Daily Fix: Frat Lobbies Are Why We Can’t Have Nice Things and Other News Stories

Hey Trix Rabbits! It’s been a moving and shaking couple of days in the news. Can you feel it in the air? The sensation of politicians, wonk bloggers, and swing states tensing in readiness now that people have begun announcing presidential runs? It’s all really happening.

Laws of the Land

+ In upsetting news, NY Governor Cuomo will drop the Dream Act from his proposed budget. Although some had hoped that the Dream Act — which would allow undocumented high school graduates to apply for state financial aid for their college education — was finally facing a receptive climate, the measure proved unpopular in the legislature. “We’re nowhere close to an agreement… So it was pointless in the budget,” said Cuomo.

dream-act-banner

+ Alarmingly, a ballot proposal calling for gay people to be put to death is making its way through the ballot initiative process in California. While the proposed violence of the initiative would never actually make it into law, the fact that the proposal still has to be treated like any other initiative in California’s legislative process is raising a lot of eyebrows. The initiative, written by a practicing California lawyer, includes language like this:

“Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating wickedness in our midst, the people of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”

In theory, the ballot initiative would go to the stage of gathering signatures; if the initiative got enough signatures (specifically, 5% of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election), it would appear on the 2016 ballot and citizens could vote on whether or not it becomes law. (If this whole process is giving you déjà vu, it’s probably because Prop 8 also began life as a ballot initiative!) The California Supreme Court does have the power to keep an initiative off the voting ballot if they deem that it violates the state constitution, which it seems safe to say this one does, because murder is unconstitutional. Still, a strange and troubling footnote in modern legal history.

+ Remember the Lisa Miller case? We talked about her pretty extensively a few years ago. To briefly recap, Lisa Miller entered a civil union with Janet Jenkins in 2000; they had a daughter, Isabella, of whom Miller was the gestational parent. Later, the two broke up; Miller renounced homosexuality and declared herself an ex-lesbian. Miller refused to allow her ex-partner to have court-ordered visitation with Isabella, so the court ordered her to give Jenkins full custody. In response, Miller kidnapped Isabella and went on the run. A pastor, Kenneth Miller, was found guilty of aiding Lisa Miller in her kidnapping and her subsequent escape to Central America.

Now, there’s a new legal development in the case: cell phone data regarding the location, time and duration of certain calls made by businessman Philip Zodhiates may implicate him, as well as Pastor Miller, in aiding Lisa Miller. Zodhiates’ lawyer argues that the specific kind of cell phone data retrieved requires a warrant, and the evidence is therefore inadmissible; it remains to be seen whether the judge will rule to suppress the evidence.

Janet Miller-Jenkins

Janet Miller-Jenkins

Order in the Court

+ Good news for pregnant people or people who may someday become pregnant! The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of pregnant workers, declaring that UPS should have accommodated the needs of a pregnant employee by putting her on “light duty” instead of putting her on unpaid leave.

The case, Young v. United Parcel Service, hinged on whether or not UPS was justified in putting Peggy Young on unpaid leave after she became pregnant, even though other workers were commonly offered “light duty” for on-the-job injuries or to satisfy requirements under the American with Disabilities Act. The justices ruled 6-3 in favor of keeping Young’s lawsuit alive, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito joining the traditionally liberal members of the court. Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, said the question the lower court needed to ask was “why, when the employer accommodated so many, could it not accommodate pregnant women as well?”

+ Have you been following Ellen Pao’s lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins? It’s being called the highest-profile sex discrimination suit ever brought against a venture capital firm. Pao claims that she was blocked in her career path and ultimately forced out by the firm’s top male partners because of gender bias. Sexism, and the related fact that very few women have made it into the top echelons of venture capital, has been discussed frequently lately, and for good reason. ‘Round these parts, we’re particularly invested in gender issues in investment because they have a lot to do with why places like Bustle have over $6.5 million in startup money while places like Autostraddle are forced to launch with what we can find in our own wallets and underneath our couch cushions. We wrote about a women’s angel investor group, it’s really interesting stuff! Anyhow, Ellen Pao’s claims are as follows:

Kleiner Perkins discriminated against Pao because of her gender by failing to promote her and eventually firing her; the firm retaliated against her because she complained about discrimination both in conversations and in a memo to partners; the firm failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination against her; and Kleiner Perkins retaliated against her by firing her because she filed the lawsuit while she was still employed.

It’s kind of a nail-biter as far as how this will play out; it seems like among the reasons given for Pao’s firing were concerns that she was too “aggressive” as well as “entitled, selfish, uncooperative and widely disliked by entrepreneurs and fellow venture capitalists.” Sound familiar, women in male-dominated fields? Closing arguments were made in the trial this week.

Ellen Pao

Ellen Pao

Republicans, Womp Womp

Senator Dan Coats of Indiana won’t seek re-election this year, choosing to instead “focus on his Senate work” in preparation for retirement. Indiana isn’t a definitive red or blue state, necessarily, and so the race to elect Coats’ replacement may be interesting and significant.

