Universal Credit claimants are left “swimming against a tide of unmanageable repayments” when they are forced to take loans ahead of their first payments, it has been claimed.
The comments come as the government has responded to a damning report by the work and pensions select committee, which raised concerns about claimant debt.
The controversial new welfare system, which combines six benefits payments into one, encourages claimants to take out a loan while they wait for their first payment.
Many people are forced to take out the interest-free loan – called an advance payment – because the first payments of the new benefit take at least five weeks to come through after claimants apply, and in the meantime their existing benefits are stopped.
The loans have to be paid back within 12 months.
The department for work and pensions “aggressive approach” to collecting debts can compound matters further, leaving claimants “swimming against a tide of unmanageable repayments” which “pile debt upon debt, trapping people in a downward spiral of debt and hardship”. Frank Field, chair of the committee, said.
In its recent report on support for childcare costs under Universal Credit the Committee expressed deep alarm at DWP’s suggestion that parents struggling to find the upfront payment for childcare, to enable them to get back into work, should take out a budgeting advance.
The department claimed budgeting advances are “not a loan”, despite the government’s own website stating that they are. Frank Field. Field said: “It is simply irresponsible of government to suggest that the way around this policy’s inherent problems is for struggling, striving parents to take on more debt – still more so to claim, untruthfully, that it is not a debt at all. It clearly is.”
The committee had already raised serious concerns about DWP’s approach to claimant debt and to recovering debt in its previous report about the new benefit system.
Regardless of how DWP describes them, the advance payments are a debt which must be repaid out of current income going forward, the committee said.
Persistent debt can prevent claimants from finding and staying in work, and the extra costs and pressures of debt can quickly spiral out of control, the committee found.
Yet, as the report noted, debt advice is not routinely offered as part of the service intended to help claimants navigate the transition to Universal Credit.
On Sunday, the committee published the government’s response to that report, alongside an exchange of correspondence on the question of claimant debt.
The DWP asked the Trussell Trust, 11 days before Christmas, to promote advance payments to claimants coming to their network of food banks because they are suffering hardship and hunger during the 5 week wait.
In a letter to the DWP following the request to the food bank charity, Field said he was “very concerned” that DWP did not mention that advances are a loan which must be repaid.
The committee has heard substantial evidence that many people who need to rely on food banks will already be swamped by debt, he said.
The “help” the department is offering would “simply pile another debt on top and add to [households’] misery”.
He added that Citizens Advice has also expressed to the committee in multiple evidence submissions the view that advance payments are simply another form of debt.
By: Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is adding sexual orientation and gender identity to her department’s list of workplace protections against discrimination.
Friday’s announcement means the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will include LGBT employment protections along with those based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age and disability.
It is the first agency to extend protections to transgender employees and applicants.
Fried was sworn in earlier this month and is the only Democrat to hold a statewide office in Florida.
She said she’s encouraging the state’s other two Cabinet members to enact similar policies.
A couple hundred people gathered Saturday at Payrow Plaza in Bethlehem for the Women’s March On the Lehigh Valley. (APRIL GAMIZ / THE MORNING CALL) Liberty High senior Georgia Skuza worried as she organized this year’s Women’s March on the Lehigh Valley that it wouldn’t be heavily attended, given the controversies surrounding the national Women’s March organization.
But as the 17-year-old looked out at a sea of pink hats and poster-board signs calling for equality and change, she felt “solidarity, happy and proud.” No compatible source was found for this media.
Saturday morning was the third annual Women’s March on the Lehigh Valley. Braving the frigid weather, about 200 women, men and children rallied at Bethlehem’s Payrow Plaza for equality, gun control, immigration reform and LGBT rights. The march, which Lehigh Valley for All helped Skuza organize, was smaller in attendance than the two previous ones.
