Tennessee’s Back At It Again with the Bills Hurting Trans Teens
+ Tennessee has been all over the road during the recent rash of bathroom bills and “religious freedom” bills. It was the first state to make recent news for considering a bill that would criminalize trans students using the bathroom or locker room that corresponded to their true gender identity; then, after widespread backlash and after actual trans teens testified about how the bill would hurt them, the state backed down. Since then, North Carolina and Mississippi have each passed their own harmful and discriminatory bills that target LGBT people and especially trans women; and like clockwork, Tennessee is once again considering HB2412/SB 2387. The decision to shelf the bill until the summer session was reversed on Wednesday by theHouse Education Administration and Planning Committee, and the same committee voted to approve it (although it still would still need to be approved by lawmakers and the governor to pass into law).
Tennessee already passed a bill yesterday afternoon that would allow mental health counselors to refuse services based on their religious convictions, and sent legislation to the governor’s desk that would make the Bible the state’s official book. Here’s a reminder from the Advocate of what HB2412 would do if passed into law:
If passed, the bill would require staff and faculty at public K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to bar transgender students from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, in direct opposition to current interpretations of federal protections guaranteed to transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The federal Department of Education and the Department of Justice have both stated that Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex, also prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity, or any student’s failure to adhere to gender norms as defined by society.
RFRAs, Bathroom Bills and Discrimination, Oh My
+ The NFL will keep its owners meeting in North Carolina despite HB2.
+ This seems impossible to believe, but Mississippi — the state that just realized America’s most sweeping anti-LGBT law — has put out lesbian anchor Robin Roberts on the cover of its tourism magazine. Roberts did the interview well before the bill was signed into law, but it’s incredible that the state is capitalizing on her career and her fame while passing legislation that endangers and discriminates against her and her family.
+ Buzzfeed on how many Southern Republicans are tacking hard towards “no comment” regarding the anti-LGBT bills and/or bathroom bills that are popping up left and right, seemingly hoping to keep themselves equally appealing to evangelicals and large corporations. Good luck with that; Buzzfeed is also already looking at which corporations have interests in Mississippi and what their stances are.
Who Killed Kesha’s NY Lawsuit?
An NY judge has thrown out all seven of Kesha’s claims against Dr. Luke, saying that “even if what Kesha alleged did occur, either it didn’t happen in New York or the statute of limitations had passed.” The judge also disagreed with Kesha’s legal counsel’s interpretation of her sexual assault as a gendered hate crime:
“Although Gottwald’s alleged allegations were directed at Kesha, who is female, the [counterclaims] do not allege that Gottwald harbored animus toward women or was motivated by gender animus when he allegedly behaved violently toward Kesha,” the judge wrote. “Every rape is not a gender-motivated hate crime.”
So what does all this actually mean? Well, it’s a little more complicated than headlines may make it seem. First of all, it’s important to note that what was being discussed in court wasn’t a criminal charge of sexual assault, like a courtroom scene on Law & Order SVU. Kesha filed a civil suit in Los Angeles in 2014; Dr. Luke filed a suit against Kesha and her mother in response accusing them of defamation; Kesha filed counterclaims against that suit, and those counterclaims are what the judge dismissed this week. They didn’t constitute direct legal accusations of rape, but said that Dr. Luke had inflicted emotional distress, committed employment discrimination and gender-based hate crimes by engaging in sexual assault.
It’s the last item, the judge’s disagreement that sexual assault constitutes a gender-based hate crime, that’s perhaps generating the most attention, and for good reason! It’s an interesting legal argument, first of all, and the judge’s response is heartbreaking in a very particular way; we are most of us accustomed, by now, to courts of law and community not believing that sexual assault occurred. But this response is essentially saying “Let’s go with the idea that this did indeed happen — it still doesn’t count as a crime in the way you think it does.” The way it was phrased specifically, according to the Atlantic, is that the judge “[does] not allege that Gottwald harbored animus toward women or was motivated by gender animus when he allegedly behaved violently toward Kesha.”
This is definitely very upsetting! But reading further, what is also extremely upsetting in a different way was the reasoning for why Dr. Luke’s actions didn’t constitute causing emotional distress: because for something to count as inflicting emotional distress, “the conduct has been so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.” And apparently, at least in legal terms, sexual assault and emotional abuse don’t meet those criteria. Ugh.
Kesha’s original lawsuit in California can still move forward, but this is definitely a really disheartening development.
+ Although ostensibly they’ve accepted the DOJ’s proposed plan for reforming their police department, in many ways Ferguson still seems to be fighting it tooth and nail. Now they’ve rejected a new property tax that would have helped pay for the plan.
+ At Duke University, students are protesting appalling treatment of employees of color by occupying the Allen Building with a sit-in. The incidents that sparked the protest are really horrifying, and the activism of these students is amazing; it’s really worth clicking through and reading that whole piece.
