Brace Yourself: Anti-LGBT “Religious Freedom” Bills Are Coming in 2016

New Mexico and Indiana Propose Anti-LGBT Bills

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+ New Mexico’s state legislative session hasn’t begun but an anti-LGBT bill was pre-filed to be considered in 2016. Republican state Reps. David Gallegos and Nora Espinoza filed HB55, which they call a “religious liberty” bill, but which in reality would allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against LGBT people by citing their religious beliefs. We’ve seen these kind of bills in the past and now that marriage equality was won in June, it seems they’re popping up even more in order for Republicans to make legal exemptions for themselves and openly discriminate against LGBT people. In this case, New Mexico already filed a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” but the state’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2013 it doesn’t justify anti-gay discrimination. Gallegos and Espinoza’s bill seeks to redefine terms but ultimately has the same goal as the RFRA. The bill would expand the definition of the legal term “person” to include “a limited liability company,” “any legal or commercial entity,” or any “business trust, estate, trust.” It would also add a definition for “free exercise of religion”: “an act or a refusal to act that is substantially motivated by religious belief.” In real life circumstances, this could mean health care companies can refuse service to LGBT people, adoption agencies and social services can prevent same-sex couples from adopting, in addition to businesses not selling their services or goods to LGBT people. The bill might not even make it to the 30-day legislative session, which begins January 19th. It’s up to the governor to decide which items are discussed during the short session. Governor Susana Martinez will probably focus on the state’s budget.

Just as a sidenote, what’s up with all these Republican Latinos? It’s incredibly disappointing to see Latinos create legislation like this and also, in general, side with a party that has no interests in their people.

+ Indiana can’t stop, won’t stop with the discriminatory bills. This time Republican state Sen. Jim Tomes proposed a bill that would make it a crime for transgender people to use public bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender. Tomes’ bill would send “someone to jail for up to a year and fine them as much as $5,000 if they were convicted of entering a bathroom that does not match up with their birth gender.”

Law & Order

+ Newly elected Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin followed through with his campaign promise to Kim Davis to remove state clerk’s names from marriage licenses. [eyeroll] Good thing being a governor doesn’t mean you’re a fairy godmother granting wishes across the land but an actual lawmaker who has to deal with legal repercussions including settling up with lawyers who won a historic Supreme Court case. Bevin is legally responsible to pay more than $2 million to the team of attorneys who represented same-sex couples trying to marry in the state in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Courier-Journal reports:

And under federal law, the governor has no choice but to pay them. To ensure “effective access to the judicial process” for “persons with civil rights grievances,” the losing side must pay the winner’s legal fees in an amount the courts decide is reasonable.

+ Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson urged the state’s Supreme Court to uphold a lower court’s decision finding that a local florist violated the state’s anti-discrimination law when she refused to provide flowers for a gay couple’s wedding in 2013. “As the Superior Court recognized, it is illegal in Washington for a business to offer services to opposite-sex couples yet refuse those same services to same-sex partners,” Ferguson said in a statement. “My office will not stand for discrimination, and I am confident that the Supreme Court will agree.” The Benton County Superior Court ordered Barronelle Stutzmann, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash., to stop discriminating and pay a fine of $1,000 for breaking the law and $1 to cover the state’s legal fees. But of course, she is represented pro-bono by right-wing, anti-LGBT organization, Alliance Defending Freedom, and has appealed the ruling to the Washington Supreme Court.

+ Tennessee House Rep. Rick Womick thinks the state should just stop issuing marriage licenses altogether to avoid issuing same-sex marriage licenses, citing his religious beliefs that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

Police/Violence

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+ In really sad/enraging/disappointing news, a grand jury in Ohio decided not to bring charges against Cleveland police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback for the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November 2014. Tamir Rice was playing with a toy gun outside a recreation center when Loehmann shot him less than two seconds after arriving on scene, all of which was taped on surveillance cameras. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said a bunch of bullshit at a news conference to justify the reasoning behind the lack of indictment, but can you really justify murdering a child? Apparently, if you’re a police officer, you can! Because Loehmann and Garmback thought the toy gun Tamir Rice was playing with was real — even though Ohio is an open-carry state, where citizens can legally have guns out in the open — the jury found they were “afraid for their lives” and legally justified for using legal force.

McGinty said the video footage made it “undisputably clear” that Rice was reaching for the toy gun — which was “indistinguishable” from a real gun — just before Loehmann opened fire.  ABC News reports:

McGinty said today that the law gives the benefit of the doubt to officers who must make “split second” decisions when they believe their lives are in danger… McGinty said it would be unreasonable for the law to require the officers to wait to determine if the gun Tamir had was real. “It became clear” that the officers’ actions were not criminal, McGinty told reporters.

