feature image credit verkeorg
A Temper Tantrum of Transmisogyny
+ Officials from 11 states are suing the Obama administration over its guidelines for bathroom access for trans students in schools. The suit itself is pulling no punches with the histrionics, claiming that the federal government has “conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over common-sense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights.” The suit includes “nine states — Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin — as well as the governor of Maine, Paul R. LePage; the Arizona Department of Education; and school districts in Arizona and Texas.”
Addressing the possibility that the federal government could withhold funding from states that don’t follow its guidelines, Texas governor Dan Patrick said, “He says he’s going to withhold funding if schools do not follow the policy… Well in Texas, he can keep his 30 pieces of silver. We will not yield to blackmail from the president of the United States.” If you’re following the logic here, Patrick is willing to take away resources for all students in all public schools in the state… because he’s concerned about “protecting children.”
Will this lawsuit go anywhere? Hard to say at this point! Some think the state officials don’t have legal standing and the case will peter out:
“I see it as a political stunt, and a really unfortunate one because it’s at the expense of transgender people, including transgender youth all across the country,” said James D. Esseks, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who focuses on gender identity and sexual orientation issues. “They’re acting as though the Obama administration’s guidance that came out a few weeks ago is like the first time that anyone has interpreted federal bans on sex discrimination to cover transgender people.”
The lawsuit will go to Judge Reed C. O’Connor, who was appointed by George W. Bush, and some are already wondering whether it could make it to the Supreme Court.
Law & Order
+ Bill Cosby will go to trial regarding the sexual assault of Andrea Constand, and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
+ In 2015, Gill Parker Payne shouted at a hijab-wearing Muslim woman on a Southwest Airlines flight to take off her hijab, yelling “This is America,” and when she did not, he tore it off of her. He has now plead guilty to obstructing her freedom of religion.
+ Vermont’s governor, Peter Shumlin, has signed a bill banning gay, bi and trans conversion therapy in the state.
+ The murderer of nine people in Charleston, SC, Dylann Roof, will face the death penalty in two trials, one in SC and one federally.
+ South Carolina’s governor has signed a bill banning abortion after 17 weeks in the state.
+ Chris Christie has vetoed a bill that would have kept domestic abusers form having firearms.
+ On Purvi Patel’s appeal of the charges of feticide and neglect of a child for which she’s currently facing 20 years in prison, and what it means for the future of the rights of pregnant people.
If we open up the application of feticide laws to such dubious evidence of guilt, every pregnant person in Indiana could be subject to jail time if their pregnancy does not result in a healthy birth. During Monday’s arguments, Judge Terry Crone asked the state about the where this burden lies, and whether someone with a “layperson’s knowledge” of neonatal care could know the impacts of their actions. According to Diaz-Tello, this questions implies the court’s consideration of a Due Process requirement. Namely, whether a person can be justly prosecuted for actions that they do not know to be criminal. The answer to this question will determine the fate of Patel, and potentially many others in Indiana.
+ Next week, Texas’s voter ID law will go to court in a suit brought by the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus in an effort to keep over a half a million Texas voters, most of them of color, from losing their ability to vote in Texas.
+ The name of the conservative legal institution Alliance Defending Freedom has been popping up left and right lately when it comes to anti-LGBT legislation and policy — most recently, schools in Grayson, VA are claiming that the ADF drafted harmful anti-trans bathroom policy and encouraged them to implement it despite the Obama administration’s guidelines to the exact opposite effect.
+ A federal judge in Ohio just provided a ruling that could, if it becomes meaningful legal precedent, provide a foothold against the war on reproductive rights.
At least part of Barrett’s legal reasoning should be a slam dunk even in the eyes of the most conservative jurists. Last February, Ohio enacted a state law that not only strips a great deal of funding from organizations that “perform nontherapeutic abortions,” it also provides that groups which receive certain funding may not “promote nontherapeutic abortions.” Thus, the law does not simply strip money from groups that actually perform abortions (the two Planned Parenthood groups that brought this suit stand to lose a total of about $1.5 million), it also targets groups that engage in advocacy supportive of the right to terminate a pregnancy. That’s a violation of the First Amendment. As Barrett explains, the “unconstitutional conditions” doctrine provides that “the government ‘may not deny a benefit to a person on a basis that infringes his constitutionally protected . . . freedom of speech,’” even if the person has no constitutional right to the benefit itself. That is, the government isn’t obligated to offer funding to Planned Parenthood. But if it does do so, it cannot condition this funding on Planned Parenthood silencing itself.
