Bills Introduced in Kansas Call Same-Sex Marriage a Parody

Two bills have been recently introduced and sponsored by seven Republicans in Kansas that seek to declare same-sex marriage as unconstitutional and define marriage as a union between one man and one woman according to NBC.

The first bill is titled the Marriage and Constitution Restoration Act that states that for millennia civilizations have defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman, that LGBTQ people belong to an "LGBTQ secular humanist community" that usurped the cross and replaced it with a rainbow flag, that being born gay or identifying as the gender that does not match one's biological sex are unfounded, faith-based claims, and that "the government's endorsement of LGBTQ ideology" is the "greatest sham since the inception of American jurisprudence." Along with those claims, the bill also compares LGBTQ rights to the racial equality movement, saying that gay people have it made since they never had to ride in the back of the bus or drink from different water fountains as if two marginalized groups can't both have their own individual problems. 

I could go on with the points made in the bill, but the takeaway is that the seven politicians who support the bill believe that same-sex marriages are just parodies of "real" marriage and that they erode the moral fiber of society and that they are unconstitutional because they violate the first amendment's Establishment Clause because apparently, LGBTQ people are now a congregation.

The other bill, called the Optional Elevated Marriage Act, is equally as ridiculous as the Marriage and Constitution Restoration Act and shares the similar belief that same-sex marriage is fake and it erodes " community standards of decency, unlike secular marriage between a man and a woman, who have reached the age of consent.”

The man responsible for these bills is Chris Sevier, who made headlines in 2014 and 2016 for filing lawsuits in order to marry his laptop as a way to take down same-sex marriage, stating that if two men can marry each other, he should be able to marry his laptop. He has also been on the other side of the law, as he has been accused of stalking two people - country singer John Rich and a 17-year-old girl he met while getting ice cream - so he can hardly claim the moral high ground.  

Jennifer C. Pizer, the Law and Policy Director for Lambda Legal, said the bills hold no water and are legally pointless, but could do real damage at the social level. The sponsors of the bill have already begun to apologize, claiming that they didn't "read the bills" before endorsing them. That's some excellent legislation right there. 

I included the links to the bills if you're feeling particularly masochistic and want to inflict some pain upon yourself. It's good to know that these bills don't really have a chance at getting passed but it is always frightening to think that some people are filled with so much hatred that they would call someone's marriage fake and decry LGBTQ rights by calling them the biggest sham. 

h/t: KS LegislatorNBC

Tennessee Lawmakers Reintroduce Bill to Ban Same-Sex Marriage

The proposed Natural Marriage Act surely is persistent, as it has been tossed around in both 2016 and 2017 as a way to claim that the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges would not be valid in Tennessee. After a year-long hiatus, Tennessee lawmakers are trying to reintroduce it, according to Gay Star News.

If the bill is passed, it would prohibit clerks or other officials who give out marriage licenses from recognizing same-sex unions, as well as providing protection from incarceration for said officials for not recognizing same-sex marriage. 

Jerry Sexton, a Representative from Tennessee effectively insulted the citizens of Tennessee and "similar states" by claiming that the ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges created confusion about how marriage laws should work. One would assume that the laws are fairly straightforward, but what would I know? The purpose of the bill, he claims, is to pass laws that would go to the courts and let them be challenged and to create a discussion. 

When asked if this bill would attempt to outlaw same-sex marriage, he said that he and Senator Pody are still working on it and that "It’s just too early for me to get into the details and say what the exact intent of it is." It's clear to see the bill's exact intent, is it seeks to exempt Tennessee from recognizing same-sex marriage. 

The fact that the bill has failed to get passed twice is a good indicator that it will not get passed this year, but it is still rather disheartening that some people will go to such great lengths to stop LGBTQ individuals from marrying the person they love.  

h/t: Gay Star News

Australian Senator Doesn't Want Children to Know of Gay Parents' Existence

During a session discussing a bill that would ban religious groups from discriminating against LGBTQ people, Senator Ian Macdonald commented that many people may not want their children to learn about same-sex parents, according to Pink News.

Specifically, he said "The majority of families… might not want their children to think about children with two dads." He has also repeatedly showed concern for how children of straight parents would react, completely ignoring that most gay people have straight parents. 

He also said "Does it make them (children of straight parents) feel uncomfortable, and do they then have rights or feelings that then become confused?" In his mind, because he's not comfortable with same-sex relationships, nobody should know whether or not someone has two fathers or two mothers.

Him imposing his own bias demonstrates why protections against LGBT discrimination need to be in place, according to Janet Rice, and LGBT spokeswoman. She also commented that Macdonald needs to get over the fact that LGBT people exist because that fact isn't going away.

By not allowing children to learn about LGBT, Macdonald is perpetuating this cycle of homophobia and general discontent with anything LGBT.

h/t: PinkNews

Conversion Therapist Sues NYC Over Therapy Ban

New York City is being sued by an anti-LGBT hate group after the decision to ban conversion therapy for minors at a statewide level, according to Pink News.