Lehigh Valley organizers renounced their affiliation with the Women’s March amid controversy at the national level. The organization behind that march has been roiled by an intense ideological debate. In November, Teresa Shook, one of the movement’s founders, accused the four main leaders of the national march organization of anti-Semitism. This accusation was targeted specifically at two primary leaders: Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American with a long history of criticizing Israeli policy, and Tamika Mallory, who has maintained a longstanding association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
The four march organizers have denied the charge, but Sarsour has expressed regret that they were not “faster and clearer in helping people understand our values.”
Despite pleas for unity, an alternate women’s march spraing up in protest, with a rally Saturday in New York a few blocks from the official New York Women’s March protest, and rallies in other cities, including Bethlehem.
This wasn’t Skuza’s first time running a protest. Last year, she organized a walkout at her school as a call to end gun violence . The Liberty High walkout was one of many around the country in response to the Parkland, Fla., school massacre.
As a child, Skuza experienced a trauma that she said fueled her desire to help change the world. Next year, she will attend Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia to study political science.
Lehigh Valley Congresswoman Susan Wild , a Democrat who was one of the guest speakers Saturday, thanked Georgia for her work on the march.
“You’re a leader in the most diverse, most socially conscious, most progressive generation in our history,” Wild told her in front of a cheering crowd. “And this country urgently needs your leadership.”
In addition to Wild, speakers included Bethlehem City Councilwoman Olga Negron, Northampton County Councilwoman Tara Zrinski and Corinne Goodwin, leader of Lehigh Valley Transgender Renaissance.
Julie Shelley of Easton acknowledged Wild in a sign she held that included a photo of the women in the 116th Congress, which has the most female members in the country’s history. Last year, Shelley’s sign acknowledged the large number of women running for political office. Saturday, she wanted to note the progress made.
“This year, I’m happy to show the result,” she said.
For the last two years, Shelley has traveled to New York City for the Women’s March. This year, she felt it was more important to attend her community march.
Joan Howe of Bethlehem was never involved in politics before the 2016 presidential election. Since then, she’s canvassed for candidates, including Wild, and has attended protests. Saturday was her third time at the local Women’s March.
Howe’s sign said: “Diversity Makes America Great.”
“I like positive messages,” she said. “And this is the core of what’s going on in the country.”
WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) — “Proud Theater Wausau” partnered with North Central Healthcare on Saturday to host an open forum about mental health awareness.
“Mental health affects many people, especially teens and young adults,” said Dr. Ryan Stever. “It’s been stigmatized throughout the years and we just need to try to reduce the stigma and get people to seek services when they need them.”
The open discussion was aimed at middle to high school aged LGBT students. Coordinators for the event said it’s especially important to be aware of mental health at a younger age when you’re apart of the LGBT community.
“They’re accepted less in their community,” said Program Director Evelyn Bromberg. “They’re accepted less by their parents and there’s a really hard process that especially LGBT youth face.”
“Research shows a lot higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, suicide attempts among the LGBT community,” said Artistic Director Matthew Waltzman. “We want them to have a renewed sense of confidence in their own abilities to be able to deal with situations.”
“Proud Wausau Theater” said they look forward to continuing to provide resources to the LGBT community. Rib Mountain Senior Squadron celebrating 30 year anniversary
Last year Arctic Monkeys manager Ian McAndrew called for Viagogo to be shut down Campaigners say ticket resale company Viagogo is not fully complying with a court order to reform its practices.
In November, the firm was required to improve the information it gives to consumers, including details of the seller and seat numbers.
The company now insists it is compliant with the legal requirements.
But ticketing expert Reg Walker said Viagogo had not fulfilled its obligations and "seems determined to sit outside the law."
Last year a court ordered Viagogo to "overhaul" the way it does business following legal action by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
Under the court order Viagogo was obliged to: Tell ticket buyers if there is a risk they will be turned away at the door
Inform customers which seat they will get
Inform buyers who is selling the ticket
Make it easy for people to get their money back when things go wrong
Prevent the sale of tickets a seller does not own and may not be able to supply
Not give misleading information about the availability and popularity of tickets
The deadline for Viagogo to comply with the order was mid January – the same date by which other resale sites had agreed to change their practices. Viagogo ordered to clean up ticket sales
How Ed Sheeran is tackling ticket touts
The woman taking on ticket tout website
On 17 January Viagogo announced that it had met the deadline and was now compliant.
