Bathroom Battle: States Grapple With Transgender Rights

 | TIME | March 29, 2013

What do you call it when a person enters a bathroom but the sign outside  doesn’t match the sex listed on his or her birth  certificate? Disorderly conduct, according to a bill offered earlier this  month by Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh. But the measure sparked outrage in  the LGBT community, which saw discrimination against transgender citizens.  Kavanagh responded with a revamped, more limited version, which protects  businesses that bar such practices from civil or criminal liability. After a  contentious seven-hour hearing on Wednesday dominated by  opposition to the proposal, a House panel voted along party lines to approve  it.

As the Supreme Court considers same-sex marriage,  and with gay couples enjoying more rights and protections than ever, pitched  debates in state capitals are a reminder that transgender rights remain unclear  and controversial. Of the roughly 9 million people in the U.S. who identify as  lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to a 2011 study,  roughly 700,000 say they are transgender.

One reason that transgender rights remain murky is because the American  public is still coming to understand who they are: a survey released in 2011 showed that 3 in 10 Americans cannot identify what it means to  be transgender and dictionary definitions aren’t cut-and-dry. (The Oxford  English Dictionary’s rather tortured entry: “a person whose identity does not  conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender, but  combines or moves between these.”) Confusion or discomfort about where gender lines are drawn make bathrooms a perennial  hot-button, because those are the only places most people are self-segregating  based on their gender in an average day.

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Rachel Maddow urges students to master the art of argument in her first return to Stanford

Benjamin Hein | Stanford News | March 19, 2013

Asked by students what kind of major she looks for in a successful job candidate, Rachel Maddow, the popular television host and best-selling author, did not hesitate in her answer. “I look for people who have done mathematics. Philosophy. Languages.

“And really,” she concluded, “History is kind of the king.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree from Stanford in public policy in 1994 and winning a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University, Maddow spent the next decade raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and fighting for health reform in British and American prisons. She said to make an impact in the world and to change hearts and minds, she needed to know how to convince others and how “to make good arguments.”

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ME: Teen accused of threatening to shoot East Millinocket transgender student

Nick Sambides Jr | Bangor Daily News | March 31, 2013

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — An East Millinocket teenager has been suspended from Schenck High School and is being evaluated by juvenile court authorities after he was issued a summons for threatening a transgender student, officials said Friday.

The boy, 15, was issued a summons for terrorizing on March 5 after he allegedly threatened to shoot the 18-year-old senior, who was born female and identifies as a male, because he objected to the way the transgender student dressed, police said. The Bangor Daily News is not naming the accused boy because he is a juvenile and is not naming the transgender student because he is allegedly a victim.

“There were some comments made towards [the transgender student’s] sexual orientation, I guess you could say,” said East Millinocket police Officer Kevin Giberson, who investigated the incident. “There were some threats toward [the student’s] life. It rose beyond what you could call typical bullying toward the [student] – if there is such a thing as typical bullying — and that is when we stepped in.”

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There isn’t a “right time” to strike down DOMA

 | Salon | March 28, 2013

There isn't a EnlargeSupreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor   (Credit: AP/Win McNamee)

Out of all the newsworthy comments during this week’s Supreme Court debate over the legality of same-sex marriage bans, none was more revealing — or troubling — than that which came from Justice Sonya Sotomayor.

Before pointing out that “we let issues perk, and so we let racial segregation perk for 50 years from 1898 to 1954,” she asked: “If the issue is letting the states experiment (with same-sex marriage bans) and letting the society have more time to figure out its direction, why is taking a case now the answer?” The question embodied much of the sentiment of other justices, leading the New York Times to summarize the hearing with the headline: “Justices Say Time May Be Wrong for Gay Marriage Case.”

Three theories are at work in this line of reasoning: 1) The judiciary has an obligation to make sure its rulings reflect public opinion, 2) judges should always avoid rulings that conflict with public opinion, and 3) the Supreme Court should not immediately strike down laws violating the Constitution’s equal protection precepts because state fights over those statutes allegedly help the public reach consensus on those underlying issues.

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Church must disagree ‘gracefully’ over gay marriage, urges Bishop of Canterbury

Jean Paul Zapata | Gay Star News | March 31, 2013

The head of the Anglican Church worldwide urges members to disagree 'gracefully' over contentious issues including same-sex marriage.

The head of the Church of England Justin Welby has called for the Church to disagree ‘gracefully’ over divisive issues including gay marriage.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who wasted no time in speaking out against gay marriage equality on his first official day in office this year, today gave an interview calling for Anglicans to demonstrate to society they can agree to disagree.

‘We need to understand reconciliation within the Church as the transformation of destructive conflict, not unanimity,’ he said.

