Hello! We’re finally getting out of the woods wherein the only things coming up in any search for LGBT news are related to marriage equality, which makes for a much more diverse array of stories! Hooray!
+ Sandra Bland, a Chicago native, was arrested in Waller County, Texas on Friday after she allegedly assaulted an officer during a routine traffic stop, which Waller County police claim was based on improper signaling for a lane change. Bland had been in Texas for a job interview with her alma mater, Texas Prairie View A&M, and had been offered the position. On Monday morning, Bland was found dead in her jail cell. The police claim Bland’s death was a suicide; many don’t believe it. Video of Bland’s arrest shot by a bystander seems to show police being rough and violent with Bland, who was unarmed.
“‘After he pulled her out of the car, forced her and tossed her to the ground, knee to the neck, and arrested her,’ says her friend Malcom Jackson… In the video of the arrest, an officer is heard telling the bystander taking the video to leave.
In the video he shot, Bland is heard saying, ‘You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that? I can’t even hear!’
Then, as she is taken into custody, she repeats, ‘You slammed me into the ground and everything.'”
The Texas Rangers will investigate Bland’s arrest and the circumstances of her death; it’s thought possible that there’s more video of the arrest that’s yet to come forward from others, which may help provide evidence of what happened.
In a World with Marriage Equality
+ Justice Kennedy, author of the Supreme Court opinion supporting same-sex marriage, has some words for people upset about the court’s ruling. And they’re pretty sensible; he points out that there was outrage against many Supreme Court decisions that we now consider hugely valuable, and that in a few months, much of it will likely fade. Let’s hope so.
+ Speaking of outrage, there’s a brand spanking new coalition formed to fight same-sex marriage. How will they do that? Their explanation has been “glaringly light on details, but they said the new grassroots movement called “REAL MARRIAGE: One Man/One Woman For Life,” will target unnamed businesses and politicians who don’t stand up against LGBT rights.” If you’d like to be really irritated by a lot of very gross quotes, feel free to click through, but if you’re wondering how the group plans to fight a ruling made by the highest court in the land, they do not have much of an explanation for it.
It’s been a big week for our ragtag band of Presidential candidates just beginning their trek through the unforgiving tundra that is the election cycle! Scott Walker said something dumb again, this time defending the ban on GBT Boy Scout leaders, and then tried to backpedal. Donald Trump is facing a lot of backlash everywhere from social media to corporations after his racist remarks about Latinos. Hillary unveiled a new economic plan that, among other things, mentions corporations engaging in profit-sharing with employees and breaking down economic barriers for women. It stands in contrast to Jeb Bush’s not-particularly-well-thought-out enthusiasm for Americans to work longer hours. Finally, Bernie Sanders has decreased the polling gap between himself and Hillary, although not by much (it went from 57%-12% to 51%-17%).
Are you clear on what’s happening with the US’s Iran deal? I’ll be honest: me neither, really. ThinkProgress has an explainer and also two different easily digestible metaphors, one with a cartoon bomb and one with legos.
Order in the Court
+ A federal judge has ordered that the state of Utah must recognize a married same-gender couple by listing both women as parents on the birth certificate of their daughter. It’s a really exciting ruling! This is a huge deal for many LGBT families, and the removal of this dumb legal obstacle makes a big difference in people’s lives, whether it’s being allowed to pick up your own kid from school, make important decisions about their medical treatment, or figure out fair custody agreements in the case of divorce or separation.
“The state has failed to show any legitimate reason, actually any reason at all, for not treating a female spouse in a same-sex marriage the same as a male spouse in an opposite-sex marriage with regard to [being] recognized as the legal parent.”
Law & Order
+ The latest in bills that would be really useful not being able to make it through Congress: a bill amendment which would have attempted to protect students from harassment based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity was voted down. The one good thing that’s come out of it is a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan signed by 64 Democrats in Congress asking for protections for LGBT students.
+ President Obama spoke at the NAACP’s 106th National Convention, with his remarks including his plans for criminal justice reform. They include commuting (reducing) more sentences for nonviolent offenders; Obama explicitly noted the problem of extremely harsh sentencing for nonviolent offenders, saying “In far too many cases, the punishment simply does not fit the crime. If you are a low-level drug dealer or you violate your parole, you owe some debt to society. You have to be held accountable and make amends. But you don’t owe 20 years. You don’t owe a life sentence. That’s disproportionate to the price that should be paid.”
+ A new lawsuit by the ACLU against Fresno County and the state of California alleges that the state is failing those it serves via an overworked and under-resourced public defense system. Last week in this column, we saw some data about prosecutors, their overwhelming whiteness and why that’s significant in terms of problems of mass incarceration and racially skewed sentencing; this lawsuit addresses another side of that coin. In theory, America’s legal system is equally just for people without money or class status because we’re all guaranteed the right to a public defender to represent us in court, even if we can’t afford a lawyer. In practice, public defenders are so overloaded that it’s virtually impossible for many of their clients to get quality representation from them, which of course means that client is less likely to fare well in court.