"All tickets on Viagogo are valid and it is perfectly legal to resell a ticket or give it to someone else if you want to," the company said. Why is Viagogo being criticised?
But some ticketing experts and consumers say Viagogo is failing to fulfil its obligations as set out by the CMA.
Adam Webb from the FanFair Alliance accused the company of "minor tinkering" rather than the "complete overhaul" expected.
He said they have failed to make information transparent and to provide all details required – like seat numbers, trader contact details or provisions of resale restrictions.
Fans might be able to discover who was selling the tickets – but only after they had started the buying process, he said.
"They [Viagogo] should show you who the trader is from the get-go,
"Trader contact details are not supplied. Viagogo only give you a name, or an initial. This is in breach of the 2002 eCommerce Directive."
Mr Webb suggested Viagogo was making misleading marketing messages about the demand level for certain events.
The company has not responded to a BBC request for a comment.
Ticketing expert Reg Walker, from the consultancy Iridium, described as "nonsense" Viagogo’s assertion that they are compliant with the court order.
"When you look at the relevant legislation in the Consumer Rights Act – which I helped draft – it says quite clearly that you must put your details on the website and you must have the seat, block and row," he said.
"It means every single listing on that website that does not contain these details is an offence. Viagogo seems determined to sit outside the law." What happens next?
According to the CMA, if Viagogo fail to comply with the court order the company could face a fine.
If particular, if serious breaches were proven then the court has the power to send certain individuals to prison.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli has said the watchdog would "not hesitate" to take action against companies that failed to meet their obligations. Claire Turnham was given an MBE after setting up the Victims of Viagogo group Campaigner Claire Turnham was awarded an MBE after obtaining close to £1 million of refunds from the site through her Victims of Viagogo group.
She said she expected the CMA to act "swiftly and strictly" if Viagogo were found not to be compliant.
"As consumers, we are desperate to know ticket buyers will be able to buy tickets more safely and have certainty that they will be protected by the law," she said.
Shaun T. Fitness, a fitness motivational speaker, and his husband Scott Blokker on the February 2019 cover of Parents Magazine Parents Magazine is featuring a gay couple on the cover for the first time. Tell me more!
Shaun T. Fitness, a fitness motivational speaker, his husband Scott Blokker, and their twins grace the cover of the February 2019 issue of Parents. This is the first time in the magazine’s 93 year history that a gay couple appears on the cover.
This issue of Parents also includes a feature story about the couple’s various attempts at having a child via surrogate. Fitness pro @ShaunT and his adorable family star on our February cover, our first-ever to feature same-sex parents. Read their incredible surrogacy story here: https://t.co/Aww3Tlwfp5 pic.twitter.com/lX61yv4ywV — Parents (@parentsmagazine) January 4, 2019 Backlash
While this may be seen as a historic moment for same-sex parents, conservative Christians are outraged at the magazine.
One Million Moms was one conservative group quick to condemn the magazine. One Million Moms is an offshoot of American Family Association, a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
‘Mothers and fathers are seeing more and more similar examples of children being indoctrinated to perceive same-sex couples as normal, especially in the media,’ a blog post on the One Million Moms website reads .
‘Likewise, the magazine’s website, Parents.com, and their other social media pages also push pro-homosexual content.’
‘Parents is using its magazine as a platform to promote the pro-homosexual lifestyle. Even if families do not personally subscribe to the publication, they should be warned that it could be displayed in waiting rooms of dentist and doctor offices, where children could easily be subjected to the glorification of same-sex parents.’
One Million Moms even went as far as to start a petition against the magazine. Currently, over 8,000 people have signed.
Protestors carry signs at the NYC Women’s March, with Trump Tower in the background For the third year in a row, thousands of women will be marching in cities across the country. Backstory
The Women’s March first gained momentum after the 2016 election. The day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, hundreds of thousands of women marched in Washington DC, as well as cities across the globe.