Meanwhile, Ohio State University students also organized a sit-in yesterday in conjunction with a list of demands from their university “on issues such as diversity, sexual assault, and the university’s budget.” Their sit-in plans had to be cut short when Senior Vice President Jay Kasey told them “our police officers will physically pick you up and take you to a paddy wagon and take you to be arrested.”
+ 36-year-old Melissa Boart’s parents knew that she was suicidal and she had a knife, so they called the police, hoping that they would stop her from hurting herself. Instead, police shot and killed her — because of the knife she had on her that her parents had called them about. It’s not news that police don’t generally deal well or safely with mentally ill people. Even without a weapon in play, mental illness is often interpreted by police as being willfully threatening, especially if the mentally ill person is of color; black man with schizophrenia Dontre Hamilton didn’t have a knife, but was shot 14 times by police anyway. Alabama police are framing the incident as essentially suicide by cop, saying “It is unfortunate when someone intends to harm themselves and involves law enforcement to do so.”
+ In reprehensible but unfortunately not surprising news, it seems that border patrol agents are robbing personal belongings of undocumented immigrants before deporting them, including ID and/or money that they are in danger without.
Being without their personal items could also affect migrants long after they return to their home communities in Mexico, the complaint indicates. Border agents who take away money have left some complainants without weeks of wages. When identity and other legal documents weren’t returned, deportees found themselves unable to purchase basic items like bus tickets, receive a money transfer, or pass through military checkpoints in the interior of Mexico. And those who were able to get back home had to wait upwards of a month to replace their voter cards, leaving them effectively undocumented while they wait for replacements. “Imagine what it would be like you suddenly got dropped in a town that you didn’t know, without your cash or ID,” Vicki B. Gaubeca, the director at the ACLU of New Mexico’s Regional Center for Border Rights, told ThinkProgress in a phone interview. The ACLU-NM is one of several organizations that signed onto the complaint.
+ As you may have heard, the FBI eventually succeeded in gaining access to one of the San Bernardino shooter’s phone without Apple’s cooperation. Now the tools they used to do that are being offered to local police departments: “Days after announcing it had broken into Farook’s phone, the FBI agreed to help the Arkansas prosecutors unlock an iPod and iPhone 6 in a murder case.” This is especially alarming when one considers how important civilian cell phone video of police violence and misconduct has become in documenting that this violence occurs and providing a counterpart to police testimony; while up until now police should not have been able to access video or other data inside your phone without a warrant if it’s locked with a passcode, this new capability may change the game.
+ A horrifying and traumatizing video shows school police officer Joshua Kehm picking up twelve-year-old Janissa Valdez and slamming her to the ground, which left her with facial bruises and also suspended for two days. The incident comes in the midst of increasing awareness and concern about the omnipresence of school police officers and the seeming comfort of many with using physical violence against students, especially students of color and after several other extremely similar stories in the news. Kehm has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Law & Order
+ A video from Colorlines investigating whether Muslim, Sikh and Hindu Americans feel safer now that the federal government has started keeping track of hate crimes against them (which they didn’t start doing until last March!!)
+ The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued new guidelines warning landlords to stop denying housing applicants just because they have an arrest record.
+ The SCOTUS will hear a case regarding whether defendants of color have the right to a new trial if their jurors are racist.
+ Missouri state senators want to jail the head of St. Louis’ Planned Parenthood for refusing to turn over private medical documents which health providers are forbidden to share with others by federal privacy law.
+ The EEOC is ready for trans employees in North Carolina to file federal discrimination suits.
“I want workers to know that even though there isn’t yet a federal equality act protecting them, even though there is not a state law protecting them, and even though city laws have been removed, they can walk into a federal agency called the EEOC,” said [Chai Feldblum], who was nominated to her seat on the commission by President Obama. “Their claim will be taken, it will be investigated, and they will get help.”
+ Wisconsin’s been in the news for its voter ID laws and the problems it was anticipated to cause at the polls; one group affected was college students, who often aren’t in-state residents and have to get special student voting IDs from their university. Even so, students in Milwaukee reported long lines and long waits, with some having to leave the line and not vote so they could attend class. And students weren’t the only one; many citizens living in Wisconsin were put through incredible hoops just to try to exercise their constitutional rights. (Speaking personally as a Wisconsin voter, the poll workers themselves in my ward seemed confused about the rules, re-checking our documents several times over even after telling us they were correct, and sending us to the voter registration line instead of the voting line even though we’re already registered.)
Hatten, a 53-year-old African-American man, moved to Wisconsin from Illinois in 2013 after losing his job as a powder coater. A veteran of the Marines, he relocated to Milwaukee to seek help from the VA hospital, which put him up in temporary housing while he was homeless. He wanted to vote in Wisconsin, but his Illinois driver’s license was not accepted under the state’s strict voter-ID law, nor was his veteran’s ID at the time. In August of 2015, he met Anita Johnson, Wisconsin coordinator of VoteRiders, who helped him try to get a photo ID for voting in Wisconsin. It became a bureaucratic nightmare. The DMV rejected Hatten’s application for a free ID because he didn’t have a birth certificate. After Johnson resubmitted his hospital and birth records, the DMV said the birthdate didn’t match. Finally, Johnson discovered that Hatten was delivered by a French midwife in Arkansas, who spelled his name D’Nette instead of Dennis, but the DMV said Hatten would need to change his name through the Social Security Administration to get an ID for voting.