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Gay parents harm kids and other claims at Nevada Legislature

Mark Robison | | March 31, 2013

Family having picnic

The claim

Having gay parents harms children, and same-sex marriage would restrict religious liberty.

The background

The Nevada Legislature this week debated a proposal to change Nevada’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Richard Ziser of Nevada Concerned Citizens submitted testimony and articles against letting gay and lesbian couples marry in Nevada that claimed having same-sex parents harms children.

Two sources were cited: a 2012 study in Social Science Research by Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin; and an accompanying study by Loren Marks, an associate professor of family, child and consumer sciences at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge.

The Marks piece looked at 59 studies cited by the American Psychological Association in a brief supporting same-sex parenting.

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Cardinal Wuerl: LGBT people should ‘make room’ for Catholics who oppose marriage rights

David Edwards | Raw Story | March 31, 2013

The Archbishop of Washington on Easter Sunday said that he was concerned that Catholics would be shunned for opposing same sex marriage — and that it was gay and lesbian Americans who need to “make room” for the very people discriminating against them.

During an interview on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Cardinal Donald Wuerl how the church would react to gay and lesbian members who wanted to get married if the U.S. Supreme Court found that state and federal bans on same sex marriage were unconstitutional.

“The Catholic Church also reminds all of us there is a moral law, they are the commandments of God and we have to do our best to live by them,” Wuerl insisted. “The church is probably — with 20 centuries of experience — the most understanding of the human condition of any institution. But at the same time, it does remind not only gay people but heterosexual people, straight people, you’re not supposed to be following a moral law apart from what Christ has said to us.”

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GOP Senator: Republican Presidential Candidate Who Supports Marriage Equality Is ‘Inevitable’

Sy Mukherjee | Think Progress | March 31, 2013

During an appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press Sunday morning, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) admitted that a Republican presidential candidate who supports marriage equality is “inevitable” and that such a candidate would receive widespread support from across the political spectrum.

While Flake’s statement is reflective of rapidly shifting U.S. attitudes towards support for LGBT Americans — and come at the end of watershed week when the Supreme Court took up cases regarding the constitutionality of anti-gay laws Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act — it appears that cultural tide hasn’t quite swept up Flake with it yet, as the senator stood by his narrow interpretation of “traditional marriage” between one man and one woman:

CHUCK TODD (HOST): Let me ask you on gay marriage. Could you support a Republican presidential candidate some day who supported same-sex marriage?

FLAKE: Oh, I think that’s inevitable. There will be one and he will receive bipartisan support — or she will. So I think that yes, the answer is yes.

TODD: And where are you on this issue, you say it’s inevitable. Are you — Lisa Murkowski, a Republican colleague of yours called it evolving on the issue. Are you evolving to use her words on this issue?

FLAKE: I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman I still hold to the traditional definition of marriage.

TODD: Is there something that you — are you thinking about it? Can you imagine changing your position before you left the U.S. Senate?

FLAKE: I can’t. I tell you, in the past I’ve supported repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I’ve supported the [The Employment] Nondiscrimination Act as well, but I hold to the traditional definition of marriage.

Flake and other politicians opposing marriage equality find themselves on the wrong side of history and, increasingly, the opinion of the American public. Support for marriage equality has skyrocketed in recent years, and the latest election cycle saw the election of the first openly-gay U.S. senator, as well as the first openly bisexual U.S. congresswoman.

Still, a Republican nominee who supports marriage equality would face significant hurdles from members of their own party, as social conservatives have threatened to revolt if the GOP abandons its hardline views on LGBT rights and marriage equality. In fact, during a separate appearance on Fox News Sunday, former RNC chair Ed Gillespie hinted that the growing support for marriage equality could force Republicans to drop their call for a federal amendment against marriage equality from their platform.

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No Merit Badge for Courage for Boy Scouts

 | LA Progressive | March 28, 2013

gay boy scout 350 No Merit Badge for Courage for Boy Scouts

Sometime in May, a special committee selected by Boy Scout executives will recommend whether the Scouts should allow gays to be members and leaders.

The decision may have more to do with funding than with any other policy.

Contributions from individuals, major corporations, and at least 50 United Way agencies stopped because of the Scouts’ anti-gay policy. Among corporations that have not made annual six-figure donations are Intel, Merck, CVS, Chase Manhattan Bank, Verizon, Google, UPS, and Levi Straus. Stephen Spielberg, an Eagle Scout, in protest of the policy against gays dropped off the national advisory council.

The national council was also losing funds because of a drop of about 22 percent in membership the past 13 years.

So, the Scouts sent out a trial balloon a few months ago that it was considering whether or not to remove its anti-gay policy, and allow local units to determine their own policies.

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