This year, however, things are a little bit different. The leaders of the National Women’s March have faced controversy surrounding their connection with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. The Nation of Islam is a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Farrakhan himself often makes anti-Semitic, misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic comments.
For many women, particularly LGBTI and Jewish women , the Women’s March leaders refusing to condemn Farrakhan was troubling. Many local Women’s March chapters have separated themselves from the National leadership. Others have called on the leaders to resign . Large national organizations such as the Democratic National Committee have also pulled support for the National Women’s March. Women’s March Alliance
In New York City, two separate marches were held — one by the National Women’s March organization and a second by an offshoot group called Women’s March Alliance.
GSN spoke with Nisi Jacobs, an organizer with the Women’s March Alliance.
Jacobs is a Jewish feminist who grew up in NYC. In the 1980s, she witnessed firsthand the atrocities of the AIDS epidemic. She describes the once-vibrant gay community in the West Village turn into a ‘morgue.’
‘Feminism is very dependent on our sense of counting on other people,’ Jacobs said. ‘The whole movement for gender equality is based on allyship.’
For Jacobs, the National Women’s March leaders didn’t seem like viable allies anymore. This is why she stuck with the grassroots movement Women’s March Alliance.
Jacobs recalls hearing Farrakhan’s controversial comments at the 2018 Saviors Day event, where he proclaimed that ‘powerful Jews are the enemy.’
‘I paid attention to the Women’s March [leaders] and saw [Tamika] Mallory’s social media posts about Farrakhan after the event,’ Jacobs said. ‘I was sickened.’
‘Plus the misogyny,’ Jacobs continues. ‘How can [feminist leaders] support a man like that?’
‘It’s like, “where are you leading me? Back to the kitchen? No thanks.”’ NYC rally
Hannah Simpson, a transgender Jewish activist, is one of the Women’s March Alliance speakers. Here, Simpson connects the LGBTI and Jewish groups who felt betrayed by the National Women’s March.
Simpson’s speech can be seen here: Simpson was working with Women’s March Alliance, a grassroots organization, since the first Women’s March. She is very clear about the need to separate the local grassroots organizations from the National Women’s March, Inc.
‘It’s like a supermarket,’ Simpson explains. ‘Don’t judge your local organic eggs based on a salmonella outbreak. Similarly, don’t blame grassroots movements for the anti-Semitism outbreak of the [National Women’s March leadership].’
‘The whole thing is about protecting people I want to survive and thrive,’ Jacobs says. ‘I’m Jewish and I have family that didn’t make it to these shores because they were murdered by Nazis.’
‘I’m not gonna sit by and let that be normalized in NYC.’ Photos
Check out pictures from the Women’s March Alliance’s rally below. See Also:
Promotional image for LGBTI documentary Words
Amazon Prime has removed the LGBTI documentary Words, by trans filmmaker AJ Mattioli . Words
The documentary explores the question if identity, especially as it relates to LGBTI people living in New York City. It includes interviews from various LGBTI figures, including Carmen Carrera, Bob The Drag Queen, Miss Fame, and more. Words initially went up on Amazon Prime over a year ago. However, the company decided to remove it on 17 January. The emails
GSN spoke directly to AJ Mattioli about the issue. Mattioli explains his production company received a message stating that Words would be pulled from their streaming service.
‘We are always listening to customer feedback and iterating on their behalf,’ one email from Amazon reads. ‘During a quality assurance review, we found that these titles contain content that does not meet our customer content quality expectations. As a result, all offers for your title have been removed and may not be made available as “Included with Prime” or to Buy/Rent on Amazon.’
‘Unfortunately, this decision may not be appealed. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We will not be accepting resubmission of the impacted titles. This change will not impact any royalties accrued through the date. Note that republishing any film that has been removed is prohibited; doing so may result in your account being suspended.’