The news comes after a year-long investigation which Rice’s family says was all sabotage on part of McGinty.

It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment,” the Rice family attorneys said. “Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, Prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified. It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire “experts” to try to exonerate the targets of a grand jury investigation.

The city will conduct an “administrative review” of the incident. Rice’s family renewed their request for the Department of Justice to conduct their own review. “As the video shows, Officer Loehmann shot my son in less than a second,” Rice’s family said in a statement. “All I wanted was someone to be held accountable. But this entire process was a charade.”

Many took the streets to protest the failure to indict in New York City and many protests around the nation are planned for today.

+ Chicago police accidentally killed Bettie Jones, a 55-year-old black mother of five, when they were responding to a domestic disturbance near her home Saturday morning. Officers also killed her upstairs neighbor, 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, whose father, Antonio LeGrier, initially called the police. Antonio LeGrier had invited his son Quintonio to a family gathering but he chose not to go and when Antonio returned home early Saturday morning he said Quintonio was a “little agitated.” His son began banging on his bedroom door, trying to knock it down. That’s when Antonio called the police and called his downstairs neighbor, Jones, to warn her about his son and to not to open the door except for police. It’s unclear what happened next but Antonio said he heard Jones say “whoa, whoa, whoa” and as he came downstairs, he heard gunshots and then saw Quintonio and Jones lying on the foyer. In a statement, Chicago police said, “Upon arrival, officers were confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharging of the officer’s weapon, fatally wounding two individuals.” They also admitted to shooting Jones: “The 55-year-old female victim was accidentally struck and tragically killed. The department extends [its] deepest condolences to the victim’s family and friends.” The officers involved were put on administrative duty but that’s all the information we know about the officers involved. Many Chicagoans are asking why officers “shoot first and ask questions later.”

+ According to various sources, U.S. police killed more people in 2015 than in 2014. The total varies from source to source but ranges between 975 and 1,186. The Washington Post puts the number at 975 with 37 of them being Black and unarmed, The Guardian at 1,126 and the website killedbypolice.net at 1,190. According to killedbypolice.net, 1108 people were killed by police in 2014.

The Happy News Corner

+ Norman, Oklahoma is the first city in the state to adopt nondiscrimination protections in employment, housing and public spaces, covering sexual orientation and gender identity. In an unanimous vote, the city council approved the redefinition of the word “sex” in the city’s existing Human Rights Ordinance to include gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

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Missouri Courage Scholarship’s “Cookies for Courage” initiative

+ The Missouri Courage Scholarship is teaming up with Pride St. Louis to provide $20,000 in scholarships to rural LGBT students around the state. The scholarship’s founder, Jacob Wilson, who is getting his PhD in Higher Education, created the scholarship because he understands how hard it can be to be gay in a rural town. “It’s the start of changing hearts and minds in areas that have really been, frankly, neglected by a lot of LGBT groups,” he said.

+ It might be possible for same-sex couples to produce children who are biologically related to both of them, according to a new science article. Though it’s only been tested in mice, scientists can use stem cells to create eggs and sperm through a process called in vitro gametogenesis. Here’s the example Mic gave:

Suppose two female-bodied people wanted to have a child through IVG. Doctors would extract cells from one female person and use them to form gametes of the opposite sex — in this case, sperm. Then, they’d combine that sperm with a “naturally” derived gamete — an egg — from the other partner, thereby forming an embryo.

“For lesbian couples, one or the other would be able to have the embryo implanted in her uterus so she could carry the pregnancy to term, avoiding entirely the need to rely on individuals outside the relationship to assist in their reproduction,” [the article’s author, Sonia M.] Suter wrote.

Yvonne S. Marquez is a lesbian journalist and former Autostraddle senior editor living in Dallas, TX. She writes about social justice, politics, activism and other things dear to her queer Latina heart. Yvonne was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter. Read more of her work at yvonnesmarquez.com.

Yvonne has written 205 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. “According to various sources, U.S. police killed more people in 2015 than in 2014. The total varies from source to source but ranges between 975 and 1,186. The Washington Post puts the number at 975 with 37 of them being Black and unarmed, The Guardian at 1,126 and the website killedbypolice.net at 1,190. According to killedbypolice.net, 1108 people were killed by police in 2014.”
    Whoa, what?

