Lesbian Firefighter Wins the Day and Her Discrimination Lawsuit, Awarded Over $800,000


Lesbian Firefighter Endured Years of Harassment and Discrimination By Co-workers, Complaints were Ignored By Superiors

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Lori Franchina

+ Lt. Lori Franchina, a former Providence firefighter, won her gender discrimination and sexual harassment case against the city and was awarded a total of $806,000. The sum “includes emotional and punitive damages, plus ‘future wages’ she says she could have earned if she hadn’t retired early.” Franchina filed a suit in 2012 after she endured years of harassment, lewd names, and discrimination at her workplace for being a lesbian and a woman. She says it was a few fellow firefighters who harassed and discriminated against her, but her superiors who ignored her complaints and retaliated against her. “It had an effect almost every day,” Franchina told a local news station. “It breaks you. It wears you down. You still try to come to work every day and do your job well.” The city is appealing the decision.

Law & Order

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans sex discrimination from schools given federal funding. The federal appeals court agreed that schools are required to allow transgender students to use restrooms and facilities that match their gender.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case against President Obama who opponents say overstepped his presidential powers when he announced his 2014 executive action that would allow roughly 4 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. and gain work permits. Obama’s DAPA(Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) program would allow undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States at least since 2010, have no criminal record and have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to not be deported. The suit is filed by 26 Republican-governed states, headed by Texas. It’s a very big case for SCOTUS to hear and there should be a decision by June. Right now, it doesn’t look good for Obama or for the undocumented people holding out for DAPA and the extended DACA programs to be approved, therefore ensuring their safety and protection by the law. With Judge Scalia’s death, four liberal justices and four conservative justices are left to decide, which means it will most likely lead to a tie, a non-decision. If this happens, the ruling would uphold a lower court ruling that threw out Obama’s action last year.

+ An 18-year-old girl faces up to 40 years in prison for live broadcasting her friend’s rape on Periscope. In February, Marina Lonina and her 17-year-old friend were hanging out with a guy they met at the mall, 29-year-old Raymond Boyd Gates, who then forced himself on the 17-year-old, while Lonina live broadcasted the assault with her phone. Lonina’s friend watching from another state called authorities. Gates and Lonina were indicted with kidnapping, rape, sexual battery, and facilitating child pornography. Lonina’s attorney says Lonina was also a victim and taken advantage of by Gates, who gave the teenagers alcohol.

Dylan Roof’s trial has been moved from July 2016 to January 2017 after his lawyers’ request for a months-long psychiatric evaluation so doctors can testify about Roof’s mental health and narcotic use. He’s the 20-year-old white dude who shot and killed nine Black people at a South Carolina church and faces nine counts of murder, three counts attempted murder and a whole lot of federal offenses, including hate crimes.

+ A high school student from Maryland was arrested for threatening to shoot other students wearing ribbons in support of Day of Silence, a national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.

Ding, Dong The Bill Is Dead

+ Republican Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a bill that would’ve made the bible Tennessee’s official state book. “In addition to the constitutional issues with the bill, my personal feeling is that this bill trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text,” Haslam wrote in a statement. “If we are recognizing the Bible as a sacred text, then we are violating the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee by designating it as the official state book.”

But now some Tennessee legislators are trying to override the governor’s veto. Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton filed a notice on Monday that he planned to override the veto on Wednesday with a vote.

Overriding a Tennessee governor’s veto is relatively easy. All it takes is the same number of votes constitutionally required to pass a bill — 50 of the 99-member chamber. The Bible bill passed the House last year with 55 votes. But while overriding a veto is easy in theory, it’s not often done.

+ Hey, guess what? Tennessee decided to hold voting on their proposed “bathroom bill” till next year, which is semi-good news, right? Republican Rep. Susan Lynn, the sponsor of the proposed bill that would require K-12 and college students at public schools to use facilities that correspond to their sex assigned at birth, says she is killing the legislation to further study the issue. “I have learned that our school districts are largely following what the bill says,” she said. “I am still absolutely 100 percent in support of maintaining the privacy of all students. But I’m going to roll the bill over until next year so we can work on those issues.” Numerous businesses and organizations expressed their concern with the bill and even the state’s Attorney General Herbert Slatery believes the bill would cost the state federal funding for education because the law would conflict with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. Now that the bill is tabled for now, Tennesseans should without a doubt monitor these bills and the anti-LGBT organizations behind them, and be vigilant in their local schools to fight for equality for all students, including transgender students.

The Awful Conditions of Prisons

+ Arizona Department of Corrections fired 13 officers and supervisors and disciplined eight others involved with two suicides at their facilities in the past year. In two different occasions and facilities, an inmate killed themselves while officers responsible for patrolling the prison neglected their duties and subsequently lied about it in their reports and during investigations.