Mattioli replied with the following:
‘This title been on Amazon Prime for very long time. What was so bad about this title that was taking down? Could it be a system glitch? Please help us keep our titles live. Looking at the many positive comments on this important intellectual contribution to the LGBTQ+ community, I do not understand at all how it does not fulfill the quality expectations. This has been clearly been a misunderstanding and we expect the matter to be resolved with promptness.’ Contradictory information
Friends and fans of Mattioli’s also emailed Amazon, complaining about the removal of Words.
One fan, Kathleen, reached out to Amazon, asking why Words was removed.
An Amazon representative responded saying, ‘We don’t have any details about why this particular title may have been removed.’
Many people who contacted Amazon were given contradictory information about the status of the film. Some were told Mattioli removed it (he didn’t). Others, like Kathleen, were told Amazon didn’t have any details about the film’s removal.
Mattioli’s production company reached out a second time with the following note:
‘We’d like to inform that [we were] shocked and disappointment in Amazon’s contradictory behavior in regards to the matter of the film “Words.” You’ve informed me that AMAZON decided to remove the title because it didn’t meet the quality standards of Prime. But once the content creator reached out, they were told [they took it down], which we did not. And we want it back up on Amazon Prime, please.’
‘Have the filmmakers been misinformed? We would like a resolution in regards to this matter, please, as soon as possible. We haven’t done anything wrong. And when the filmmakers and fans of that movie reached out to Amazon, they were informed that we asked Amazon to take it down which wasn’t true, at all.’
Amazon has yet to respond to that email. In Mattioli’s words
For Mattioli, this is a case of censorship.
‘In 2019, while hate crimes on on the rise, my film “Words” was a song of hope and happiness for the future,’ Mattioli tells GSN. ‘Having it be censored in a time when people are being killed for simply being themselves is heartbreaking and feels transphobic/homophobic.’ See Also:
File photo of three people in a workplace meeting. A Christian counselor with years of experience in the private business sector has released a book centered on helping Christians not compromise their beliefs in a secular workplace.
David Goetsch, who is also a business professor and retired U.S. Marine, released the book Christians on the Job: Winning at Work without Compromising Your Faith earlier this month.
In the book’s introduction, Goetsch explained that he was inspired to write the book by the many Christians he had counseled regarding workplace issues, with the hope that it will provide important guidance on how to act in a secular work environment.
“As Christians in secular careers, we must be both ‘wise’ and ‘innocent,’ or we risk being devoured by predatory coworkers. Helping Christians accomplish this difficult but critical challenge is the purpose of this book,” wrote Goetsch.
The Christian Post interviewed Goetsch last Friday on issues including his book, the issue of anti-Christian harassment in the modern American workplace, and his view of the controversial “Billy Graham Rule.” Below are excerpts from that interview.
CP: How pervasive do you believe anti-Christian harassment is in the secular workplace? David Goetsch, Christian counselor and author of the 2019 book "Christians on the Job: Winning at Work without Compromising Your Faith." Goetsch: I think it is increasing. I grew up in a time when even the secular world bought into Christian principles, they might not call it that, but that’s what it was. Anymore, we’re finding more and more cases. Basically, these are people who come to me for counseling and that’s how I get my information. And more and more they are coming in claiming that ‘oh, I’ve been told to take the 23rd Psalm off of my wall in my office,’ ‘I’ve been told …’ One of them even had to scrape a bumper sticker, pro-life bumper sticker off the back of his car, he wouldn’t be allowed to park in the parking lot. I think it is becoming more ubiquitous than it’s been in the past.
CP: In chapter one you discuss the First-Response Model, a multi-step process to handle workplace issues. The 5 steps, in order, are "Avoid responding out of anger, fear, or frustration," "Pray for guidance," "Seek guidance in Scripture," "Seek the counsel of Godly men and women," and "Translate Scriptural guidance and wise counsel into workplace-appropriate practical action." How did you develop this Model? The 2019 book "Christians on the Job: Winning at Work without Compromising Your Faith" by Christian counselor and business expert David Goetsch. Goetsch: It happened over time.