Police & Prison
+ In Harris County, Texas, 77% of people in its jail are there only because they can’t afford to pay bail, and between 2009 and 2015, 55 people died in jail who were there because they couldn’t afford to get out. A lawsuit filed by Equal Justice Under Law alleges that at this point, Harris County is essentially imprisoning people for being poor.
+ Ireri Unzueta Carrasco has been protesting for improved civil rights and legal status for undocumented youth; now the Department of Homeland security says this makes her a “public safety threat” and is using it as pretext to deny renewal of her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. The link contains a petition to reaffirm that protest is a civil right, not an indicator that someone is a threat.
+ The trial of Officer Edward Nero, one of the six officers involved in the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, MD, has ended in him being acquitted of all charges. Also now two of the officers involved are suing attorney Marilyn Mosby for defamation, so.
+ In a truly horrifying story, a Black student at a middle school — middle school! — in Virginia was arrested for “stealing” a single carton of milk in the school cafeteria even though the student was on the free lunch program, meaning that he was entitled to the carton of milk already. Despite the lunch program revelation, the school appears to be standing by their decision to involve law enforcement officers, citing “being disrespectful and using his cell phone in school,” as well as “pulling away from the officer and appearing fidgety,” charges which, I think is clear, apply to virtually every student in middle school at one time or another. This is unspeakably awful!
+ The State Department has released a report declaring that Hillary did break State Department rules with the server she had emails on; it’s unlikely to really change much as far as Dem opinion of Hillary, but Trump will likely take the report and run with it.
+ Donald Trump has a new plan to try to smear Hillary Clinton on a real estate controversy from over a decade ago — we know this because Trump’s “spokeswoman accidentally emailed a Politico reporter the inside details about a new plan to attack Hillary Clinton over a very old real estate scandal. Hope Hicks appears to have confused the reporter with a Trump campaign adviser who has a similar name.” In reading about this I also learned about how “James O’Keefe forgot to hang up after leaving a phone message for the Open Society Foundations, a nonprofit founded by liberal billionaire George Soros. O’Keefe planned to “investigate” Soros-linked entities for “wrongdoing,” using his time-tested tactic of impersonating someone he’s not. He explained all to his staff on a seven-minute voicemail he unknowingly left for someone who works for Open Society.” Amazing.
Research & Data
+ A new report shows that — unfortunately, not surprisingly — young men of color feel unheard, like there’s no future for them, and that they need resources they can trust.
[Boys and men of color] are extremely stressed out, taken off task by distractions and temptation, don’t believe in the American Dream and can barely see beyond surviving. They feel trapped at the bottom of the ladder because of a lack of resources, negative peer pressure and racism. They are afraid to fail and lack awareness and trust of resources currently available to help them.
+ Although the public image of mass shooting victims is largely majority white, the NYT looked at 358 shootings with four or more casualties and found that “nearly three-fourths of victims” were Black.
+ A fact that I did not know until reading about this research is that when figuring out sentencing for people in the US convicted of crimes, courts across the country use “risk assessment software” to determine the likelihood that a defendant will commit crimes again in the future. Although one might hope that software is objective, it is, in the end, still designed by humans: ProPublica has found that the risk assessment software is biased against Black defendants, with “Black defendants were wrongly flagged as future criminals at almost twice the rate as White ones even after controlling for race.” Good to read in conjunction with this piece about the many subjective biases when it comes to courtroom use of ostensibly objective DNA evidence, and how it can also result in innocent defendants going to jail.
+ Nineteen faith groups in Philadelphia are working on concert to create a hotline for rapid response to deportation raids conducted by ICE in the area, hoping they can respond to raids by witnessing and supporting families.
