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LGBT juror non-discrimination bill reintroduced

Prohibits rejection of jurors based on orientation, gender identity

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Juror Non-Discrimination Act, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBT supportive members of the U.S. House and Senate last week reintroduced legislation that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in the process of selecting jurors for trials in the nation’s federal courts.

In the House on March 13, Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) introduced the Juror Non-Discrimination Act of 2017, which calls for amending an existing law that bans discrimination against prospective jurors on the basis of race and sex to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

Two days later, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) jointly introduced the Senate version of the same bill but which bears a different name, the Jury Access for Capable Citizens and Equality in Service Selection, or ACCESS, Act of 2017.

Both bills state that their intent is to “prohibit the exclusion of individuals from service on a federal jury on account of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

As of early this week, three other senators signed on as co-sponsors, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Sixteen House members – 14 Democrats and two Republicans – signed on as co-sponsors of the House version of the bill as of early this week.

Legal observers have pointed out that during the jury selection process in trials attorneys for plaintiffs in civil cases and prosecutors in criminal cases as well as attorneys for defendants have an opportunity to “strike” or disqualify a limited number of potential jurors without providing a reason.

Although the Supreme Court has ruled that using such challenges to exclude jurors based on their race or gender is unconstitutional, the high court ruling did not apply to sexual orientation or gender identity. A federal law expanded the Supreme Court ruling by banning discrimination in the selection of jurors based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and economic status but also did not cover sexual orientation or gender identity.

Meanwhile, in a development hailed by LGBT rights attorneys, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Northern California ruled in 2014 that it’s unconstitutional for a potential juror to be excluded solely because of his or her sexual orientation. But that ruling covers only the seven western states and Hawaii that are in the 9th Circuit.

Supporters of the Juror Non-Discrimination Act and the Jury ACCESS Act say the legislation is needed to extend the 9th Circuit ruling nationwide.

“Serving on a jury is a fundamental right and obligation that no one should be prohibited from fulfilling based on his or her sexual orientation,” said Collins, who’s the only Republican so far to sign on to the Senate version of the legislation. “I have long worked to fight discrimination, and I am proud to join this effort to eliminate bias from our judicial system,” she said in a statement.

In her own statement, Shaheen said, “Our jury selection process should represent our country’s values of inclusion and acceptance, not fall prey to discrimination.”

Aaron Hunter, a spokesperson for Davis, said Davis and other House supporters of the legislation are hopeful that it will gain traction in the current 115th Congress even though it has never made it out of committee since it was first introduced in 2012. The 2017 version of the legislation has been referred to the Republican controlled Judiciary Committees in the House and Senate.

As of early this week, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) was the only one of the six openly LGBT House members – who are all Democrats — to sign on as a co-sponsor of the House bill. As of early this week, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the nation’s first openly gay or lesbian U.S. senator, also had not signed on as a co-sponsor.

Hunter said he believes it was the logistics of arranging to be a co-sponsor of a newly introduced bill rather than any type of objection or disagreement that has prevented many lawmakers from immediately becoming co-sponsors, including the LGBT members.

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District of Columbia

Gay couple assaulted in D.C. by teens shouting ‘monkeypox faggots’

The men were treated and released at Howard University Hospital for head and facial bruises, with one receiving stitches for a deep cut

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Photo credit: Washington Metropolitan Police Dept/Facebook

WASHINGTON – Two young men appearing in their late teens shouted the words “monkeypox faggots” at a gay male couple walking along 7th Street, N.W. in the city’s Shaw neighborhood on Sunday, Aug. 7, before punching the two men in the face and head in an incident that D.C. police have called a suspected hate crime.

The gay men were treated and released at Howard University Hospital for head and facial bruises, with one of the two receiving stitches for a deep cut on his upper lip, according to one of the victims who spoke to the Washington Blade.

The victim, an Alexandria resident who asked that he and his partner, a D.C. resident, not be identified by name, said the attackers were part of a group of four or five young men appearing to be between 17 and 19 years old and two young women accompanying them. He said the group crossed paths with the gay couple around 5:40 p.m. in front of a store on the 1700 block of 7th Street, N.W., as the couple was walking to a nearby bus stop on Rhode Island Avenue.

The victim who spoke to the Blade said a nearby witness called D.C. police, who arrived within a few minutes as the two attackers and the other young men with them fled the scene. He said although an ambulance arrived on the scene, one of the police officers drove the couple to nearby Howard University Hospital, where they spent about six hours in the emergency room.

The couple had spent part of that 90+ degree day at the city’s Banneker Pool and later stopped at the Kiki gay bar on U Street, N.W. before taking what the victim who spoke to the Blade said was a leisurely walk from Kiki via 7th Street on their way to the bus stop, where they planned to take the bus to his boyfriend’s Northeast D.C. house.

As the couple walked south on 7th Street about a block from their destination on Rhode Island Avenue they crossed paths with the group of teenagers in front of a store that a D.C. police report says was at 1731 7th St., N.W.

“They were about 17 to 19 years old,” the victim who spoke to the Blade said. “And one of them started saying stuff like, hey, look at these monkeypox faggots and some not so nice stuff like that,” he said.