When you’re counseling people who have these kinds of issues, you want to make sure … that they don’t go it alone.
If their faith is being challenged because of their belief in God, they need God’s help to deal with it.
I didn’t want them to become like the people who were rejecting them, oppressing them, or even in some cases persecuting them.
CP: In describing the First-Response Model, you urge the reader to not skip to step 5. Why do you believe they must go through all 5 steps?
Goetsch: Because if they don’t go through all the steps before they get to step 5, they’re not going to have the help they need. They won’t be able to find ways to come up with a response that is biblically correct and workplace-appropriate. It’s those first four steps that lay down the groundwork for that kind of response.
CP: You wrote that "Christian Love Is better than Political Correctness." Why do you believe that is so?
Goetsch: Here’s what I have been finding happening in the workplace. We’re beginning to see a little bit of a backlash against political correctness because people are learning to spout the right politically correct platitudes, when its obvious that they don’t mean them, and that they’re just going through the motions of saying the words and the people on the receiving end of that don’t appreciate it, but what they do appreciate is somebody who will treat them with respect, with human dignity, treat them with honesty, integrity, in a Christ-like manner. And people who treat you that way, I don’t think you care whether they can spout the latest fad in political correctness or not. Or the latest terminology of political correctness because you know they are treating you in a way that is sincere and that is real and that is true.
CP: In chapter 9, you included a whole section specifically on how Christians should work alongside LGBTQ coworkers. Why did you feel it was important to give so much attention to that particular scenario?
Goetsch: We’re beginning to see more and more instances of, like, transgender restrooms and that type of thing.
You’re seeing more and more of this, and in the Christian community we’re also seeing a lot of pushback against that. And the point I wanted to make was the workplace is not the place to fight the battle of the LGBTQ agenda, for them or for us. When we go to work, we’re paid to do a certain job and our employer needs us to do it and do it well. And so, what we should do on the job is we can work side-by-side with people who do not share our beliefs or our values because we have the common value of the work, work in common, but we can treat them in ways with dignity and respect that do not validate their beliefs.
CP: What is your opinion of the "Billy Graham Rule" aka "Mike Pence Rule" ?
Goetsch: I follow the same rule and I agree with it completely. The best way to defeat the “#MeToo fad” that’s going on is to not allow yourself to be in a position of #MeToo.
That doesn’t go over very well. There are people who will complain about that who criticize Mike Pence, who criticized Billy Graham, but you don’t see anybody claiming #MeToo about either of those gentlemen.
CP: While your book focuses on the secular workplace, do you believe there might be some value to your book’s lessons for Christian workplace environments?
Goetsch: I do and I actually make that point in one of the chapters. It’s only a couple of paragraphs, but I say just because you work in an ostensibly Christian environment, remember that no matter who you work with, you’re working with sinners, including you. So we all have the potential to behave in ways that are at odds with scripture, so don’t presume that because you work in a Christian setting all the behavior you see there is going to be Christian behavior. It may not and so what I say in this book applies in that setting and in a secular setting.
William Barr, President Trump’s pick to become the next attorney general, held his cards close to the vest on LGBT issues Tuesday during his confirmation hearing, but hinted upon confirmation he’d pursue the anti-LGBT policies of his predecessor Jeff Sessions.
The answers from Barr suggest he’d continue to uphold the Justice Department’s view that LGBT people aren’t protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964, which bars sex discrimination in the workforce. Additionally, Barr suggested he’d uphold religious freedom even at the expense of anti-LGBT discrimination.
In his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr recognized the increasing number of hate crimes in the United States, including LGBT people, and pledged to address them under the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.
“We can only survive and thrive as a nation if we are mutually tolerant of each other’s differences, whether they be differences based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or political thinking,” Barr said. “And yet, we see some people violently attacking others simply because of their differences. We must have zero tolerance for such crimes, and I will make this a priority as attorney general if confirmed.”