While the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals recommends that an individual attorney should not handle more than 150 felony cases a year, a conservative estimate finds that the average Fresno County public defender manages 612 cases each year—that’s more than four times the optimal caseload. And for misdemeanor cases, the typical annual caseload is 1,462 per year, versus the recommended 400.
In a perfect world, the state and/or federal government would recognize that this system isn’t functioning as it should and take the initiative to fix it, but in lieu of that occurring, the ACLU is suing for their clients’ rights to quality representation; they cite the high numbers of undocumented people living in the area as a reason why good public defense is especially crucial.
+ I just thought you would enjoy this story about Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont speaking out about the pay inequity between the men’s and women’s soccer teams.
+ We’ve talked before about how clinical trials are based largely around white men, and how dangerous that is considering that they’re used to develop medication that will be used to treat people of all demographics. Here’s one small drop in the bucket of solving that problem: GlaskoSmithKline and Purdue Pharma are working with Apple to do some of the communication and monitoring of clinical trials through an iPhone app, ResearchKit. Working with clinical trial participants through an app could be useful because people who are low-income and/or of color are more likely to identify their smartphone as their sole access to the internet; using an app would widen the net of potential participants beyond people with personal computers. (On the other hand, as ThinkProgress points out, Apple users are more likely to be white and well-off, so perhaps the choice of the iPhone specifically is not the most impactful in terms of reaching diverse participants.)
+ In a new “sting” video (an anti-choice tactic that claims to “reveal” alarming secrets about abortion providers) it’s alleged that Planned Parenthood clinics “sell” organic material from fetuses after abortions. This allegation is, as Planned Parenthood explained in a statement, not true. Instead, Planned Parenthood will sometimes donate tissue for scientific research with the informed consent of the patient having the procedure. The more you know!
+ A trans woman won a suit against her healthcare provider after they refused to recognize her gender and placed her in a double occupancy room with a male patient, thanks to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
+ A piece at the Navajo-Hopi Observer about working for marriage equality in the Navajo Nation, and how the Supreme Court ruling interacts with the Diné Marriage Act.
While the Supreme Court ruling means that same sex couples can get married in all 50 states, the law may not have impact in Indian county where there are tribal laws prohibiting same sex unions – while marriage equality was legalized in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico last year, the Navajo Nation government did not recognize those decisions and has not taken action on the question.
“[The] victory will provide a foundation for future action by gay and lesbian Navajo couples who only want to be treated with fairness and respect by their Nation,” Nelson said. “The compassion shared by the Navajo people for our LGBT relatives and clan members will be the driving force behind efforts to finally repeal this discriminatory law.”
+ The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency has announced it’s releasing hundreds of mothers and children from its migrant detention centers, a move which comes after a sustained period of hunger strikes by the mothers along with work from activists outside the detention centers. ICE will, however, continue to intake migrants into detention, including families, so the struggle isn’t over.
+ A new study really drives home the dramatic wealth gaps that define America’s economic landscape, where as Matt Bruenig put it “The top 10% of families own 75.3% of the nation’s wealth. The bottom half of families own 1.1% of it.” Unsurprisingly, white men are much more likely to be on the wealthier side of these gaps; women, people of color, and especially women of color are much more likely to be on the less wealthy side. You can read the full study here.
+ The Obama administration has announced a new program that’s aimed to help low-income people in public housing connect to the internet, providing households with free or subsidized Internet connections. This is really, really huge. The majority of the things low-income people are told to do to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” — apply for jobs, go to school, learn new skills to become more hireable, learn a language, have a job that doesn’t require outside childcare — require internet access, and analysis says that less than half of low-income households have an Internet connection. Even aside from employment, there are tons of vital activities that require internet access — being able to do research for assigned schoolwork, being able to research candidates or even polling locations when it comes to voting, being able to research college scholarship or grants, being able to research labor laws to find out whether a boss is discriminating or treating you illegally. Low-income students who do successfully attend college despite high tuition rates, poor public education, and often working other jobs may be at a serious disadvantage compared to their college peers because they aren’t technologically or digitally literate, especially as universities increasingly move to online education options.
(An aside — as someone who worked in public libraries for many years, for a lot of people the only access to the Internet and therefore all the above information is through public libraries, and many public libraries are also suffering right now because of cuts to funding and resources, which makes this program extra important!)
The pilot program will be carried out in 27 US cities and a Choctaw Nation public housing area in Oklahoma. In some locations, the program will also include free technical support, free SAT prep, reduced-cost tablets and software, and free digital literacy classes.