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We aren’t very far into 2016 and so far it’s been a big year for states grappling with how to deal (or not) with laws meant to protect LGBT people from discrimination, with some states moving to safeguard these rights and others attempting to rely on “religious freedom” bills that preserve the right to discriminate. In a positive development, this week the West Virginia legislature killed a bill that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT people due to their religion.
However, very nearby in Virginia, we’re seeing a different approach. In shameful but unfortunately not surprising news, it seems that in a bid to avoid having to vote on or really engage with laws dealing with LGBT protections from discrimination, Virginia’s legislature may just be quietly refusing to vote on them, choosing instead to forward them to an office whose job it is to check laws for obsolete legal language, where they may be backed up for as long as two years.
“The Code Commission is not typically a policy-making body,” [Sen. Adam Ebbin] said. “This is just a charade, a way to get rid of bills without a lot of people having to vote on them.” Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, chairman of the Code Commission, said the commission’s primary job is getting rid of obsolete language in state laws. “Generally, we’re not supposed to make policy,” he said.
So many things have happened in the past few days! We’ve had a Democratic debate AND a GOP debate; several states had their primaries on Super Saturday and on other days of the week. Bernie Sanders took Nebraska, Maine, and Kansas; Hillary Clinton took Louisiana. Puerto Rico went to Rubio; Kansas and Maine went to Cruz; Kentucky and Louisiana went to Trump.
At the Dem debate, the candidates were asked about prayer, the auto industry, mass shootings, and more. The debate was held in Flint, MI, and both candidates called for MI governor Rick Snyder to resign.
There was also a GOP debate! You can read the transcript here. This purports to be the debate in three minutes.
+ Anna Merlan has been covering annual Republican horrorshow CPAC, a job which I thank the stars daily I do not have, and reports that there is a lot of magical thinking going on there. Essentially, the people she’s talked to seem to suggest that many Republicans truly are convinced that Hillary not only broke the law with her emails but that she is going to be incarcerated for them imminently, and also that somehow Donald Trump will just disappear and one of their preferred establishment candidates will take the lead. No word, it seems, on whether they think about Bernie Sanders at all. It’s truly amazing ot read about.
“We’ve seen a real winning formula in terms of being able to transform the debate and make it our own,” Smith beamed. “We’re winning with everyone when we talk in a new language and an updated way about our principles.”
+ Log Cabin Republicans want Trump to clarify his stance on same-sex marriage, saying “I don’t know that we can take Mr. Trump on his word because the statements he has made about LGBT issues are all over the place.” If that’s the only thing you think he’s “all over the place” on, or if you think being in favor of same-sex marriage would somehow make him a worthy candidate when he’s still virulently bigoted towards Muslims, Latinx people, Black people and more, I’m not sure what to tell you, but hey, sure, see if he’ll clarify.
Law & Order
+ An Alabama court had refused to allow a woman visitation or contact with the three children she had adopted and raised with her now-ex-partner in Georgia, saying that they refused to accept the Georgia adoption as legitimate. Now the US Supreme Court has reversed that order, saying that it violates the US Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause that requires states to recognize each other’s judgments.
+ NYC Mayor de Blasio has signed an executive order guaranteeing trans people access to the correct bathroom in government buildings. The order covers “all bathrooms or locker rooms in city-government buildings, parks, and some museums.” The NYC public schools are supposed to already be providing this access on their own.
+ In a historic decision, an Italian family court has approved a lesbian couple’s request to simultaneously adopt each others’ children.
Various Violent Incidents
+ Horrifyingly, news stories about Black people being assaulted and otherwise targeted at rallies for Donald Trump are becoming more and more common — this time, Black Lives Matter protesters were violently thrown out of a rally in New Orleans, reportedly while rally attendees shouted “all lives matter.”
+ The president of Baylor University’s chapter of fraternity Phi Delta Theta was arrested for sexual assault this week. It appears that the woman he assaulted was also drugged while at a party at the fraternity’s house. Baylor has been in the news several times before for its very delayed and/or totally nonexistent response to campus sexual assault, especially when those accused of it are major figures on campus/football players.
+ Previously in this column we said that police in Alabama had arrested someone, Joshua Adam Reese, in connection with the murder of openly bisexual teen Nicholas Hawkins; now it’s being reported that they’ve arrested six people regarding his death, although very few details are available. Two of the six besides Reese were charged with murder, and three more charged with hindering prosecution.
+ In the UK, a Labour MP has been accused of harassing and assaulting a lesbian aide, including violently pulling her hair, after finding out the woman’s sexual orientation.
+ Apparently in response to same-sex drama “Addicted Heroin,” the Chinese government has declared that television shows shouldn’t depict same-sex romances, as part of an effort to avoid “vulgar, immoral and unhealthy content.”
As well as homosexuality, the guidelines deemed extramarital affairs, one-night stands and underage love off limits. “No television drama shall show abnormal sexual relationships and behaviors, such as incest, same-sex relationships, sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence, and so on,” the regulations state. The document also listed a wide range of topics forbidden on TV, including those that might damage the country’s image, promote lavish lifestyles, undermine national unity and illustrate feudalism and superstitions.
+ Louisiana high school sweethearts Nicholas and Raymond weren’t going to be allowed to take each other to prom because they’re both boys — but the high school changed its tune when contacted by a local TV station.