But under questioning on LGBT issues from Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Barr indicated enforcement of the hate crimes law would likely be the extent of his pro-LGBT advocacy at the Justice Department.
Booker initiated the questioning on LGBT issues by referencing a 1995 article Barr wrote for a conservative Catholic publication that laments growing acceptance of the LGBT movement compared to religious communities.
Asserting the 1995 article demonstrated a view being LGBT was immoral, Booker asked Barr whether he still holds those views, Barr replied “no,” but disputed the article conveyed anti-LGBT views.
After Booker insisted he was quoting the actual language, Barr said he’d inform the committee about his views. Barr reflected on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling for same-sex marriage.
“If I had been voting on it at the time — my view is that under the law, under the Constitution, as I originally conceived it before it was decided by the Supreme Court, marriage was to be regulated by the states, and if it was brought to me, I would have favored martial unions, single-sex,” Barr said.
When Booker interjected he was questioning Barr about his views in the 1995 article and whether the LGBT movement is immoral, Barr expressed a need for tolerance.
“In a pluralistic society like ours, there has be to a live-and-let-live attitude, and mutual tolerance, which has to be a two-way street,” Barr said. “My concern, and the rest of the article addresses this, is I am perfectly fine with the law as it is, for example, with gay marriage, perfectly fine, but I want accommodation for religion.”
When the New Jersey Democrat interjected LGBT youth are disproportionately bullied at schools, Barr interrupted to recognize anti-LGBT hate crimes. Booker acknowledged that before adding many LGBT youth report they are missing school because of fear of being bullied and are disproportionately homeless.
Booker asked Barr whether he thinks laws “designed to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination contribute to what you describe as a breakdown for traditional morality.”
Barr replied “no,” but added, “I also believe there has to be accommodation to religious communities.”
Booker acknowledged, “You and I believe in freedom of religion,” but shifted the focus to anti-gay workplace discrimination. Barr replied, “I think’s that wrong.”
When Booker asked whether that means the Justice Department should protect LGBT kids from harassment and hate crimes and pursue efforts to protect the civil rights of LGBT Americans, Barr replied. “I support that.”
Referencing his opening statement, Barr said, “As I said in the beginning, I’m very concerned about the increase in hate crimes.”
But when Booker asked Barr if he sees a role for the Justice Department in banning anti-LGBT discrimination, the nominee had a different take. Barr replied, “If Congress passes such a law.”
Barr then referenced the petitions currently before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking clarification on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in the workplace, applies to cases of anti-LGBT discrimination.
“I think the litigation going on now on Title VII is what the the 1964 act actually contemplated, but personally, I think —,” Barr said.
Before Barr could finish and venture an opinion on Title VII, Booker interrupted and asked to verify whether lawmakers contemplated including LGBT people in Title VII. Barr rejected that idea, saying “no.”
“I think it was male-female that they were talking about when they said sex in the ’64 act,” Barr added.
Booker then interjected again by conflating anti-LGBT discrimination with sexual harassment: “So protecting someone’s basic rights to be free from discrimination because of sexual harassment is not something the Department of Justice should be protecting?”
Playing with one of the many U.S. Senate coasters before him on the witness stand, Barr insisted the onus is on Congress to make the law.
“I’m saying Congress passes the law, the Justice Department enforces the law,” Barr said. “I think the ’64 act on its face — and this is what is being litigated, what does it cover? I think for like three or four decades, the LGBT community has been trying to amend the law.”
Booker interrupted again before Barr could finish, saying the Obama administration’s Justice Department “was working to protect LGBT kids from discrimination.” (The Justice Department in the Obama years asserted anti-trans discrimination was illegal under Title VII, but took no position with respect to the law on anti-gay discrimination despite pleas from LGBT rights supporters.)
When Booker asked if Barr would pursue the Obama administration practices, Barr replied, “I don’t know what you’re referring to.”
“I’m against discrimination against anyone because of some status, their gender or their sexual orientation or whatever,” Barr continued.