Organizers of the program, which is being called “Sanctuary in the Streets,” say they are responding to news that the federal government will launch a new wave of deportation raids in May and June. The congregations — all which participate in what is being called the New Sanctuary Movement (NSM) — say they will form teams of volunteers to provide rapid respond support in the event of a hotline call, training them to rush to the site of the raid, hold a prayer vigil, film the event, and comfort the family. “The goal … is to be in solidarity for the families being raided, and shine a light on what ICE is doing and apply pressure to encourage them to stop doing raids,” said Peter Pedemonti, a representative of the NSM in Philadelphia.
+ Mpho Tutu-van Furth, the daughter of Desmond Tutu, has lost her right to officiate as a priest in South Africa after marrying her female partner, Marceline van Furth.
“My wife and I meet across almost every dimension of difference. Some of our differences are obvious; she is tall and white, I am black and vertically challenged,” Tutu-van Furth told City Press. “Ironically, coming from a past where difference was the instrument of division, it is our sameness that is now the cause of distress. My wife and I are both women.”
+ In an unbelievably tragic and infuriating story, Pakistani trans woman and activist Alesha died of eight gunshot wounds, allegedly from a gang that extorts money from trans people, while hospital staff demeaned her and her friends, debated Alesha’s secondary sex characteristics, and argued about whether to admit her to the women’s ward or not.
+ What the heck is going on with this headline? It says that “Oregon Governor Admits Bisexual Past at Commencement” — but Kate Brown was open about her bi identity throughout her campaign for governor, and it’s not a bisexual “past” just because (as the article makes sure to note!) she has a husband and kids; it’s a bisexual present. The article itself isn’t actually that bad, noting honestly that she feared ostracization from other legislators for coming out and her identity has been something of a point of tension with her family, but this headline is yikes dot com.
+ From what I can gather, anti-LGBT people in Australia are just going bananas making stuff up about the Safe Schools Coalition, an LGBTI anti-bullying initiative. Conservatives are claiming the program’s resources include links to fetish clubs, “grooming work that a sexual predator would undertake,” and more! In a particularly hurtful turn, a radio shock jock lamenting that kids might learn about or role play as the character of a 17-year-old bisexual girl who has had multiple sexual partners. Yeesh.
+ A new exhibit at the historical home of George Washington will include information about his ownership of slaves and attempt to “tell the stories of the slaves who lived and worked on the plantation.”
+ We’ll have a full piece on this story over here, check it out!, but Babeland in NYC has become the first adult retailer to unionize.
Employees told the Times they organized for better workplace transparency and protections, and, in an industry-specific issue, to force management to create better support and training for dealing with “problematic” customers, i.e. the creepy, harassing ones. Trans employees also told the paper they wanted workplace measures in place that reflected and respected their gender identity:
+ A new piece at the NYT on the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women along British Columbia’s Highway 16, a phenomenon that’s been ongoing for over 30 years. Families say the number of missing or murdered women is around 50, and most cases remain unsolved.
+ This story is heartbreaking and chilling — a Black, learning-disabled teen was violently raped by his white football teammates in Dietrich, Idaho after already experiencing “a months-long harassment campaign.” The teen’s family is suing the school, and says that faculty and staff didn’t protect or support their child.
The lawsuit, seen by Courthouse News, claims the teenager cried out for help while he was allegedly raped by his teammates on school grounds last October, but not one member of school staff bothered to check what was happening, leaving him “to fend for himself in an extremely hostile environment.” The lawsuit specifically names 11 school employees who allegedly did nothing to protect the boy, who was vulnerable due to “mental disorders including learning disabilities.”
+ Some reporting on the state of LGBT rights and safety in Tunisia.
+ Well this is reprehensible: “Conservatives who want to weaken anti-poverty programs are a lot like black civil rights protesters who put their lives and freedom on the line to defeat Jim Crow laws in the heart of Ku Klux Klan country, according to Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL).”
+ A new video sponsored by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center has Muslim-American youth reading real letters written during WWII from the internment camps where Japanese Americans were held out of paranoia and anti-Japanese sentiment while internment camp survivors sit beside them, making clear the historical precedent of the danger of generalizing a marginalized group.