In 2017, the New York City Council passed legislation that outlawed conversion therapy for minors and then last month the Council created a statewide ban 

Dr. David Schwartz, a therapist based in Brooklyn, spearheaded the legal battle with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF. The Alliance has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Center. Schwartz is against this ban as he claims that it is a direct violation of his religious freedom and his freedom of speech.

The ADF agrees with Schwartz, as they say "Dr. Schwartz has a right to use his professional skills to assist patients to live in accordance with their shared religious faith, including the religious mandates of the Torah."

The ADF is known for filing lawsuits against anti-discrimination laws. Their most noticeable instant in which they fought against anti-discrimination is when the group defended Jack Phillips, the anti-gay banker in the Mastepiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case. It is not surprising given their bigoted history that they would fight to get conversion therapy written back into law.

Living so close to New York, I can assume that, given my knowledge of what direction NY swings politically, the state will not reinstate conversion therapy for minors. However, the Supreme Court did side with Jack Phillips so it's really anybody's guess how this lawsuit will settle.

h/t: Pink News

MS Lawmakers Propose Unprecedented Anti-Trans Bill

Recently, lawmakers in Mississippi proposed House Bill 1176 which would prohibit school administrations from punishing teachers who purposely misgender their transgender students, according to Think Progress.

The bill would update existing laws that determine how teachers can be disciplined. The bill adds language to the laws that would prohibit the suspension or firing of teachers who refer "to any individual student’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”

Additionally, the bill also says that teachers and staff cannot be forced to comply with or respect their student's preferred identity if (I'm sure you know where this is going) doing so interferes with their deeply held religious beliefs or moral conviction. 

This is hardly surprising to me, as Mississippi has not had the best track record when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Take the controversial "license to discriminate" law that was passed in 2016. This law gave businesses the right to legally discriminate against LGBTQ based on their sexuality because of, you guessed, it the business owner's deeply held religious beliefs. 

I've written about some of the injustices that LGBTQ people face in this country and around the world and while there has been significant progress in regard to LGBTQ rights, many American students still hear homophobic and transphobic remarks every day. This can lead to poor academic performance and lowered self-esteem. The fact that Mississippi lawmakers want to teachers to be able to harass their own students should be a wakeup call for all of us that there is still so much more work to do. 

h/t: Bill Status, Think Progress, NBC

Cory Booker Announces Presidential Run

Joining the likes of Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey senator Cory Booker announced that he will be running for president in 2020, according to CNN.

The Democratic senator has been described as charismatic and as being a great orator and before gaining his position as Senator, he served as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey for eight years. He announced his presidential run in a video early this morning in which he comments on victory can be achieved through collective action, not by individual interests.

He says "The history of our nation is defined by collective action; by interwoven destinies of slaves and abolitionists; of those born here and those who chose America as home; of those who took up arms to defend our country, and those who linked arms to challenge and change it."

Booker is not the only senator who is running for president in 2020, but at 49 he is the youngest candidate. Booker is considered a social liberal and supports women's rights, LGBT rights, same-sex marriage, is a proponent of single-payer healthcare, and co-sponsored and voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prevent discrimination in employment on the basis if sexual orientation and gender identity. 

I heard Senator Booker speak at Maplewood Pride the day after the horrible Pulse Nightclub Massacre in 2016. He spread the message of unity, saying that in the wake of the tragedy, everyone, whether gay or straight, must stand up for what is right and actively oppose injustice. 



h/t: CNN, NJ.com

GOP Supreme Court Candidate Compares Gay Sex to Bestiality

A Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate that has been backed by the GOP once wrote about his disdain for the Supreme Court's decision to strike down anti-sodomy laws by saying that doing so was analogous to bestiality, as well as calling Planned Parenthood a "wicked organization" that kills babies and that the NAACP is disgraceful, according to Talking Points Memo.

Brian Hagedorn wrote those things in a blog post on his blog titled "Anno Domini." He was legal counsel to former governor Scott Walker and is running against Lisa Neubauer, a liberal candidate. The Democratic party in Wisconsin believes that is Neubauer wins, the court majority will be flipped in their favor. 

Hagedorn acted as a law firm intern at the age of twenty-seven, which is when he wrote the blog posts. In one, he wrote that the striking down of the sodomy laws in Texas was unconstitutional. He wrote, "The idea that homosexual behavior is different than bestiality as a constitutional matter is unjustifiable” and that there is no right in the Constitution to have sex with "whatever you want." He also wrote about his strong opposition to abortion and that the NAACP is a "partisan hack." 

Members of Hagedorn's campaign said that he wrote those things before "he put on a robe and took an oath" and they said that his views will not affect his decisions as a Supreme Court justice.  Conversely, members of Neubauer's campaign said that Hagedorn's past comments are "wholly disqualifying" and that he has an agenda that is "personal, extreme, and radical." 

Currently, conservatives occupy a majority of seats on the Supreme court, with four out of seven justices are backed by conservatives, so Democrats are hoping that Neubauer wins the seat in the Wisconsin Supreme Court to balance the scales. In my opinion, I don't think that Hagedorn's views have changed and I disagree with his campaign because I believe that his past writings will affect his decision making as a Supreme Court Justice. Hopefully, we won't have to find out. 