Hirono picked up where Booker left off, asking Barr directly about the Justice Department’s friend-of-the-court brief before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals arguing anti-gay discrimination isn’t covered under Title VII. As Hirono noted, both the Second Circuit and the Seventh Circuit have “rejected the department’s argument” about the law.
The Hawaii Democrat asked Barr if he’d appeal those decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court. In response, Barr seemingly referenced the petitions before justices, noting, “I think it is going up to the Supreme Court.”
When Hirono asked if DOJ will continue to argue Title VII doesn’t bar anti-gay discrimination, Barr initially declined to answer directly.
“It’s pending litigation and I haven’t gotten in to review the department’s litigation position, but the matter will be decided by the Supreme Court,” Barr said.
Hirono responded: “That sounds like a ‘yes’ to me. The department will continue to push the argument that has been rejected.”
At this point, Barr tipped his hand on his view Title VII doesn’t cover anti-gay discrimination.
“It’s not just the department’s argument,” Barr said. “It’s been sort of common understanding for almost 40 years.”
Asked by Hirono if discrimination is OK, Barr replied, “That’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m saying the question is the interpretation of the statute passed in 1964.”
“As I’ve already said, I personally, as a matter of my own personal feelings think there should be laws that prohibit discrimination against gay people,” Hirono said.
When Hirono asked Barr if he’d review the Justice Department’s position, Barr replied, “No. Because there’s a difference between law and policy.”
“I will enforce the laws as passed by Congress,” Barr said. “I’m not going to amend them. I’m not going to undercut them. I’m not going to try to work my way around them and evade them.
Hirono responded: “The DOJ doesn’t have to file an amicus brief either.”
The Hawaii Democrat wasn’t done on LGBT issues, asking Barr about an explosive report in the New York Times asserting the Department of Health & Human Services was preparing a rule to define transgender people out of existence under Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972.
Asked by Hirono if he believes transgender people are protected from discrimination under Title IX, Barr dodged.
“I think that matter’s being litigated in the Supreme Court, too,” Barr said.
When Barr added he doesn’t know the Justice Department’s position on the issue, Hirono said she’d ask him to review the issue.
LGBT groups have raised concerns about Barr’s confirmation as attorney general, asserting he lacks a commitment to protecting civil rights. (One longtime gay friend of Barr’s, however, former Time Warner general counsel Paul Cappuccio, has defended the nominee, telling the Blade, “He’s not going to ever let people be discriminated against, OK?”)
Jon Davidson, chief counsel of Freedom for All Americans, said Barr’s testimony “did little to assuage those concerns” of LGBT rights groups.“While he testified he is “fine” with “gay marriage,” his comments that there “has to be accommodation to religion” — something not required or even permitted for other people’s marriages — is very disturbing,” Davidson said.Davidson also raised concerns about Barr’s response on whether Title VII should cover anti-gay discrimination.“In addition, although he said he thinks firing someone based on their sexual orientation is ‘wrong,’ he refused to disagree with the anti-LGBTQ positions the Justice Department has been taking when it comes to Title VII and he erroneously asserted that Title VII should be limited to what Congress believed it was accomplishing in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Davidson said. “That position has already been rejected several times by the Supreme Court, which has said that what Congress had in mind at the time is not controlling.Ultimately, Davidson had a dismal forecast for Barr’s stewardship of the Justice Department.“It appears that he intends to carry forward the positions of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which have consistently opposed equal rights for LGBTQ people,” Davidson said.Sharon McGowan, chief strategy officer for Lambda Legal, also said Barr’s testimony didn’t allay her concerns.“I think he said absolutely nothing to alleviate any of the concerns that we have based on his record, and if anything, his comments only demonstrate that he is exactly what his record suggests that he is, which is someone who will not be a champion for civil rights generally or LGBT equality specifically,” McGowan said.Barr’s confirmation hearing took place as the Justice Department is defending President Trump’s transgender military ban in court and has called on the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. Barr didn’t address the policy, nor did any member of the Senate Judiciary Committee inquire about Barr’s view on the issue.