Mother Tamblie Babin said she contacted the station after calling her son Raymond’s school. “I asked her why Raymond couldn’t take his boyfriend to prom and she said that they didn’t allow same sex going to prom together [because] it was against school regulations,” Babin told the station. To make matters worse, Babin’s son had texted his mother to tell her of his predicament and was then suspended for using his phone in school, and suspended students aren’t allowed to attend school functions, according to the station.
+ Apparently the highest concentration of anti-gay tweets in the US is coming from Buffalo, NY, with Arlington, TX and Riverside, CA coming in second and third respectively.
+ If you’ve been paying attention, you likely knew that sexual harassment of women in STEM fields is rampant. Now we’re seeing that its impact is indeed profound and more prevalent than many realize — it’s one of the primary reasons women leave STEM fields and academia in general, as explored in A. Hope Jahren’s “She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Wanted to Talk ‘Feelings.'”
+ More than 2000 Boston Public School students walked out of their classrooms and into the streets to protest proposed cuts to state and federal aid, which would result in reducing resources like language classes and JV sports. Although the threat of funding cuts has been protested multiple times before, this was the first student-organized protest, and the participation seems to have been very significant.
City Councilor Tito Jackson marched with the students, and encouraged them to walk inside the State House to voice their opinions. “I’m so encouraged by the massive turnout and voices of our young people,” he said. “They should be holding lawmakers accountable. They should demand that they have enough teachers who will encourage them to stay in their classrooms. They shouldn’t lose their JV programs, which keep some kids involved and are a lifeline for them. And they shouldn’t lose funding to charter schools.”
+ When faced with the reality that customers were using customer support tickets to report sexual assaults and rapes at the hands of drivers, Uber’s response was… to say that it was probably because some drivers have names like “Don Draper”, and that was messing up search results for the word “rape.” Uber says that it received “five claims of rape and “fewer than” 170 claims of sexual assault directly related to an Uber ride,” and so the rest of the 5,827 customer support tickets that mention rape must be wacky misunderstandings and/or typos.
+ Nancy Reagan, former first lady and forever associated with historically harmful legacies like the “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign and the refusal of the Reagan administration to acknowledge or act on the AIDS epidemic, passed away this week at 94.
+ The Flint water crisis is opening up a conversation about just how many people are affected by lead and uranium poisoning in the US — a disproportionate number are Black children. Native land is also disproportionately affected, like the Navajo reservation in Arizona.
+ As is often the case in election season, there’s a lot of rhetoric from Republicans about cutting taxes, and a lot of suspicion regarding how Democrats’ planned programs will be funded (generally, it’s through taxes). A good time to meditate on the fact that because Lousiana governor Bobby Jindal was so strongly anti-taxation, Louisiana is now struggling profoundly.
The basic services a government provides — watchdogs to guard abused and abandoned children, emergency rooms and hospitals, scholarships and safety-net stipends to lift families out of poverty — will barely be able to keep the lights on unless politicians can find $3 billion in new revenue in the coming days. …If lawmakers can’t resolve the crisis, many Louisiana state agencies will see budget cuts of 60 percent — “Doomsday,” as the state’s head of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Marketa Garner Walters put it to the Washington Post — atop years of significant resource cuts already imposed under Jindal. …“You can’t just not investigate child abuse,” she told legislators at a recent hearing, underscoring the stakes of their present discussions.
+ Rebecca Bradley, the incumbent candidate who’s running against JoAnne Kloppenburg for a seat on Wisconsin’s supreme court, has said some real gross things about LGBT people in the past, it turns out! She now says that those were just comments she made “as a young college student,” and that “those comments are not reflective of my worldview… These comments have nothing to do with who I am as a person or a jurist, and they have nothing to do with the issues facing the voters of this state.”
Upset by the election of President Bill Clinton, Bradley lashed out in student newspaper columns back in 1992, calling voters “either totally stupid or entirely evil” for supporting him. She also targeted “queers” and everyone with AIDS, blaming the disease’s victims for their own condition. “Perhaps AIDS Awareness should seek to educate us with their misdirected compassion for the degenerates who basically commit suicide through their behavior,” she wrote. “But the homosexuals and drug addicts who do essentially kill themselves and others through their own behavior deservedly receive none of my sympathy.” Indeed, she viewed those who had HIV as criminals. “Heterosexual sex is very healthy in a loving marital relationship. Homosexual sex, however, kills,” Bradley wrote. “I will certainly characterize whomever transferred their infected blood a homosexual or drug-addicted degenerate and a murderer.” She objected to Marquette University “attempting to bring legitimacy to an abnormal sexual preference.”
+ On the Fight for 15 campaign to raise the minimum wage in Flint, MI and how it intersects with the ongoing water crisis.
“We work, we sweat, put 15 on our checks,” they yelled together. The group, which is advocating for a $15 minimum wage across the country, also protested outside the Republican debate in Detroit Thursday night. But with the water crisis crippling the city, the problems faced by minimum wage workers in Flint are even greater than those faced by low-wage workers in nearby Detroit. “We can’t afford it,” Willie Williams, who retired three years ago from a job at Church’s Chicken, said about the costs of bottled water. “Some of us can’t even afford to eat because of the wages. We need more money, and they can do it.”
+ After being told that she couldn’t discuss a “pro-choice agenda” when speaking at Jesuit St. Louis University, Roxane Gay rewrote her planned speech to be entirely about the pro-choice agenda. You can read the whole thing here.
+ As baseball season begins to gear up, Major League Baseball has announced a partnership with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. The deal is said to “give LGBT businesses an equal opportunity to bid for MLB contracts and opportunities.”