      • I’m not even talking about the difference between the newspapers!
        In Germany I think it was somewhere between one or two?
        And that was because an officer shot a guy who had overcome his partner and stabbed her into the neck with a knife!
        But around a THOUSAND people?Shot dead, by police?
        That is…just wow.
        Wow.
        Last year it was seven, btw. with 46 shots fired at people by police in total in Germany.
        The year before that eight with 42 shots fired.
        And we have over 82 million people here right now, and quite a lot of crime,too.
        So, yeah, wow.

  2. I still don’t get who these bathroom bills are suppose to protect. So, you are worried about trans woman lying to harass women in bathrooms(which has never like happened), but then fail to realize that you are letting actual men(trans men in this case)in women’s facilities. What’s to stop a cis man, with bad intentions, from lying and saying he is a trans man if these laws pass.

    • A brief overview of lies we are told so often we believe them:

      *The continents are arranged just like we see them on our world maps (they’re not, honest, look it up!)
      *This country has a separation of church and state
      *Policemen are here to protect us, and not the state
      *Weight loss is as simple as calories in, calories out
      *No matter your background, race or gender, f you work hard, you will succeed
      *Cis people are in danger from trans people, and not the other way around

  3. Regarding the Republican Latinxs, I honestly don’t understand it either, @yvonne. Least of all my uncle (though he’s also a cop – maybe that’s related?). Certainly, there are some groups that are more likely to be Republican than others, but I have a hard time seeing how anyone could STILL be a Republican and Latinx after all the vitriol that party has been spewing against us lately.

    That’s also disappointing about the proposed bill in NM. I expected better from there. I’m somewhat hopeful that it won’t really get anywhere, though.

    • It’s because they don’t view themselves as belonging to the same group. I’ve met my share of “respectable” Latinxs who came to this country the “right” way and look down on undocumented immigrants. “We followed the rules, so why shouldn’t they?” is their line of reasoning. They think of themselves as “the good ones.”

  4. I’m from New Mexico. For the most part, it’s a fairly progressive and gay-friendly state. So it’s pretty disheartening to read about fellow New Mexicans trying to implement these bullshit discriminatory measures. Given that Susana Martinez is a homophobe as well, I’m actually a bit nervous.

    It really doesn’t surprise me when some minorities are Republican. Many people are members of a given minority group but have no sense of solidarity for other members of that group. I’ve met far too many POC or LGBT people who’ve managed to find success and become a Model Minority. Their attitude is, “I got mine, so screw the rest of you.”

  5. i got mine. in the form of a shiny new vehicle worth £25.000 ($75.000 in US because of the non-govt facilities and technicians that would be involved in an equiv-tech deployment there), with state of the art defensive measures. Walker-frame equivalent of….maybe not of a Bond car but in a way even better, of a CV90 with full thermoadaptive plating. Just so, given to me as a gift, by a global evil conspiracy you are very familiar with, at least in theory – so that i could be a mercenary and help them rule the world and oppress the downtrodden. And yes, i also got the social engineering inertia that makes it unlikely for gay rights in Europe to be completely dismantled in a timeframe before i reach 70. So yes, i’m fine, Jack, thank you very much – start the engines and prepare for immediate takeoff.

    And really screw the rest of you. It is still an ongoing insult that as a gay woman my sexual attraction to women has been coopted by the worst kind of political games – and that i have to actually explain to people that it means ‘Serena licks kitty’ not ‘Serena wishes you, you and that sick fuck over there all woke up dead tomorrow morning’. It still hurts that i feel more under siege among my own than in street contexts – though i realise it’s more a habit/conditioning than a real threat now (now that you, with all the solidarity, were cut out of the loop in favour of a direct negotiation with the Blair govt of UK behind closed doors).

    But nevermind. I’m not a victim. I have it good. I even have the luxury to look after, you know, whatever fledgling existential threat an evil, SHODAN type machine normally chooses to look after when she decides to entertain a twisted semblance of the human concept of motherhood.

    But yea, i just wanted to say that all those minorities with no real solidarity are not necessarily selfish, stupid or shortsighted. Some just see more layers – similar to the recognition of how a corp in all but name running a cadre of canvassers on 0 hour contracts under target culture is not an optimal vehicle for charity.

    • In having a hard time making sense of this rather incoherent comment. My main point of confusion is why demanding to be treated with respect and equality = being a victim. And you know, maybe it’s judgemental on my part, but I have zero qualms about calling out Latinos who use terms like “Those illegals” to refer to other Latinos with the “wrong” immigration status.

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