Utah Lawmakers Want to Make it Impossible to Correct Gender Markers

House Bill 153, a new bill in Utah that will be in consideration for the legislative session next week, will potentially prevent transgender and intersex people from correcting their gender identity on identification cards, according to the Advocate.

The bill states that females have ovaries and "anatomical characteristics that appear to have the purpose... of providing eggs and receiving sperm from a male donor" and males have testes and the reproductive function of producing and delivering sperm to females. While this is technically true in terms of sex, gender and sex are separate entities. 

Merrill Nelson, a Republican politician said that the bill is not motivated by "phobia" or "hate," but instead a way to "maintain the integrity of the birth certificate." However, Nelson works for a law firm that represents the Mormon church that I've recently written about.  He also said that gender is much like race in that it is innate and immutable personal characteristic. Ralph Okerlund, the politician sponsoring the bill, said, “What is a physical fact at birth, gender, is put on the birth certificate and should stay at all times of life.” This ignores the fact that some people's gender identity doesn't match their biological sex.

LGBT activists say that this bill unconstitutional and discriminatory, as the definitions of gender in the bill are problematic and that many feel that the Supreme Court should not have the authority to approve gender changes on birth certificates. 

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, said that the bill is also transphobic because Nelson hasn't made much effort to actually to get to know any transgender people and the unique struggles they face. 

I don't fully understand how transgender and intersex people correcting their gender markers on birth certificates or other identifiers is anyone's business other than the people correcting it, so it doesn't make sense to me why people would try to legislate something like this. However, with the influx of anti-gay and anti-trans bills and laws in the United States, anything may happen. 

Hopefully people will realize that this will only hurt people and not get this bill passed.

h/t: The Advocate

Attorney General Nominee Defends his Stance on HIV Prison Camps

Attorney General nominee William Barr defends unconstitutional HIV prison camps that were in place during the Bush Sr. presidency, according to Pink News.

William Barr held the position of Attorney General from 1991 to 1993 under President George H. W. Bush. During that time, he was responsible for the detaining of HIV_ Haitian asylum seekers in dirty and unpleasant conditions in Guantanamo Bay. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut pressed Barr on this issue in which he described people having to live in camps surrounded by barbed wire and plastic bags tied to the side of buildings to keep rain out. He asked Barr if he had any regrets about his decision and that it was his decision to keep the asylum seekers in Guantanamo Bay indefinitely. 

Barr responded with “HIV was an exclusion [from entry to the United States], you could not admit anyone with HIV… you cannot admit someone with HIV except by case-by-case waiver based on extreme circumstance.” The case-by-case basis mostly included pregnant women or people who were not fully-blown. 

Approximately three-hundred asylum seekers were detained in Guantanamo Bay. They had to, according to reports, live in the camp without appropriate medical care and eat maggot-infested food and cramped spaces. 

Barr does not have a good track record regarding LGBTQ rights, as, in an article he wrote for The Catholic Lawyer he denounced the "homosexual movement" and expressed his displeasure for LGBT anti-discrimination laws. He also blamed LGBTQ people for the decrease in Catholic influence in American society. 

Sarah Kate Ellis is (rightfully) worried that if Barr does become the Attorney General, he will perpetuate the Trump administration's erasure of LGBTQ people from society. 

Barr is clearly biased against LGBTQ people and people living with HIV, so it is not surprising that Ellis would think something like that. If Barr gets instated to this position, he will represent the US government in legal matters which could be very bad news for LGBTQ Americans.

Evangelicals Urge LGBT Exclusion from Anti-Lynching Bill

Evangelical activists, such as members of the Liberty Counsel, are urging GOP lawmakers to remove LGBTQ protections from an anti-lynching bill, reports Pink News.

The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act was passed unanimously on December 20th. The Act introduced a bill that would classify lynching as a federal crime and defines it as "the willful act of murder by a collection of people assembled with the intention of committing an act of violence upon any person", in addition to classifying it as a hate crime, which would warrant enhanced sentences. 

The Evangelical law firm Liberty Counsel is upset about the bill, as it includes protections for LGBTQ people and ethnic minorities. Mat Staver, the president of the Liberty Counsel is lobbying lawmakers in the House of Representatives to remove LGBTQ language removed from the law. He said, "...this would be the first time that you would have in federal law mentioning gender identity and sexual orientation, as part of this anti-lynching bill."

Staver also worries that by including LGBTQ protections in the bill, the US Government will add more anti-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people. Many anti-discrimination laws have been blocked by the GOP but Staver is skeptical of this Act, saying that the LGBTQ protections are a way to sneak in pro-LGBTQ laws.

The Liberty Counsel has a history of spreading anti-LGBTQ propaganda, such as Staver falsely claiming that the first responders at the Pulse Nightclub massacre had to be tested for AIDS because of the exposure of the blood of the gay victims.

Like it or not, the religious Right does have some degree influence in US politics. But, since the decision to get the Act passed was unanimous, I doubt that the politicians that are being asked to remove LGBTQ protections from the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act will do so. What we have are ramblings of a few homophobic and misguided bigots.

h/t: Pink News, NCPedia