A Step Forward for Laws Prohibiting Anti-Trans Discrimination
+ New York City’s new laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity are allegedly the toughest in the country. Admittedly, it’s a low bar! Many, many states in the union have no laws on the books about discrimination against trans and gender nonconforming people at all. Based on the new NYC laws, the following actions constitute discrimination:
* Intentionally failing to use an individual’s preferred name, pronoun or title. (For example: Repeatedly calling a trans woman “him” or “Mr” when she has made it clear that she prefers female pronouns.)
* Refusing to allow individuals to use single-sex facilities, such as bathrooms or locker rooms, and participate in single-sex programs consistent with their gender identity. (For example, barring a transgender woman from a women’s restroom.)
* Enforcing dress codes, uniforms, and grooming standards that impose different requirements based on sex or gender. (For example, enforcing a policy that requires men to wear ties or women to wear skirts.)
* Failing to providing employee health benefits that cover gender-affirming care and reasonable accommodations for individuals undergoing transition (For example, time off for medical appointments and recovery).
Performing any of these actions can legally entail up to $125,000 in fines, or $250,000 if “it’s proven the violation is the result of willful, wanton, or malicious conduct”, the proving of which which I’m sure would be a fascinating legal problem to solve.
This new legislation comes at the same time as a new study from the Williams Institute, which finds that the majority of people in every US state support protections for trans people against employment discrimination. The Institute says that “nationally, more than three-fourths of Americans currently support such laws,” but on average, 81% of residents need to support laws like this before they are successfully passed in any given place.
It’s representative of something of a chicken-or-egg problem when it comes to the law’s relationship to cultural attitudes: do we need to change the social belief first, and the law will follow? Or vice versa? New York’s law isn’t likely to effect a sea change; after all, we’ve had laws on the books prohibiting discrimination against other marginalized groups for decades, and those issues haven’t been solved overnight. But that isn’t to discount the importance of this legislation — while it likely won’t guarantee workplace safety or reliable, respectful employment for trans and gender nonconforming people in NYC, it does at least provide legal backing for pursuing it; without that legal ground to stand on, it would be even more impossible to make those rights a reality for trans people, and that end goal is ultimately what’s important.
+ San Francisco police officers who exchanged racist and homophobic text messages will keep their jobs and will not face discipline according to a judge’s ruling. “The messages contained racist and antigay remarks calling African American people “monkeys” and encouraging the killing of “half-breeds.” The crux of the issue seems to be the statute of limitations, and the police department taking a long time after the surfacing of the text messages to move for disciplining the officers involved. Attorneys for the police officers in question say that it’s important to remember that the racism at hand wasn’t expressed in the line of duty, and also that it was actually just the fault of their sergeant, allegedly.
“The public has a right to have police officers not express themselves in this way and not think in this way — no one is saying differently,” Brass said. “The important thing is that these officers only texted that kind of material because that’s what their sergeant wanted. That was their sergeant’s way of communicating. That was his code to be in a club that officers had to be in if they were going to be successful. “Ian Furminger was a police officer that was larger than life. Being in with him was important if one was going to be successful. It just shows the damage that someone like that can do to a police department.”
+ The Washington Post is trying to investigate a little-discussed but potentially huge aspect of police violence in America: how many incidents of violence involve officers who are repeat offenders?
The Post requested information on the 743 killings it registered between January and September. Agencies only responded in 367 cases, but of those, 55, or roughly 1 in 8, involved at least one officer who had previously taken part in a deadly shooting. The true number is likely higher, as departments with the most habitual killings would presumably be the least inclined to share their records.
+ Purvi Patel, who we’ve covered a few times as she was charged with feticide and child neglect after she was accused of taking drugs meant to induce an abortion, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
…no evidence that Patel ever purchased those drugs was ever uncovered. No trace amounts of drugs were found in the blood of either Patel or her fetus. The autopsy of the fetus relied upon an archaic test to conclude a live birth — a test that has been discredited in most of the medical and forensic profession. Consistent with this evidence, Patel maintained that she hid her pregnancy due to cultural stigmas against pre-marital sex, and to protect the identity of the fetus’ father — a married co-worker. Patel maintained that although she contemplated purchasing abortion-inducing drugs, she never went ahead with the idea. Finally, Patel maintained that her fetus was lost by stillbirth, which occurs in 1 out of 160 pregnancies.
+ Barbara Dawson, a 57-year-old black woman, was arrested when she wouldn’t leave the hospital after being discharged — and then died of her ailment, a blood clot in the lung.
According to the Associated Press, Dawson was seeking treatment for stomach pains, but refused to leave after the doctor cleared her release; the Tallahassee Democrat reports that Dawson, a black woman, “pleaded for oxygen” but was told by a nurse that she did not need it. She was arrested, handcuffed, and led away. Before she reached the car, however, she collapsed. According to Blountstown Police Chief Mark Mallory, Dawson “was causing a disturbance in the hospital with her language and the volume of her voice.”
Dawson’s family says the hospital was slow to administer CPR, and that hospital staff had previously called the police on her for seeking treatment. The family is planning on filing a lawsuit, and both the Blountstown police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating.