+ Noted Incorrect Person Roy Moore — you may remember him as having previously displayed his lack of understanding with respect to bisexuality, transgender issues, and basic math — has made a brave stand regarding the specter of marriage equality, activist judges, and the federal government. In remembering William Travis, who famously died at the Alamo, Roy solemnly wondered whether others — perhaps even himself! — might be called upon to give their lives in order to defend our country from the federal government trying to force gay marriage into our every private family moment. When the Gay Civil War of 2034 comes to pass, Roy Moore will surely be ready to answer his country’s call in its time of need.

Bad News

+ On Monday night, trans teen activist Blake Brockington died via suicide. Brockington was the first out trans homecoming king in North Carolina, featured in projects such as We Are The Youth, and participated in a variety of activist campaigns, from speaking at his local Transgender Day of Remembrance gathering to attending rallies against police violence. His passing was a shock, and many people miss him dearly. His is the sixth reported suicide of a trans youth in the US so far this year. If you or a loved one are feeling suicidal, there are resources for you; please don’t hesitate to call if you’re feeling like you might hurt yourself.

Trevor Project Lifeline: 866-488-7386
Trans Lifeline (staffed by trans volunteers): US (877) 565-8860/Canada (877) 330-6366
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Blake Brockington

Blake Brockington, via Facebook

+ Well! It appears that this week the last standing abortion clinic in Mississippi was attacked, by an intruder who broke the security cameras and damaged their generator. The clinic’s operators are now forced to set up a 24-hour watch to make sure the intruder doesn’t return. Neat! Great. Very cool.

+ Did you know that there is a frat lobby? Yes, an organization that exists solely to defend the interests of fraternities in the legislature. What are they up to, you ask? Oh, just actively trying to make it more difficult for universities to deal with campus sexual assault. FratPAC, which is their actual name, plans to lobby for universities to have to wait to address sexual assault cases internally until they’ve already been “resolved” by the outside criminal justice system. It’s not like universities are really doing that great a job addressing sexual assault as is; there’s really no need to give them more excuses to try to sweep this under the rug. There are already many, many reasons why sexual assault survivors might not want to report it to the police — especially if the survivor is a woman of color. If this requirement came to be, it would effectively force survivors to engage in a process that many of them don’t want and find actively harmful in order to access an internal university process that for many people has proven to ALSO be a harrowing ordeal, just to have a chance at some kind of justice. All of this very literally in the name of making fraternity members and/or rapists more comfortable. There’s no reason to assume yet that this will come to pass, but it’s certainly enough to keep you up at night.

Oh Neat, Look At That

+ The Newseum in Washington, DC saw a panel that comprised all six openly gay US ambassadors in one room. Ambassador to Australia John Berry, Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James Brewster, Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford, Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Daniel Baer, Ambassador to Spain James Costos and Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius spoke about foreign service and the history and present of LGBT rights both at home and abroad. I never think about US ambassadors, so this is neat! Someday we’ll have openly gay ambassadors who aren’t all white dudes, and that will be even more neat.

+ Congrats to the employees of the UN; a plan has been approved to give family benefits to the same-sex spouses of UN employees as long as they’re legally married. A number of countries opposed the measure, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria and China. Spouses will now receive benefits regardless of their home country, as long as they’re legally married in a country where their marriage is legal, although it doesn’t appear that that has to be their home country.

+ One of the ways in which female same-sex couples are marginalized is how much it often costs them to have a child through insemination. For different-sex married couples, even if they can’t conceive on their own for some reason, in vitro fertilization is often covered by their insurance — not so for same-sex couples. Until now! A little bit! Maryland has approved healthcare legislation that would “prevent health insurers from excluding benefits for outpatient expenses related to in vitro fertilization” for same-sex couples. This is truly groundbreaking, and is an exciting step forward for same-sex would-be parents, who don’t deserve to be essentially taxed for their gender when trying to start a family.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1094 articles for us.

17 Comments

  1. There are some LGBT Amabassadors who are not white dudes! This one might be a case of whether it’s super public rah-rah, or whether it’s known within the State Department and Embassy communities. Especially given a rise in international backlash against people who either identify as LGBT or engage in same-sex sexual behavior (looking at you Russia and India after 2013), sometimes it’s more prudent to be known internally, rather than to, say, the visa-granting government. Although, the queer lady ambassadors and Deputy Chiefs of Mission (DCM) (They really run the Embassies) tend to be white. So I don’t know.

  2. In the case Young v. United Parcel Service, the Supreme Court didn’t say that Peggy Young was discriminated by UPS, just sent the case again to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia.

    “We do not determined whether Young created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether UPS’ reasons for having treated Young less favorably … were pretextual. We leave a final determination of that question for the Fourth Circuit…”

    So, half-assed ruling…

  3. This past week has made me question whether or not the US is really a dystopic society.

    (By the way, in-vitro and other assisted impregnation procedures are partially covered by insurance in Canada! WOoOoo! Plus, like, a bajillion other good things that still exist here and aren’t being threatened by the rabid religious right…)

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