+ A trans woman from Australia not identified by name in the press says she was raped every day, sometimes sexually assaulted multiple times a day while serving her four-year sentence at various male prisons in the country. She says she was forced to perform sex with men in order to protect herself. While serving her sentence, another prisoner cut off her long hair and she was denied hormones, which was extremely traumatic for her as well.

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Ashley Diamond before she went to an all-male prison.

+ The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Georgia are investigating the treatment of LGBT prisoners in the state’s prisons, the Georgia Voice reports.

“Essentially we’re looking at potential violations of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), which deals with the constitutional rights of prisoners in institutions like prisons,” said [U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, John] Horn, who couldn’t go into specifics of the investigation, but added, “What we can say is that we have received some complaints relating to allegations of abuse in Georgia prisons. When we reach critical mass, we decide to open up an investigation.”

The investigation comes after the high-profile case of trans woman Ashley Diamond who filed a federal lawsuit for being denied medical treatment for gender dysphoria and was sexually assaulted multiple times by other inmates.

Dispatches from North Carolina

+ LGBT pride flags that stood in front of the United Church of Christ in Hillsborough, North Carolina were burned last Friday.

+ There’s been so many reports of musicians and other famous people saying they’re protesting HB2 by not performing in North Carolina or still performing in North Carolina to support their LGBT fans. I’m not gonna list them all but one that might be of note for you is Ani DiFranco. She cancelled an upcoming show in North Carolina, who was supposed to perform at Durham’s Festival for the Eno on July 4. She released a statement saying: “Today I stand arm in arm with my community, friends, family and fellow citizens in condemning this unjust law.”

+ Oh this is a neat idea! Thirty-six North Carolina breweries banded together to create a Don’t Be Mean to People: A Golden Rule Saison. Their Kickstarter campaign raised over $37,000 in a week and went beyond over their $1,500 goal. All the profits of the beer, which will be released in May, will go to two LGBT groups — Equality North Carolina, an organization fighting HB2, and QORDS, a summer camp for LGBT youth.

Grab Bag

+ Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale came out earlier this month and according to Vice contributor, Owen Duffy — a “nation shrugged its shoulders.” He explores how Scotland became one of the most LGBT friendliest countries in the world when just 15 years ago the country was hotly debating Clause 2A, which “forbade positive portrayals of same-sex relationships in schools.”

+ Gay country singer Chely Wright is encouraging other country musicians to come out and support LGBT rights by condemning anti-LGBT legislation.

+ A gay couple in Dallas are the first confirmed case of male-to-male transmission of the Zika virus in the U.S. One man had traveled to Venezuela and a few days after returning home in January, he had symptoms of the disease. Before his symptoms developed he had unprotected anal sex with his long-term partner, who contracted similar symptoms a week later. The illness is mild and people recover from it in a few days but it can be especially dangerous for those infected with it during pregnancy, as it can cause brain damage to their babies.

+ Gay flight attendants employed at Air France are protesting after the airline announced they were serving a new route to Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by the death penalty. The airline gave women an exemption if they didn’t want to work the route, but no one else. Laurent, a gay Air France flight attendant, started a petition in hopes the company will “grant gay crew members the right to refuse to go to a country where they could be killed for who they are”.

+ Ireland will review their lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. The Irish Blood Transfusion Service Board is reviewing the rules this month and expect to have a decision in a few days and the final decision is set to be decided by health minister Leo Varadkar, who is openly gay.

Yvonne S. Marquez is a lesbian journalist and Autostraddle senior editor living in Dallas, TX. She writes about social justice, politics, activism and other things dear to her heart like Selena and tacos. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism and has since written and edited lots of gay stuff for the internet. Yvonne calls the borderlands home, strongly identifies with her Scorpio moon sign, and really hopes to crush the patriarchy soon. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.

Yvonne has written 203 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. Hazing, bullying, “razzing” are all such an ingrained component of the fire service, I don’t know how widespread changes could ever be implemented. Good for Lt. Franchina, but I’m sure the money does not make up for the discomfort and actual fear she experienced for years.

  2. I just read this in the news this morning & I ran on over to Autostraddle all pissed off to see what people were saying. I’ve worked in criminal justice institutions and I’ve seen the same thing. Sexism is a common byproduct of hierarchical cultures dominated by men (think prisons, branches of law enforcement, or anywhere where the title of “officer” is evoked). In response to what Rachel said, I think the best way to erode the culture of masculinity and violence in many of these institutions is to first change the hiring criteria that don’t so obviously favor white men of military backgrounds. However, basic protections for women and minorities in high-risk careers need to be implemented or they won’t want these jobs to begin with. In any case, I’m happy for Franchina. I hope the Providence Fire Dept. doesn’t appeal this decision lest they look like a bunch of pigs.

    • what’s nuts about this is that these are people in high-risk jobs like you said, who rely on their colleagues having their backs and protecting them. I’d be completely paranoid going into a dangerous situation and wondering if they wouldn’t work as hard about saving my life if it came to it 🙁

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