Data & Research
+ Louisiana State University’s student newspaper reports that the majority of reported rapes on campus occur on gamedays/game weekends; the campus PD’s Lt. Kevin Scott doesn’t really buy it.
“If you surveyed 100 girls, or 1,000 female students on LSU’s campus, will you really see one in five that say they’ve been sexually assaulted, if they’re really being honest?” Scott said. “Is that accurate? I mean, look at the numbers.”
(This seems to have been said as a response to… looking at the numbers? Confusing.)
+ Speaking of sexual assault statistics, a new study presented at the Conference on Crimes Against Women finds that in Texas, 91% of sexual assaults go unreported to the police. Huh, I wonder why, Lt. Kevin Scott?
+ Trans teen girl Annabel was the victim of a hit-and-run that appears to have been intentional near Monterey Park, CA (the linked news story misgenders the victim, just a heads up). Her family has started a GoFundMe to cover her medical costs; she was reported by the police to be in “serious but stable condition.”
+ Right now, the state of California offers six weeks of parental leave at 55% pay; San Francisco has become the first city in America to offer six weeks of parental leave at 100% pay. Anybody who’s been at their job more than 180 days can benefit, regardless of gender or whether their child is gestational or adopted.
+ The National Abortion Federation reports that threats against abortion providers rose so dramatically after the fake Planned Parenthood “sting” videos from CMP that “they were unable to track all the threats to their member organizations themselves. They had to hire a security firm to do it.”
+ Workers at Donald Trump’s Las Vegas hotel have successfully been unionized, against the wishes of Trump’s corporation.
+ This week, between 70 and 100 detainees seeking asylum in the US were deported back to India, Bangladesh and Nepal. The majority of the Bangladeshi detainees were Muslim, and half of the remaining detainees were Sikh. In short, Muslims are already being deported out of the US, even without Donald Trump in office. Some detainees engaged in hunger strikes to protest the deportation.
“I knew if I go back, I’m going to lose my life so I decided with other detainees that if we die, we’ll die here without eating,” one 31-year-old Bangladeshi national, whose affiliation with the BNP made him ineligible for asylum and resulted in 11 months of detention, previously told ThinkProgress. “We don’t want to lose our lives — we came all the way from Bangladesh to save our lives. If we die, why not die here? Why go back?” Jan Meslin, Director of Social Change Development at the advocacy group Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), who visited two immigration detention centers last year as immigrants were refusing food, told ThinkProgress on Monday that a Bangladeshi national she visited in November was still being detained. She noted that the men who went on hunger strikes have family sponsors waiting for them in the United States and that most have been detained for more than one year.
+ A heartbreaking story about parents suing the New York City Department of Education for failing to protect kids from violence, bullying and harassment — especially kids of color.
FES believes the issue of school violence is one of racial justice, Kittredge said, arguing that black and Hispanic students are far more likely to be in New York schools plagued by violence. “The DOE’s actions have a disparate, and very significant, impact on black and Hispanic children. They’re six times as likely to experience a violent incident” as their white counterparts, Kittredge said.
+ In the UK, Broken Rainbow, the only national charity focused on LGBT survivors of domestic/intimate partner violence, is facing closure because a promised government grant isn’t coming through fast enough.
She said the charity has had no indication of when the money from the Home Office will arrive. “Jo Harvey Barringer [the CEO] is currently sending letters and emails, chasing them saying, ‘Look, this is the position we are in, can you speed this through any quicker?’” Baldry said the organisation has not yet received an answer. The charity is now trying desperately to find funds from elsewhere, speaking with other charity partners to see if they can lend Broken Rainbow money, and is considering putting together a last-minute fundraiser. “We’re also asking if anyone can hand in a hefty donation or provide us with a loan,” said Baldry. “We are guaranteed to get this £95,000 in, so even if it was a £25,000 loan for now, whoever can provide a loan will get that money back.” The charity has tried unsuccessfully to get a bank loan, she added.
+ Harvard University has added a plaque to the Wadsworth House on campus to recognize Titus, Venus, Juba and Bilhah, four slaves who lived and worked at the former university President’s house.
This comes on the heels of Harvard Law School’s decision to redesign its shield so it’s no longer based on a Caribbean slaveholder’s family crest. In February, the university (my alma mater, full disclosure) also decided to stop calling the people who run various undergrad residential outfits for sophomores, juniors and seniors “house masters,” going with “faculty dean,” instead. …In addition to the plaque, Faust has assembled a team of historians to suggest other sites on campus to recognize, and next year the affiliated Radcliffe Institute will host a conference on universities and slavery. “In more fully acknowledging our history, Harvard must do its part to undermine the legacies of race and slavery that continue to divide our nation,” Faust added.
+ Melissa Harris-Perry spoke with Anita Hill for Essence!