+ Previously in this column we wrote about Anna Yocca, a Tennessee woman charged with attempted murder when she tried to perform an abortion on herself with a coat hanger. This week we learned that Yocca will plead not guilty.
+ Cutting Medicaid funding and raiding clinics wasn’t enough! Now Texas is cutting Planned Parenthood’s HIV funding, money which would have gone to keep people from contracting HIV, like testing, education, and condoms.
“I don’t know who else is going to fill that gap, and I don’t know if anyone can frankly,” the spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast told the Tribune. “Every time the state cuts these programs in an attempt to score political points…the true victims here are tens of thousands of women and men who no longer have access to health care that they need.”
Prison and Protest
+ Black Lives Matter activists performed direct actions in six US cities beginning on Wednesday for #BlackXmas, shutting down major shopping and transit hubs on one of the biggest shopping weeks of the year.
“We understand that money talks [and] the police force is really here to protect white wealth, not really to protect black bodies,” Malkia Cyril, a spokesperson for Black Lives Matter Bay Area, told Mic. “We recognize that in order to make sure people can truly hear this message, we’re going to stop business as usual and stop the flow of commerce on a day where a lot of money is going to be spent. We want to make people pay attention to the fact that black humanity is being denied.”
+ In 2009, a New York law was passed banning the shackling of prisoners in labor; now Governor Cuomo has signed a bill banning the shackling of pregnant people full stop, at any point in their pregnancy, except under “extraordinary” circumstances. It also prevents correctional officers from being in the delivery room during labor unless medically necessary, and requires prisons to submit a yearly report in which they recount every time they shackled a pregnant person and why they thought it necessary to do so.
+ Could anyone have guessed that the saga of Kentucky county clerks not wanting to sign marriage licenses would have taken up this much of 2015? Anyways, here’s the latest: Kentucky’s governor says that individual county clerk names will be removed from marriage licenses to spare anyone being put into a tight spot regarding whether they want to do their job or not.
“To ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored, Executive Order 2015-048 directs the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives to issue a revised marriage license form to the offices of all Kentucky County Clerks. The name of the County Clerk is no longer required to appear on the form.”
+ In Wisconsin, a mall shooting that resulted in injuries but thankfully no deaths has State Representative Bob Gannon arguing that we need more civilians with guns in more places because “criminals no longer have any fear of our courts or our prisons, so it’s time that the citizens of this fine state stand up and fight back.” If this idea sounds fishy to you, you will be grateful to know that at least you aren’t alone, with Democratic representative Chris Taylor expressing alarm that Gannon was calling “for a vigilante uprising.”
+ Not a banner week for Wisconsin! A Wisconsin mayor wrote a a facebook post about Hillary Clinton in which he called President Obama “her Muslim partner”, and has refused subsequent calls for him to apologize, saying “Do we still have freedom of speech in the country? Sometimes I kind of forget.” The layers of horrifying stuff here would take a while to unpack — being Muslim isn’t degrading or an insult, yet it’s clearly being deployed as such here? It’s alarming that someone could be a mayor and not understand what the First Amendment actually means? — but well, dang, that sure happened!
+ Adrianna Vorderbruggen, one of the earliest military service members to come out after the repeal of DADT, has been killed in Afghanistan. She leaves behind her wife, Heather, and son, Jacob.
+ Governor Cuomo says that his administration has secured $68k in restitution for two victims of wage theft. Tina Vasquez at RH Reality Check notes that there’s no information on how Cuomo’s crackdown on wage theft might impact undocumented workers.
Every year, 6.5 million undocumented workers in manufacturing, service, construction, restaurant, and agriculture sectors experience wage theft. This population is among the most vulnerable and exploited workers in America, according to the Workplace Fairness advocacy organization. Undocumented workers are often victims of unpaid wages, dangerous conditions, and uncompensated workplace injuries, discrimination, and other labor law violations. Standing up for their rights routinely results in retaliation from employers, often in the form of threats of deportation.
+ Surprise! New research from the Department of Consumer Affairs says that 42% of the time, products aimed at women are priced higher than products aimed at men. Products aimed at men were found to cost more only 18% of the time.
+ In a legal/legislative situation I admittedly do not fully understand, legislators and the state Supreme Court in Kansas are fighting over who gets to appoint chief judges to lower courts!
+ Many Latinx people on Twitter have spoken: Hillary Clinton is not their abuela, no matter what she says.
+ Sireen Hashem, a Muslim-American teacher in New Jersey, was fired for classroom lessons that included Muslim people, even though the same pedagogical practices have gone without incident when enacted by non-Muslim teachers.
Hashem had shown a video about Malala Yousafzai in class — a pedagogical move apparently unoffensive in the classrooms of other, non-Muslim teachers. Hashem also used a writing prompt touching on Osama bin Ladin. Both pedagogical moves, reads the suit contesting the dismissal, were considered acceptable from other (non-Muslim) teachers. According to the suit, Hashem was told that “she could not teach current events in the same manner as her non-Arab, non-Palesinian, and non-Muslim colleagues.”