“We turned around to walk away and one of them came up behind me and got my attention and then sucker punched me and then hit me again and then hit my boyfriend in the face,” the victim said. “And another person hit him in the face as well,” he said. “And then someone across the street called the cops. And then the cops came, and they scattered off.”

To the couple’s surprise, the two young women remained on the scene and apologized for the actions by the guys they were with.

“So, I said something like thanks for the apology, but this is the kind of people you hang out with,” the victim recounted. “And one of them said their dad was gay, and they kind of walked away before the cops got there,” he said. “It was nice of them to apologize I guess for the other people.”

The D.C. police report lists the incident as having two offenses, a simple assault against the two men and a misdemeanor destruction of property related to the destruction of a pair of sunglasses worn by one of the two men that were damaged in the assault against him.

The report also lists the incident as a suspected “Sexual orientation – Anti-Gay” hate crime.

As in all incidents of violent crime, D.C. police call on members of the public to contact the police with information about an incident like this to call police at 202-727-9099 or text a tip to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411.

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Federal Government

Biden administration ends ‘Remain In Mexico’ policy for asylum seekers

DHS had held off lifting the MPP protocols until after the Supreme Court’s ruling and then until the U.S. District Judge lifted his injunction

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Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas meeting with Honduran Security Minister Sabillon, July 27, 2022 (Photo Credit: U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Monday that the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) colloquially referred to as the ‘Remain-in-Mexico’ policy for asylum seekers at the nation’s Southern border has ended.

In a statement issued yesterday, DHS noted;

“We welcome the U.S. District Court’s decision, which follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 30th decision, to lift the injunction that required DHS to reimplement the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) in good faith.

DHS is committed to ending the court-ordered implementation of MPP in a quick, and orderly, manner. Individuals are no longer being newly enrolled into MPP, and individuals currently in MPP in Mexico will be disenrolled when they return for their next scheduled court date.  Individuals disenrolled from MPP will continue their removal proceedings in the United States.”

DHS officials had held off lifting the MPP protocols until after the Supreme Court’s ruling and then additionally until U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee in Amarillo, Texas, had lifted his injunction. 

“MPP has endemic flaws, imposes unjustifiable human costs, and pulls resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said as DHS removed the MPP policy.

The DHS statement also noted that the Department will provide additional information in the coming days. “MPP enrollees should follow the directions on their court documents and tear sheets to appear for their scheduled court date as required.”

DHS continues to enforce our nation’s immigration and public health laws, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 public health order as required by court order. Individuals encountered at the Southwest Border who cannot establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed or expelled, the statement added.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Conservative group sues Iowa school district over trans-inclusive policy

The policy covers years 7-12, allowing students to freely communicate with faculty members and school staff about their gender identity

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Linn-Mar High School students attend assembly Spring of 2022 (Photo Credit: Linn-Mar Community School District/Facebook)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Ia. – The Parents Defending Education (PDE), a conservative right-wing nationwide nonprofit membership association, sued an Iowa school district in federal court last week over the district’s gender support plan approved last Spring by the school board.

The Linn-Mar Community School District (LMCSD) policy (504.13-R) covers year 7 through year 12, allowing students to freely communicate with faculty members and school staff about their gender identity. The policy protects those conversations from their parents if they wish.

The policy also states students and staff should identify a student by their chosen name and pronouns, and allow students to participate in activities as their assigned gender.

PDE’s suit alleges  LMCSD’s “parental exclusion policy”  violates violates parent’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. “Nearly a century of Supreme Court precedent makes two things clear: parents have a constitutional liberty interest in the care, custody, and control of their children, and students do not abandon their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate. The Linn-Mar Community School District is flouting both of these constitutional guarantees through its recent adoption of Policy 504.13-R”

The suit also claims, “The Policy authorizes children to make fundamentally important decisions concerning their gender identity without any parental involvement and to then hide these decisions from their parents. […] These actions can happen without any knowledge or input from the child’s parents. Instead, these decisions will be made solely by the child and “school administrators and/or school counselors.” And it is not just secrecy through silence. The District will withhold this information even if it is specifically requested by parents.”

“Linn-Mar’s gender policy demonstrates a deep contempt for the constitutional rights of its students and families,” said Parents Defending Education President Nicole Neily in a statement. “It has been clearly established by the federal court system over the past 100 years that parents have a right to direct the upbringing of their children, and we are proud to fight on behalf of our members to put a stop to these unconstitutional policies.”

LGBTQ + advocates maintain the LMCSD policy is necessary means ensuring that LGBTQ students can seek help about questions they might have, and also protect them from bullying and harassment.

The lawsuit alleges though that the policy is too broad when it comes to bullying and harassment, and that it violates 1st Amendment protections for those persons who choose to not identify a student by their chosen gender or name.

Since the LMCSD Board passed the policy the community of around 6,000 people has been divided. One parent writing in a Facebook post on the LMCSD page: [Tina Gaby]

“I think every parent at Linn Mar that is uncomfortable with this decision can start with Asking for a separate partition for their child to be able to change in the locker room. Biological males and females have just as much right as transgender kids to feel comfortable”

Another parent, Joseph Stutler, answered: “Tina Gaby Or they could just learn to be decent humans and mind their own business in the facilities.”

The Linn-Mar Community School District did not respond to media requests for comment.

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