support and love, you’re all incredible and there are no words to describe how much I appreciate it.”
PinkNews has contacted Zellinger for comment.